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“The Shining” comes full circle in “Doctor Sleep”

The novel I am writing about was published in September 2013. With schedules being what they are I cannot spend as much time reading as I would like and am behind on the list of books I want to immerse myself in. I just got the chance over the last 3 weeks to enjoy this stunning novel. The ladies in this book are powerhouses and are so worthy of appearing in this column. This is Bad Girl of the Week, and this week you get two for the price of one. If you have read the novel I am sure you enjoyed the experience. If you have not it is time you did. If you have not read or are at least familiar with “The Shining” you will want to read that novel first. This column contains some spoilers for both novels.

Stephen King may very well be the most wide read and popular horror author in history. His books have managed to capture people’s imagination with his dark tales. Even people who are not fans of the horror genre seem to have read at least one novel by Mr. King at some point. Stephen King has given us so many memorable characters and for the first time in his writing career he has penned a sequel* to one of his novels letting us return to visit one of his most beloved characters, Danny Torrance. Along the way in this new tale we are going to meet two new incredible female characters that have life as only Stephen King can deliver.


We first met Danny Torrance in “The Shining”. The story is a fairly simple one. Danny is your average everyday boy. He likes to play, loves his family, has a wonderful imagination and possesses a unique and sometimes frightening talent. He has the ability to see and sense things that other people cannot. This is a blessing and curse. There is a boy named Tony (that only Danny can see or hear) that helps bring him visions and sometimes ominous warnings of danger. Danny will learn to call this ability “shining”.

His father Jack has a problem with alcohol which led to him being fired from a teaching position. When we first look in on the characters, they are in dire straits. As a last kind of hope Jack is trying to get a winter care taker position at the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. He is hoping to secure this job so over the winter he can work on a novel. He is hired for the job although the hotel manager seems a bit reluctant.

Danny, Jack and Wendy (his mother) arrive at the hotel on the last day of the season. The hotel is being closed down for the year as they are given a tour of the property. Danny already has picked up on negative feelings in the hotel and read one departing guest’s naughty thoughts. Wendy and Danny go on a tour of the hotel kitchen with the chef Dick Hallorann. Hallorann who has the same gift as Danny latches on to this and speaks to him mentally to be sure. He gets him alone to converse about the shining. Hallorann let’s Danny know that the Overlook isn’t like most place and is haunted by memories. He tells Danny that most of what he will see cannot hurt him. He does advise him to stay out of Room 217 where something evil dwells. He tells Danny that he will be in Florida and if something bad happens to use the shining to reach him and he will be back on the way to Colorado to save him.

The family settles in as winter descends and the true nature of the beast begins to be revealed. Jack is a recovering alcoholic yet somehow the hotel (whether real or imagined as all liquor has been removed and stored) gets him drinking again and working on his fragile state of mind driving him into a slow but sure mental breakdown. Danny realizes the escalating dangers all around him when he discovers it is far more than just memories haunting this building and that true evil is at work and it wants him and his family dead. His father becomes possessed by the evil in the hotel and it becomes a life and death struggle.

Danny reaches out to Dick who comes to help the mother and child in danger. They barely escape with their lives and Jack is killed in the hotel when a substandard boiler in the basement explodes. Wendy, Danny and Dick end up in Florida for what looks like a happy ending.

“Doctor Sleep” picks up a short while after the original novel ends. Danny and is mother are not really doing well financially because it is hard for her to work due to injuries she received in the Overlook when Jack tried to kill her. Danny thinks it is over and wakes one night to discover that 2 of the ghosts from the Overlook have found him. It sends him into a state of near catatonia. Wendy calls Dick to come talk to Danny. Dick explains a new ability to Danny and helps him trap the evil spirits in mental lock boxes in his mind and they are filed away where they will remain for eternity. Dick also lets Danny know that one day it will be his turn to be the teacher to a child who “shines”.

We follow Danny over the next several years and watch him sink into alcoholism just as his father did. He works sporadically, usually as an orderly in a hospital or facility (a scary though in itself with his drinking) and usually loses the job after going on a 2 or 3 day bender. He moves from place to place aimlessly with no one (his mother has since passed) family to speak of.  We are with him when he hits rock bottom stealing money from a drug addicted woman with a toddler that she neglects. The guilt over this single action will eat away at him for years where he wonders if the child may have died by getting a hold of his mother’s drugs or perhaps beaten to death by some man she meets.

Danny ends up traveling to Frazier, New Hampshire. It is here he decides that he must give up drinking and start to live some semblance of a normal life. He first finds work as a ride conductor on a miniature train called the Teeny Town Express, when the season is over he finds work in a hospice. Danny, now referred to as just Dan also joins AA and is on the road to sobriety. In his sober state some of the shining (which had been buried for years due to his alcohol consumption) begins to return.  He earns the nickname Doctor Sleep at the hospice because his abilities allow him to help people pass over with no fear from this life to the next.

Just a short time before the attacks of 9/11 occur a baby girl named Abra Stone is born. She also possesses the shining. Her ability first shows itself with phantom piano music in the house and she has a terrified reaction on 9/11 although she is just an infant. Somehow she is in tune with it. At a birthday party a few years later Abra levitates a bunch of spoons near the ceiling. Her powers will continue to develop and she will make a psychic connection with Dan in which they become friends. Her powers as they grow will make Dan look like a slightly gifted amateur. Abra mentally connects with someone she calls the baseball boy. He has been kidnapped and tortured and killed. She tries to put it out of her mind. One day she sees an ad on the back of a flyer and sees a picture of the boy from her vision. By focusing on it she makes a mental connection with Rose the Hat, the woman who leads the group who killed the boy.

Rose the Hat will begin a psychic battle with Abra Stone and begin to hunt her down for her own dark needs.

Rose the Hat will begin a psychic battle with Abra Stone and begin to hunt her down for her own dark needs.

Rose the Hat leads a group called the True Knot. The True Knot are people who have lived for a very long time. They are vampires of sorts. They do not drink blood. They consume pain and suffering. What they need to survive though is what they called “Steam” and steam it turns out is the shining. Their targets are usually young children who show the ability the strongest. In order for the steam to be nourishing to them it is very important that their food-source or victim must first suffer greatly. When Abra makes the connection with Rose she realizes this is the girl with the steam is the strongest she has ever encountered. A psychic battle is about to begin between the woman and the girl. Rose begins hunting her because if the girl is as powerful as she believes she is, she will be able to be kept alive and tortured for many years to feed the True Knot. Rose uses her abilities and those of her vampire family to begin hunting Abra. While they are hunting the young lady the True Knot begins getting an illness that starts killing them one at a time. Rose increases the effort to find her because she also believes that Abra’s shining is strong enough to cure the group.

The clock begins ticking and Abra realizes she is in grave danger. She will meet Dan in person for the first time. She asks Dan for help and it is now his turn to be the teacher. Dan and Abra along with her family and mutual friends are going to work together to save Abra from the monsters that are hunting her down. One of the most spectacular psychic battles ever is about to take place and only Rose and the True Knot or Abra and Dan will walk away alive. The final showdown will take place where it all began as they travel to Colorado and the grounds where the Overlook Hotel used to stand.

Abra Stone the young heroine with the shining discovers the true knot and unwittingly becomes a target.

Abra Stone, the young heroine with the shining, discovers the True Knot and unwittingly becomes a target.

The two females in this book are dynamic new characters that are so well drawn that you feel like you know them when you read this novel and get caught up in this terrifying adventure.

Abra Stone: It has been a while since Stephen King has brought us a great younger character in his horror fiction and Abra is a heroine you are going to root for. As an infant in the crib she begins displaying her unique talent with music. Just a couple piano keys hit and seeming to play out of thin air. When the 9/11 attacks occur even though she is only a baby she is in tune with this catastrophic event (perhaps because the True Knot was there to feed off the misery). As she grows she  meets Tony who also brought Dan warnings and messages when he was a child.  Abra’s powers grow at a rapid clip. Danny could see things others couldn’t and he could hear people’s thoughts, Abra on the other hand displays the power of telekinesis at a very early age and can astral project her power. It starts with notes she leaves for Dan on a blackboard in his room and eventually will be able to communicate with him by mind. This young lady also has the ability to travel outside her body with a unique talent where she can enter another’s mind and body. By the time she is around 13 years old her powers become a danger to her when the “Baseball Boy” as she has termed him is killed (she sees this in a psychic vision) She tries to put it out of her mind. One day she sees the ad with the missing children and recognizes his face. She concentrates on the photo and accidentally ends up in Rose’s mind.  From the moment this happens Abra is in a deadly situation. She knows what the True Knot is doing and she knows they are coming for her. An unusual thing begins to happen as she is hunted. She shows a new maturity in her thoughts on the situation and makes a calculated decision that she must destroy them. Her powers are strong and she takes great delight in the thought of revenge for all the children that have been hurt. It fills her with a dark pleasure and over-confidence and this worries Dan incredibly. Too much confidence can lead to mistakes and in this game of cat and mouse a single mistake can be fatal. Dan is now the teacher but it is Abra who will teach him that he is not as alone in the world as he thought. The question is can he teach her to use caution before the final stand-off?

Rose the Hat: She has lived a very long time and is one of the most delicious villains to grace the pages of a Stephen King novel. She is a vampire of sorts but rather than blood she consumes the shining. She is capable of love and emotion…but only for the True Knot. She looks at people as insignificant and something to be used and those with the shining she looks at as cattle. She is very powerful and with those of the True Knot as her aides she is practically unstoppable. Her target of course is Abra, a young girl with the strongest steam she has ever encountered. Abra unnerves Rose to a high degree but with her age she has wisdom and she attempts to use that wisdom to trip Abra up. She realizes that she may have underestimated her foe as their first meeting face to face approaches. Rose is too confident in her own ability and holds a combination of fear and hate towards this teenage girl. Her desire for Abra’s power outweighs this so no one and nothing is going to get in her way no matter who she has to kill or what she has to do. The girl will be hers. If Dan and Abra can survive this meeting Abra can live free of fear and Dan (who wouldn’t believe it if you told him) will finally be able to let go of all the horror and sins of the past.

Grab a glass of wine, curl up and prepare to be knocked out of your skin. “Doctor Sleep” is a fantastic read and moves so quickly that it will be over before you want it to be. It is King at his best with the old school horror he became best known for with his early novels. It is a taut and frightening story and an adventure like no other. Out of all the fabulous characters that he has created I am glad that it was Danny (he will always be Danny to me) Torrance that he chose to revisit. Get ready for a chilling treat that will make you break out in goose-flesh as you go on a wild ride where you will meet the most unlikely enemies : A young 13 year old girl and a wickedly evil woman who has lived hundreds of years. Be aware that after you have read this novel and you are traveling down the highway and see a group of RV’s traveling in a line…it will make you wonder exactly who you are sharing the road with.

o-DOCTOR-SLEEP-COVER-570 Stephen King











* At the beginning of this column I stated that “Doctor Sleep” is Stephen King’s first sequel. Some people may believe he has done that with “The Dark Tower”.  Those particular novels are a continuation of the same story and it makes them part of  a series rather than sequels.


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