As an avid Stephen King reader, the release of this book has been one of my most anticipated events of this year. When King announced that he was re-visiting his 1977 bestseller The Shining, the world was intrigued. In an interview, he revealed that he was often asked about Danny Torrance and what became of him. Therefore, Doctor Sleep was put in motion.
Set some thirty years after the Overlook Hotel burnt down, Dan Torrance is now a middle-aged, recovering alcoholic, working in a hospice. Using his special gift of the shining, he comforts the dying and sees them off into eternal rest, hereby earning the nickname Doctor Sleep. However, he receives word from a twelve-year-old girl Abra Stone, who also has the shining and is having visions of a terrifying tribe of murderers, snatching and killing children with the gift. Telepathically, Dan and Abra manage to meet in person and plan to take down these dangerous creatures, who are literally hungry for Abra’s extremely strong power.
Although Dan is now an adult, he still owes a lot to his friend and mentor Dick Hallorann, calling on him whenever he is needed, despite him being long dead. This deep connection between Dan and Hallorann reinforces a belief that our loved ones never really leave us, which is a really uplifting sentiment and shows the strength of their friendship. The transition between becoming the pupil and becoming the teacher is one that Dan goes through during Doctor Sleep. It’s something that Hallorann subconsciously reminds Dan constantly and although he is in his forties, we see his coming-of-age story unfold, as he helps Abra get to grips with her gift.
Stories of Dan’s childhood and his memory of the events of the book’s prequel keep re-surfacing and as a result, Dan isn’t an likeable character, whose demons’ origins we understand. His paternal instincts peek through in his relationship with Abra and he shows a real caring side, which we failed to see with his father. He seems to have learned from his past and grown into a troubled but balanced adult. He manages to gain Abra’s and her family’s trust and doesn’t let his abilities get the better of him.
I love that Dan turned out to be a good guy, possibly because of the guidance he was given by Hallorann throughout his life. King could so easily have had him go down a dark alley and made a big thing of “like father, like son” history repeating itself but I’m so glad he didn’t. On top of that, Doctor Sleep is a fairly simple plot and proves that King still has so much of his story-telling talent. With some of his recent novels, there have been several plots that have left the story a little hard to keep hold of but Doctor Sleep is very linear and easy to follow. Fully formed characters and a clear battle between good and evil make it a classic adventure story with the obligatory horror element thrown in.