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Battling more than one kind of demon
In an author’s note at the end of Doctor Sleep, Stephen King explains how the idea of writing a sequel to The Shining—his third novel, published in 1977—was planted by a fan at a book signing back in 1998. King mulled it over for more than 10 years before sitting down to figure out how 5-year-old Danny Torrance fared after his narrow escape from the horrifyingly haunted Overlook Hotel.
As one might suspect, Danny didn’t fare very well. Aside from psychological scars, he must contend with the occasional unwelcome visit from Overlook “ghosties”—the pungent bathtub lady, Mrs. Massey, for one—in some of the novel’s more hair-raising scenes. But he also battles demons inherited from his father: namely, a severe alcohol addiction.
After hitting rock bottom, Dan winds up in Frazier, New Hampshire, and lands a job at The Helen Rivington hospice, where he uses his telepathic “shining” abilities to comfort dying patients, earning him the moniker of Doctor Sleep. He connects with a young girl named Abra, whose ability to shine is off the charts. It’s so potent, in fact, that it’s attracted the attention of a sinister tribe of drifters called The True Knot.
Members of the Knot do their best to blend in with society as they travel the highways in their RVs. The chill-inducing truth, though, is that they are quasi-immortal paranormals who subsist on the “steam” released when children who shine are tortured. The leader of the Knot is Rosie, a gorgeous seductress, who is rarely without her jaunty top hat—and who always gets what she wants. And she wants Abra.
Needless to say, expectations for a sequel to a beloved book like The Shining are high, and for the most part, Doctor Sleep delivers. Accompanying Dan through the rough years that followed his time at the Overlook—sometimes you wish you could give him a hug, other times, a sense-infusing slap—makes it all the more gratifying to come out the other side with him. Fans will surely forgive a few questionable plot turns and once again marvel at King’s seemingly boundless ability to conjure super-creepy, utterly evil villains like the members of The True Knot. Though it’s sprinkled with King’s tension-relieving, trademark humor throughout, Doctor Sleep still contains plenty of sleep-with-the-lights-on scares that’ll have you looking sideways at the occupants of the next RV you encounter.