Little Danny Torrance grows up to become Doctor Sleep

51EqPU0V0vL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_I never read Stephen King’s The Shining. I tried to, but I just couldn’t get into it. Now, Stanley Kubrick’s movie version, that I got into. Still, the movie wasn’t so much scary as creepy. Unfortunately, King’s “sequel” to The Shining, Doctor Sleep Simon & Schuster Audio, 2013, narrated by Will Patton) is neither scary nor creepy.

Speaking of Will Patton (well, okay, I simply referred to him parenthetically up there), he does his usual excellent job. Here and there I think he may go a little over the top, probably in an effort to inject some terror into the narrative, but mostly he’s his reliable narrating self. Of course, for my money, Patton does his best work in James Lee Burke’s Dave Robichaeux series and I couldn’t help hearing Dave and Clete Purcell occasionally. But, really, are these complaints even worth reporting?

Getting back to the book itself, what it lacked in scare or creep factor, it made up for in comedy. There is something fairly humorous in camouflaging the True Knot (Not True?) clan (these are a brood of quasi-vampires—ageless and subsisting on the “steam” rather than the blood of their normal human victims) as upper middle-aged RV nomads. Does any demographic give off less of a menacing vibe? The only time we notice these people is when we get stuck behind their leisurely convoys.Caravan Picture

I know I’m in the minority here, but I have always found King to be a better humorist than a master of horror, and I think he himself knows this, because King is nothing if not intelligent. The humor may be dark – even of the gallows variety – but it’s undeniably there.

This is not to say that Doctor Sleep in merely campy. King does his typically fine job of integrating the macabre into the mundane fabric of everyday life. In the book, Dan Torrance has never really reconciled himself to the horrible events of the Overlook Hotel and suffers from the occasional flashback of the sort many posttraumatic stress victims are subject to. His are a bit more exotic and, therefore, threatening, to be sure. He has bounced around with his mother, Wendy, until she died and, completely on his own, he descends into a decades-long alcoholic death spiral. This is a book that is more about the terrors of addiction than any external horrors.

Dan eventually finds Alcoholics Anonymous and gets a colorful sponsor, and we the listeners get quite a lot of AA philosophy and aphorisms. (Those may be the same thing in AA.) I understand what King is trying to do (he said, presumptively), but I found the AA angle intrusive. I mean, I get that the True Knot have the more destructive habit in terms of its threat to humanity. We’re all just feeding off of each other to some extent in this life. The True Knot, under their leader, the somewhat vaudevillian Rose the Hat, just take it to the extreme. It’s an interesting idea for a book, but a little tedious as an AA morality play. The villains are cartoon characters. They even have cartoon names. And there is something desperate in the clownish escapades of the True Knot. They’re not so much scary as needy. Maybe that’s scary enough.

Indeed, within the context of their own community, the True Knot show compassion, trust, loyalty—even an emotion verging on love. You almost feel a little sorry for them, even the vicious and relentlessly famished Rose as she meets her somewhat pedestrian and predictable end. I won’t give it away. Just let me say I didn’t find it particularly creative or impactful, given the fact that it’s the climactic moment in a real doorstopper of a book. I expected more razzle-dazzle, which, I know, doesn’t exactly demonstrate my sophistication as a reader/listener. But this is, after all, Stephen Motherfucking King.

I will not, however, ever look at those RV enthusiasts the same way again.

 

 

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