Yes, it's my turn for Threadcromancy! .
The reason for this is that just yesterday i finished Steven King's new sequel to The Shining, Doctor sleep. While I havent' read any King for a significantly long time, having previously read through Robbin Hobb's taunyman series I wanted a break from fantasy for a while and thus fancied something set a little closer to home.
The Shining is one of King's books that I really enjoyed, despite it having so many of the hallmarks I disliked in other titles like Gerald's game and misery. Isolated setting, few to no characters.
Maybe it was the fact that in The Shining the story was as much about a family stuck with a violent alcoholic father as it was about a psychically tallented boy in a ghost filled hotel. Maybe it was that The Shining got straight into the interesting stuff without the huge rambling preamble introducing millions of characters, or the massive focus on everyone's dirty little secrets that mars some of King's other novels, (really sometimes King needs to learn some people actually don't! have violent fantasies, shady financial dealing or illicit affairs). whatever it was, I really enjoyed the Shining and was looking forward to the sequel.
Beware! spoilage for doctor sleep below, if you haven't read the book and don't want it spoiled, go and jump in a lake rather than reading anymore of this post!
Generally i liked Doctor Sleep, even though this was distinctly less a horror novel and far more a psychic fantasy, although it had a few horror like sequences. While I initially didn't think much of Dam torance being portrayed as yet another alcoholic, just like Gardener from The Tommyknockers, I did appreciate the fact that most of the book was about Dan at a recovered state, indeed I like the way you see him at the very bottom of his alcoholic binge, then see him start to work his way out and most of the book is about his life and how he stays that way.
I also liked the initial idea of the antagonists. It would have been far too easy for King to have yet more ghosts, but a group of psychic mind vampires riding around in camper vans, (the piratical names were also genius).
My only real problem with them is I would've liked a little more background on where they had been in the past, especially those like Rose the Hat, jimmy Numbers and Crow daddy who were major characterws in their own right. By making his antagonists essentially a bunch of immortal, but still very human characters who just happened! to need to torture kids to death to survive, King could've had a really interesting look at their pasts, especially how they existed through time. He implies some were thousands of years old, but doesn't really say much else, which distinctly spoiled the menace of several villains.
Also, nasty as it sounds a little more idea of the scale of their child murderings would've been good, since from the book while it was implied! that they did in several kids a year there was no clear scale. not that I actually wanted to read many long and protracted descriptions of kids being slowly cut to peaces (one was enough, and I admire King's restraint even with that one), at least a few more general hints would've been good, perhaps in conversational remniscences.
My real problem with the book however wwas with Abra. Basically, the second half of the book degenerated into Dan and half the cast running around to save her, and yet Abra herself really felt a thin character. She was 12, and pretty, and blonde, and did well at school and had friends, but that was about it. King is quite capable of writing fully fleshed out teenaged girls, look at Susan from Wizard and Glass, or Bev from It, yet Abra just felt like a lot of elements chucked together, indeed her chief defining feature was her psychic abilities, which is always bad for a character.
Even Steven King's attempt! to tie her to modern popular culture, by saying that she wanted to be Danarres in the Game of Thrones books was something of a backfire, (since frankly no parents as protective and responsable as Abra's should be letting their 12 year old kids read Game of Thrones).
In general about the only thing I liked about Abra was the way she psychically fought off the attacks of the true knot, and that more due to King's writing than to her as a character. This also made the end, implying that she actually inherretted Dan's temper rather flat, since how did that temper actually contrast with the rest of her personality? well not much since she didn't have one!
Maybe I've been spoilt, since recently I've read both the Liveship Traders and Game of Thrones, all of which have several adolescent female characters who are distinctly and very much their own people, (indeed how I went from hating Malta in Liveship traders as an annoying self obsessed exhibitionist, to actually cheering for her as she grew up was fantastic), but frankly I need a little more than "this is a pretty girl" to make me want to follow a character as much as I followed Abra.
In a lot of ways, I rather wish Dan had stayed the focus of the story, and indeed I felt that King's "look at this girl and her awsome psychicness" rather upstaged Dan and his story of redemption a bit too much, ---- particularly considdering how Five year old Dan in the shining had only slowly immerged as a hero, and wasn't even the protagonist of most of the book.
In general I did Enjoy Doctor sleep, the pacing, some of the casual ideas about the True Knot, but in a lot of ways it feels an afterthought, with far too many elements not expanded enough. Indeed, I will now say something I never thought I would! say about a Steven King novel, ---- it needed to be longer, with more! time spent on it's characters, a fully realized idea of Abra, and Dan made a bit more than just side kick to mind blast girl.
So, there are some thoughts on Doctor Sleep. Anyone else read it?
it has actually rekindled some of my interest in King and I might well have a look at some more of his work, indeed I would like to give Misery another chance, although the next thing I have lined up is Stealheart by Brandon Sanderson, ---- Superheroes aren't usually my thing but well, it's sanderson! .
With our dreaming and singing, Ceaseless and sorrowless we! The glory about us clinging Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing; O men! It must ever be
That we dwell in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye. (Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1873.)