BookShots: "Doctor Sleep" by Stephen King

BookShots: 'Doctor Sleep' by Stephen King

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Doctor Sleep

Who Wrote It?:

I’m sure I’m not the only person who was worried about how King was going to pull off a sequel to The Shining, but he’s done it...In the end, I think this is [his] most exciting book in years.

Stephen King, one of the most prolific authors ever, and the reigning king of horror.

Plot in a Box:

Danny Torrance, the little boy from The Shining (REDRUM! REDRUM!), grows up. A little girl, Abra Stone (ABRA CADABRA!), has the shining as well, and is being hunted by a pack of psychic vampires called the True Knot, who want to take her life essence, called “steam,” so they can persevere.

Invent a New Title For This Book:

Energivores or Rose the Hat.

Read This If You Liked:

Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice, The Shining and/or Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, and Swan Song by Robert McCammon.

Meet the Book’s Leads:

Danny is an adult now, having struggled with alcoholism, and works in a hospice where his ability to help people in their final moments has earned him the label “Doctor Sleep.” Abra is a sweet girl with extraordinary abilities. Rose the Hat is their enemy, a powerful creature with dark intentions, and a small army of followers at her disposal.

Said Leads Would Be Portrayed In a Movie By:

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) as Danny Torrance; Chloe Grace Moretz (30 Rock and the new Carrie) as Abra Stone; Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) as Rose the Hat.

Setting: Would You Want to Live There?

The New Hampshire setting is peaceful and scenic, but because of the True Knot? Not so much.

What was your favorite sentence?

As he watched the Rockies grow closer, Dan thought of all the wandering years he had avoided them. That in turn made him think of some poem or another, one about how you could spend years running, but in the end you always wound up facing yourself in a hotel with a naked bulb hanging overhead and a revolver on the table.

The Verdict:

I’m sure I’m not the only person who was worried about how King was going to pull off a sequel to The Shining, but he’s done it. He may not have written a BETTER book, but he has certainly showed us what happened to Danny Torrance in a fun, entertaining, and creepy way. And you don’t need to read The Shining to enjoy Doctor Sleep—although it certainly helps.

That was the first draw for me—getting to see what happened to Danny and his mother Wendy, and even Dick Halloran, the Overlook Hotel’s head chef and fellow telepath. Although Wendy and Dick play minor roles, King does a good job of showing us what happened to them all, and how they dealt with the insanity that was The Shining. There is even a touching moment at the end with Danny’s father, Jack, which got me all misty-eyed—a few moments, actually.

The other big draw for me was the True Knot. There are other elements of the supernatural at play in this novel, ghosts and spirits from the past, but these eternal creatures who feed off of the “steam” of children who have this ability, this shining, are dark, violent and creepy. I won’t be up at night in fear, staring into the shadows, waiting for them to appear, like some of his past villains—the terrifying Pennywise, for example, or maybe the various forms of the “Man in Black,” Randall Flagg, but they were fun to root against.

In the end, I think this is Stephen King’s most exciting book in years. Don’t expect it to trump some of his best work, like The Shining or It or The Stand, but it’s a hypnotic read, a book I had a hard time putting down. And I think that says a lot.

Get Doctor Sleep at Bookshop or Amazon

Richard Thomas

Review by Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of eight books—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), Transubstantiate, Staring Into the Abyss, Herniated Roots, Tribulations, Spontaneous Human Combustion (Turner Publishing), and The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). His over 175 stories in print include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), Lightspeed, PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Shallow Creek, The Seven Deadliest, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), PRISMS, Pantheon, and Shivers VI. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker (twice), Shirley Jackson, Thriller, and Audie awards. In his spare time he is a columnist at Lit Reactor. He was the Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press and Gamut Magazine. For more information visit or contact Paula Munier at Talcott Notch.

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Tom1960's picture
Tom1960 from Athens, Georgia is reading Blindness by Jose Saramago October 8, 2013 - 7:16am

You sold me. But first I'm gonna read The Shinning,

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Library Books October 8, 2013 - 7:27am

I've read very little King, and none of his major works, but I recently got a used copy of The Shining. If I like it, I'll probably hit this up after.

Tim Johnson's picture
Tim Johnson from Rockville, MD is reading Notes From a Necrophobe by T.C. Armstrong October 8, 2013 - 8:59am

My copy's showing up tomorrow, and I hope to dig into it by the weekend.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 8, 2013 - 10:55am

Definitely read The Shining, @Tom, because it's a great book, but you don't HAVE to read it to understand DS. 

@josh, what have you read of his? I've had several people read his weaker works and give up, but i really am a huge fan of his body of work. love to suggest a few for you, but The Shining is a GREAT place to start, IMO. 

@tim - sweet. chime in and let me know how it goes

Brian McGackin's picture
Brian McGackin from NJ/LA is reading Between the World and Me October 8, 2013 - 11:06am

I've still never read a single Stephen King work. I'm not entirely sure how that's even possible at this point. I'm gonna have to get on that now.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Library Books October 8, 2013 - 12:04pm

Ha. I read Dolores Clairborne in college and was like, "eh." I've also read the first two Dark Tower books, and at the time they really didn't do it for me. And Eyes of the Dragon. Other than some short stories, that's about it.

wavedomer's picture
wavedomer from Boise is reading Rum Punch October 8, 2013 - 12:12pm

I'm not a monster King fan, but I like him. I've read a good handful of his work, mostly the early stuff. The later ones I've read are Cell, and Tom Gordon (which is a long time ago). I will usually re-read him when I need to get swept into a book. I am defnitely interested in Doctor Sleep. I am mostly interested in how he keeps his work relevant and good after all this time. That's impressive to me.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 8, 2013 - 1:13pm

@BRIAN! I cannot fathom that. If I had to toss out my favorites, they would be The Shining, The Stand, It, Pet Sematary, The Long Walk, and Dead Zone. And then the whole Dark Tower series is this weird western sf/f thing.

@josh-yeah, i wouldn't say those are his best works. i know a lot of people (myself included) picked up the Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger and put it down several times. not sure why. EOTD is not his typical voice either, and i wouldn't say DC is his best. (see my favorites listed above^^ in my comments to Brian). 

@jnorrett-Tom Gordon is okay, but almost YA, right? my son is reading it right now (and he's 9). and Cell i didn't think was very good. see my suggestions above to Brian as well. i'd hate for you all to miss out on his writing. he's a good stort story writer, too. my god, "The Jaunt" is so creepy. also, try "Harvey's Dream" over at The New Yorker. REALLY good, imo.

wavedomer's picture
wavedomer from Boise is reading Rum Punch October 8, 2013 - 2:45pm

@Richard: I'm pretty much with you. I like King a bunch and have read much of his earlier work. Just that Cell and Tom Gordon were the later ones I read. So I haven't really read a lot of his later work. That's why I'm interested in Doctor Sleep. Yeah, Cell was okay, nothing great. I thought Tom Gordon, like Gerald's Game, was interesting because of the situation he's writing about. How do you write a novel about a woman handcuffed to a bed in a cabin and make it interesting for 200 plus pages? Or how do you write about a girl lost in the woods? I agree on his short stuff. I think it's terrific. The Raft is one of my favorites that I will reread. Also Graveyard Shift.

Cath Murphy's picture
Cath Murphy from UK is reading Find out on the Unpr!ntable podcast October 9, 2013 - 1:28am

For me King went downhill steeply around about The Tommyknockers (I didn't learn until later that this was the one he didn't remember actually writing due to his then-dependence on beer and cough mixture). But I loved everything that came before TK, so I'm very excited to hear about his return to form.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 9, 2013 - 8:11am

@cath-yeah, i have been pleasantly surprised by some of his recent work, but my favorites of his are primarily his older books. i really enjoyed 11/22/63, but Doctor Sleep was better, especially since we get to see old friends and find out what happened to Danny. this book wasn't very scary, nothing like The Shining, but a fun read. 

Irene Gubko's picture
Irene Gubko October 12, 2013 - 4:47am

What a great review. I did one also:

Loved this masterpiece. Guys, please tell me what you think of my review

craft_fear's picture
craft_fear from Portland, OR is reading What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong October 16, 2013 - 10:28am

Good book, indeed. Includes one of the most visceral and accurate portrayals of a hangover I have ever read, notably. The audiobook read by Will Patton was pretty well done and not nearly as obnoxious as some audiobooks can be (I'm looking at you, A Dance with Dragons).

I work with a lot of tourists and have grown to loathe "RV people". Staring into the shadows waiting for Rose the Hat in the middle of the night? Nah. Staring out the front door of my wine tasting room with another reason to dread the approach of RVs? Thanks, Stephen King.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 16, 2013 - 2:59pm

lol...thanks, craft. yeah, i'll never look at RV people the same way.

good review, irene. glad you enjoyed the bok.

leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. October 19, 2013 - 4:25pm

Yeah, so I cried at the end. Like, my husband busted me and made fun of me and everything. I enjoyed it so much it hurt to reach the end...but the end was also exhillerating, right? And sooooooo satisfying. :)

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 21, 2013 - 9:10am

@leah - yeah, i was suprised that a few moments caught me off guard, got me all teary-eyed. such a sweet book at its center, surrounded by so much danger and violence, even if the book wasn't all that scary to me. a powerful read for sure.