Did you ever wonder what happened to little Danny Torrance and his mom Wendy after Dick Hallorann took them down the mountain when the Overlook Hotel blew up? Oops. Spoiler if you haven’t read The Shining. Sorry. But seriously, if you haven’t read it, go read it right now. Then come back.
Anyway, so did Stephen King. Wonder, that is. And some 30+ years later, he wrote it down.
Wendy raised Danny on her own; she never remarried. Danny never lost his “shine”, but he learned to control it for the most part, or at least tamp it down with liquor. Eventually Danny became Dan, and eventually Dan became an alcoholic, like his dad, Jack. Except, unlike Jack, Dan made it into recovery, still with a shine, which he learned to use to ease the passing of the terminally ill in his place of employ.
All through Dan’s sobriety, though, he keeps catching glimpses of a young girl in his head, a young girl named Abra with a powerful shine of her own. He and Abra both become aware that someone was hunting her, stalking her, waiting for that shine of hers to reach its peak so it could be harvested. Abra was food.
Those stalking young Abra called themselves The True Knot, or just the True. Disguised as aging RVers, they roam the highways and campgrounds of the United States, using their own shining to search for children just like Abra: those with a shine or, as the True call it, “steam,” using the psychic energy generated by the torture and murder of these young people to extend their lives. Sooner or later, they’re going to find Abra. But not if Dan and Abra find them first.
King drags us on the journey through Dan’s alcoholism, down to his bottom, and back up to his recovery. It’s an ugly and occasionally stomach-churning story, but those of us who’ve been there need only hold up a mirror to see ourselves in Dan’s shoes. And when Abra enters the picture, we bite our nails while we cheer for both of them in their struggle against the True.
As for the inevitable comparison to its predecessor, in many ways The Shining may be the superior novel in terms of sheer scariness: that was the first novel I ever read that frightened the teenaged me so badly I threw the book across my darkened bedroom and went running into the living room where the rest of my family was gathered. Damn those topiary animals! But Doctor Sleep holds its own in the quality of its story, the development of its characters, all done, of course, in King’s incomparable style. A worthy successor, indeed, and another winner for the master of modern horror.
This book was read as part of R.I.P VIII, Peril the First Challenge. Click that badge up there that says “Review Site” to see other participants and their reviews. It was also read as part of the Frightfall Read-a-thon. Several birds with one stone, yes? Yes!