Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Apologies for the radio silence; life caught up with me for the past few weeks. But this isn’t supposed to be a “sorry I haven’t posted much”-post, so here’s a new review to make up for it!


Doctor Sleep
(The Shining #2)
Stephen King

Publisher: Hodder
Publishing year:
Pages: 499
ISBN: 9781444783247
Language: English
Genre: Horror
Rating: 3/5

I always enjoy reading books by Stephen King. I love how he builds his stories and develops his characters; King does not do flat characters. They may not always be likable, but you usually get a sense of their motivations and why they do what they do, even if you sometimes see that train wreck that resulted from their actions coming from a mile a way. Yes, that tension. Stephen King is a master of building tension, of having a story go along with a threatening sense of foreboding looming in the background up to the point where everything goes to shit in the last 100 or so pages.

Yes, you could say I’m a fan of Stephen King.

Which brings me to Doctor Sleep, which is a sequel to The Shining.  Always wanted to see how Danny Torrance fared after the traumatic events at the Overlook Hotel? Well, you’re about to find out. Danny, now Dan, has been drifting for decades, following his father’s footsteps into alcoholism to drown out his gift. It’s certainly tragic to see how Dan deals with his demons, so it’s with relief we see that he eventually settles down at a nursing home where he helps people pass on. At one point, however, he meets Abra Stone. With the brightest ‘shining’ he has ever seen, she’s powerful, but she also attracts The True Knot. These supernatural people live off the ‘steam’ that kids like Abra produce when tortured and killed. Of course, at one point, Dan has to confront his own demons if he wants to save Abra.

As a story of Dan dealing with the aftermath of the events in The Shining, Doctor Sleep works well. Like his father, he became an alcoholic. A lot of the narrative is dedicated to Dan’s reflections; why he’s drinking, his mistakes during a life of drifting and his attempts to make things right again while fighting the temptation of the bottle. There are frequent references to The Shining, so you can’t really read this book without reading its predecessor.

As a horror story? Doctor Sleep falls flat. The premise is promising enough and the stakes are clear, except The True Knot is just not very threatening. Of course, they kidnap kids. They torture them. They are untouchable because they are rich bastards. They have set their sights on Abra and they aren’t necessarily incapable. Mostly. Okay, most of them die very quickly for supposed villains. I think the character known as The Crow came the closest to being a threat, however. The rest? Abra manages to outsmart them and she’s a teenager. A brilliant teenager, but a teenager nonetheless. Especially with the help of Dan, who does his fair share of outsmarting The True Knot as well. Helped by the supporting cast, Dan and Abra have comparatively little difficulty in overcoming their obstacles. Even the leader of The True Knot, Rose the Hat, falls flat. She becomes increasingly unhinged and vengeful, but she and her gang are pretty easily defeated. Their silly names could have been a contrast to the threat they should have been posing, but now they just seem difficult to take seriously.

And because there is no threat, no tension, and no real sense of foreboding, I wasn’t worried for the main characters. There weren’t even any scares. For a novel by Stephen King, I had expected a bit more, especially for a sequel to The Shining. As a story about Dan coming to terms with his past and his inner demons, Doctor Sleep was an interesting story and worth reading. As a horror story with unsettling moments and that sense of foreboding looming over you? Doctor Sleep unfortunately falls very short.


7 thoughts on “Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

  1. Thanks for the review! I’ve read The Shining a couple of months back and I barely slept for some nights – I’ve seriously hated anything horror-ish since I was a kid. I just wanted to read something of Stephen King since I’d heard such great things about his writing style and The Shining proved that to me! – Even with the sleepless nights added afterwards, haha. Thanks to your review, I might just pick up Doctor Sleep even after saying I wouldn’t, since you claim it to be less scary. [And I would appreciate less scary..]

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I’m happy to hear it has been helpful! The Shining definitely has a couple of REALLY unsettling scenes, but Doctor Sleep is much less in that regard so it might be worth a shot. Stephen King also has some books that aren’t scary, such as Firestarter, the Mr. Mercedes series (I’ve only read the first book so far, though), or even Carrie. I’m currently building up the courage to start reading It, which is supposedly one of his scariest books. I watched the film when I was waaaaaaay too young so I was mildly traumatized by it. :’D When I finish what I’m currently reading, I’ll be starting It.

      Stephen King has a very character-focused writing style and he’s also very very good with building tension. I love that about his writing! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have a couple of his books on my shelf, waiting to be read. After The Shining I was smitten with his writing style, haha.
        Carrie, Insomnia and It. I’ve been staring at It for a while now. Think I’m going to hold off on reading that one for a bit longer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t read Insomnia yet, but Carrie should be doable!

        I have several unread King books lying around (Finders Keepers, End of Watch, It, Cujo, The Stand, Insomnia), so I forbid myself from buying more until I read those first. 😛 I also have his nonfiction On Writing lying around, which might be interesting to read!

        Liked by 1 person

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