March 06, 2014

Review: Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was exciting and enjoyable, at first, to return to Wendy and Danny Torrence's voices, but then the book bogs down in alcoholism and recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous. Which is a wonderful program for those in need of it, but rather dull to read about if that's not your particular problem. Especially since during the recovery sections, which are long, there's not much else going on in the way of plot.

Then we reach a tedious revving up section of the book, during which everybody prepares for the eventual battle, but which is of little interest otherwise. Sometimes King is able to fill these "gearing up" sections quite wonderfully (see 11/22/63), and other times, like in Lisey's Story and here, it's slow going.

Perhaps part of the problem is with Dan Torrence himself. Here's what we learn about him: he survived his father and the Overlook Hotel; he has a decent amount of Shining to him; he's an alcoholic; he has a temper like his father. And that's about it. I expect better characterization from King, especially with a character as iconic as Dan Torrence. Ironically, for a character who can see into other people's minds, we are kept mainly on the outside of his, and the book suffers for it. I've always loved King's build-up of character and significance and power through repetition of representative traits and phrases, but he usually also adds more information about a character in addition to that repetition. Here, I felt stuck with the few details we were given. Abra and Rose the Hat suffer from a similar problem: a paltriness of character details, which King returns to over and over again. (Abra's mean smile; Rose's single long tooth.)

The biggest problem I had, though, was that I was not scared of the True Knot. They seemed pretty stupid and pathetic throughout, and hardly worthy adversaries for Dan and Abra. King has been criticized for his sadistic wallowing in the torture of innocents, but here he seems to have overcompensated by pulling punches and rendering the villains rather bland. I certainly enjoyed that the True Knot is disguised as the winnebago retirees traversing the country, but it's mostly told to us, and we don't see the effectiveness of that disguise in action much.

So, overall I was interested and excited to return to these characters, but once the alcoholism kicks in, the story never recovers, and the villains are too uninteresting and safe to make Doctor Sleep a true companion to the terrifying The Shining.

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