Doctor Sleep by Stephen King – A Disappointing Postscript to The Shining Diary

What Happened to Danny Torrence? Not as much as I’d hoped. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King put me to sleep. (The name of the book begs reviewers to make that statement.) I cannot recommend Doctor Sleep.

Doctor Sleep

doctor sleep


Sleep is the sequel to The Shining. Instead of a resumption of a thrilling, high-tension, story-line of The Shinning novel, one which the reader cannot wait to get back to after a long day at work, Doctor Sleep reads like a rather interesting episode of NBC’s Dateline but with people who also have some extra-sensory-perception abilities. Dateline is good but the episodes wouldn’t make great novels or movies. That’s why they air on Friday nights when everyone else is out having fun. And Dateline does not live up to the level of The Shining or Stanley Cubric’s movie adaptation, which likely made the book more notorious than it ever would have been on its own.

Doctor Sleep is dull for many reasons, including the fact that much of it sounds like a confession of an Alcoholics Anonymous graduate. (Sure, those things need to be written down, and then burned so no can ever read it.) King is himself a self-identified alcoholic. Sometimes Doctor Sleep sounds like King is just musing through some of his own personal struggles and repackaging them into novel, changing the names, places and monsters. Of course, Danny is an alcoholic, like his father. Not so original. Seems like so many of King’s protagonists have a drinking problem. That is getting old.

Doctor Sleep reads like a dysfunctional diary entry, meandering through pages and pages of Danny Torrence’s life after the burning of the Overlook hotel. Here’s the story: Danny (Dan now) grows up, becomes an alcoholic, parties too much, abuses drugs and cocaine (one of King’s former favorites), hits bottom, moves from town to town, eventually finds a small town in the northeast (like every other King novel), and he finds some other AA guys (we’re already talking hundreds of pages here), until he eventually connects mentally with a young girl, Abra, who has super-abilities, like Dan. Meanwhile, there’s a traveling caravan of soul suckers, living out of RV’s, who were once like Dan and Abra, but now survive by sucking the “steam” out of other specials, right before they brutally kill them. Oh, and as it turns out, this group of vampire-like specials, the True Knot, have their home base in the Colorado mountains, where the Overlook burnt down. Neat, but this is not key to the plot. The True Knot is led by a woman who wears a top hat; her name is Rose the Hat. The hat doesn’t really do anything for Rose. She just like it.

Nothing much happens in Doctor Sleep to keep it interesting, despite all those intriguing details. After pages and pages of Dan’s pathetic alcoholic life before eventually meeting Abra, the True Knot tries to kidnap her. Despite a lot of buildup, Dan and his friends simply kill all those people of the True Knot without much fuss, and after a couple of hours where Abra was very briefly taken, she’s freed, again without much excitement. An interesting story — just not thrilling. And well, since Rose was still at the Overlook’s former location, Dan just travels there and kills her and the remaining members of the True Knot. The End. The details of this story could have been so thrilling if written in a tight, suspenseful story. But I found myself dreading to pick the book back up. I even re-read Ready Player One again before finishing Doctor Sleep just to remind myself that I still enjoy reading.

Some other details about Doctor Sleep are also not thrilling. Doctor Sleep take place in the same universe with NOS4A2, by Joe Hill (King’s son), which is not flattering since NOS4A2 was also dull. Indeed, the stories of these two books are even similar. In Doctor Sleep, soul-energy sucking specials suck the energy out of kids to give themselves energy. In NOS4A2, a soul-sucking old man kidnaps kids to suck out their energy. Both stories even involve attacking children, which is already a turn off even in horror. Again, there’s plenty of that on Dateline already.

“Doctor sleep” refers to Dan, since he is working in a nursing home where he has a special ability to help dying people peacefully go to sleep. This ability doesn’t really have much of anything to do with the story. It’s just where he gets his nickname, and the book gets its title. A better name for Doctor Sleep: Postscript to The Shining: How Danny Got Along After the Overlook. I like Stephen King – see e.g., The Stand, Salem’s Lot, It, The Dark Tower, and others – but Doctor Sleep is a pass.

Copyright © 2020 – Austin Reams