King, Stephen. Dr. Sleep. New York: Scribner, 2013.
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It’s October, time to read something that might make you think twice about stepping outside your door alone at night. I have to admit that I wasn’t planning on making this that book. I was going to read World War Z, which has been on my list forever and was recently moved to the top of it because my husband read it and assured me I’d love it. Besides, I wanted to reread Stephen King’s The Shining, one of my favorites of his novels and one I last read when I was a teenager, before reading its sequel. But, well, I work at the library. And I happened to be working the day this one came in looking all shiny and new and interesting, and I just couldn’t resist it. I’m glad I couldn’t! Otherwise, it might have been years and years before I got around to reading it, which would’ve been a shame.
King has outshined himself (pun intended). Sequels can sometimes be disappointing, but this one, with little Danny Torrance all grown up, isn’t. One thing I love about King is his ability to take old themes (including his own) and twist them just enough to keep them recognizable while turning them into something new that isn’t too far-fetched or lame. He’s not always the world’s best writer — although much, much better than so many contemporary writers, and when he’s got his game on, he writes seamlessly and sublimely — but I love to observe his imagination at work. Here, we have updated vampires. Happily, they’re not those namby-pamby, dancing around in slippers (or whatever they do. I haven’t paid much attention to them), trying to avoid sucking the blood of those they love vampires (you know, the ones who come out at twilight instead of during the darkest hours), the sorts who’ve become all the rage in 21st-century America. No, King’s new era vampires are evil and scary, the way vampires should be, so evil that they prey only on children. I’m quite sure Bram Stoker would approve.
Danny Torrance may be all grown up (and all AA-inculcated), but we have a new child to take his place, Abra Stone. Abra is a force to reckon with when it comes to vampires, especially vampires who are sure they’re far more clever than any “rube” (as they refer to humans). Those who’ve known Stephen King as long as I have might experience a few Carrie and Firestarter flashbacks, but Abra is no Carrie or Charlie. She’s grown up in an era in which adults pay a bit more attention to their children, and that’s given her the will to use both supernatural and natural powers to fight. Pair her with Danny, and, well, you just have to read it to believe it. I read the book in record time, ignoring hungry cats, dirty dishes, and ringing phones in order to get to the end to find out what happened. One nice thing about Stephen King is you can almost always rest assured that the good guys are going to win in the end. You don’t have to worry that, say, the vampires are going to kill all your favorite characters in the book and take over the world. It’s like knowing you’ll be perfectly fine when the train comes to a halt back at the roller coaster station, no matter how much you might be screaming right now. So, climb aboard the Doctor Sleep train, and enjoy it to the bitter(sweet) end.
I can’t wait for the movie version. I hope someone as talented as the late Stanley Kubrick (who scared me to death with his version of The Shining) decides to take on the challenge. Then again, I know King wasn’t real thrilled with Kubrick’s version of his book (and for some good reasons). Since King has a bit more influence over movies these days, perhaps he’ll make sure the movie version lives up to the book even better than The Shining did.