Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I am impressed with King's return to Danny's world. King really flexed his considerable writing muscles in Doc ZZZZ. Some may criticize the elements of the True Knot, or the introduction of a new main character, but the truth is, from a pure writing standpoint, this is a better effort than The Shining.

I was mildly disappointed in the lack of a Randall Flagg reference, which easily could have been applied. I thought that was a missed opportunity.

I really liked the idea of Abra. Thought the naming convention was a little trite and ironic, but I have been known to indulge in similar naming conventions (my Jake Monday series titles, for one). But, as a character, Abra is not as well-drawn as Danny. I imagine it would be difficult for a man of King's age (and sex) to do a character like Abra justice. I say that, realizing of course, that he did a wonderful job of that in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Adult Danny got on my nerves a bit at first. This was perhaps the part of the novel I liked least. Tearing him down to the lowest point is a common fiction convention, and certainly in character considering his father, but the low was not as low as his father. It fell a little short of that. Not that I want Danny murdering someone or beating his child or chasing his wife with an axe. It just felt over-blown. I found it interesting that when Dan Torrance finally opens up about it at the AA meeting, the audience there has the same ho-hum attitude about the story that I did.

One thing about this criticism, if I look at it objectively: we often are more harsh on ourselves regarding our redemption and deep, dark secrets than others might be when they compare our deeds or or lack of action to their own experiences. For every person who feels awful about themselves, totally disappointed that they neglected their aging parent, there is someone who shot a kid while cleaning their gun, or hit their child in anger, or hit a woman while driving drunk. It is all relative. Not that it expunges each of us from the guilt we feel. This guilt is a cleansing thing, a reminder that we are fallible and must try harder, strive more for peace, love, and serving others--change the way we act and think.

I think that is the deeper message King is sending in Doctor Sleep. He explores it with the night clerk, Torrance's AA mentor, Abby's grandmother, and even the True Knot. We are responsible for our actions and how those actions impact those around us.

All-in-all, this is a book I will highly recommend. Not as good as 11/22/63 in many ways, but a healthy reminder that King is only getting better at this writing thing. I think he might be famous some day. :)