Title: Doctor Sleep.
Author: Stephen King.
Genre: Fiction, horror, fantasy, addiction.
Publication Date: 2013.
Summary: Dan Torrance is a man now, but ghosts of the Overlook—and his father's legacy of alcoholism and violence—kept him drifting for decades. Now, sustained by an AA community in a New Hampshire town, Dan comforts the dying at a nursing home, where they call him "Doctor Sleep." But before his remnant power can fade forever, Dan meets twelve-year-old Abra Stone, whose spectacular gift pulls him into an epic war with an otherworldly tribe that reignites Dan's own demons and summons him to battle for the young girl's soul and survival.
My rating: 6.5/10.
My Review: I almost feel bad with how little I liked this book because I can definitely sympathize with King for writing it. I've also found myself thinking what would happen to Danny Torrance, and I've only read The Shining earlier this year, so it must have been an ordeal to give birth to this character and then wonder about him for 30 years. But, to me, that's one of the things about a brilliant novel - it stays with you and it leaves you wanting more. How many sequels have ruined beloved characters even when the readers really wished to see their stories continued? This book definitely jumps the shark for me. King is a good author, even when he doesn't hit the spot, so this story is well-written, well-paced, and well-told, but I had absolutely no emotional attachment to it, and it didn't really connect to The Shining for me in any way.
♥ But it was only her shadow. Scared of her own shadow, people sometimes sneered, but who had a better right than Wendy Torrance? After the things she had seen and been through, she knew that shadows could be dangerous. They could have teeth.
♥ Danny listened in wide-eyed fascination. He had always thought the story of Bluebeard was the scariest of all time, the scariest there ever could be, but this one was worse. Because it was true.
♥ "She gave me a present, same like I'm gonna give you. That's what a teacher does when the pupil is ready. Learning itself is a present, you know. The best one anybody can give or get."
♥ A bonfire, the whicker of horses... and the pain. Could you actually remember pain? He didn't think so. You knew there was such a thing, and that you have suffered it, but that wasn't the same.
♥ The crack had been mended with a strip of packing tape that now dangled by one corner. A couple of flies were stuck to the tape, one still struggling feebly. Dan eyed it with morbid fascination, reflecting (not for the first time) that the hungover eye had a weird ability to find the ugliest things in any given landscape.
♥ Your mind was a blackboard. Booze was the eraser.
♥ He thought of his father. The only thing Jack Torrance had liked better than a drink, his mother had once said, not long before she died, was a dozen drinks. Of course what Wendy had liked was her cigarettes, and they had killed her. Once upon a time Dan had promised himself he'd never get going with that habit, either. He had come to believe that life was a series of ironic ambushes.
♥ "If I decide to stay once summer comes, I'll try the hospice. In fact, I might put in an early application, unless you'd rather I don't do that."
"I don't care either way." Kingsley looked at him curiously. "Dying people don't bother you?"
Your mother died here, Danny thought. The shine wasn't gone after all, it seemed; it was hardly even hiding. You were holding her hand when she passed. Her name was Ellen.
"No," he said. Then, with no reason why, he added: "We're all dying. The world's just a hospice with fresh air."
♥ But time changed. That was something only drunks and junkies understood. When you couldn't sleep, when you were afraid to look around because of what you might see, time elongated and grew sharp teeth.
♥ Wendy Torrance, who had smoked right to the bitter end. Because if suicide was the only option, you could at least choose your weapon.
♥ Chetta believed that most people who worked in the arts were high-functioning schizophrenics, and she was no different. She knew superstition was shit; she also spat between her fingers if a crow or black car crossed her path.
♥ "Look at them, Johnny. It's the kiddie version of what Edward Hicks painting, The Peaceable Kingdom. You've got six white ones—of course you do, it's New Hampshire—but you've also got two black ones and one gorgeous Korean American baby who looks like she should be modeling clothes in the Hanna Andersson catalogue. You know the Sunday school song that goes 'Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight'? That's what we have here. Two hours, and not one of them has raised a fist or given a push in anger."
John—who had seen plenty of toddlers who kicked, pushed, punched, and bit—gave a smile in which cynicism and wistfulness were exactly balanced. "I wouldn't expect anything different. They all go to L'il Chums. It's the smart-set daycare in these parts, and they charge smart-set prices. That means their parents are at least upper-middle, they're all college grads, and they all practice the gospel of Go Along to Get Along. These kids are you basic domesticated social animal."
John stopped there because she was frowning at him, but he could have gone farther. He could have said that, until the age of seven or thereabouts—the so-called age of reason—most children were emotional echo chambers. If they grew up around people who got along and didn't raise their voices, they did the same. If they were raised by biters and shouters... well...
Twenty years of treating little ones (not to mention raising two of his own, now away at good Go Along and Get Along prep schools) hadn't destroyed all the romantic notions he'd held when first deciding to specialize in pediatric medicine, but those years had tempered them. Perhaps kids really did come into the world trailing clouds of glory, as Wordsworth had so confidently proclaimed, but they also shit in their pants until they learned better.
♥ He suspected somebody might have pulled a wire or two. It was how the world worked. Hadn't his own father pulled a wire to get his final job, as caretaker at the Overlook Hotel? Maybe that wasn't proof positive that who you knew was a lousy way to get a job, but it seemed suggestive.
♥ If one of them happens to get speed-trapped or stopped for some minor traffic offense—it's rare, but it does happen—the cop finds nothing but valid licenses, up-to-date insurance cards, and paperwork in apple-pie order. No voices are raised while the cop's standing there with his citation book, even if it's an obvious scam. The charges are never disputed, and all fines are paid promptly. America is a living body, the highways are its arteries, and the True Knot slips along them like a silent virus.
♥ Rose was rarely shocked, but this did the job. No one in the True had ever killed themselves. Life was—to coin a phrase—their only reason for living.
♥ Everyone had secrets. This he had known from earliest childhood. Decent people deserved to keep theirs, and Billy Freeman was decency personified.
♥ "You like the life you're living, Danny-boy?" It wasn't the first time he had asked this question, and it wouldn't be the last.
"Yes." No hesitation on that score. Maybe he wasn't the president of General Motors or doing nude love scenes with Kate Winslet, but in Dan's mind, he had it all.
"Think you earned it?"
"No," Dan said, smiling. "Not really. Can't earn this."
"So what was it that got you back to a place where you like getting up in the morning? Was it luck or grace?"
He'd believed that Casey wanted him to say it was grace, but during the sober years he had learned the sometimes uncomfortable habit of honesty. "I don't know."
"That's ok, because when your back's against the wall, there's no difference."
♥ Some people called the moment of death passing on. Dan liked that, because it seemed just about right. When you saw men and women pass on before your eyes—leaving the Teenytown people called reality for some Cloud Gap of an afterlife—it changed your way of thinking. For those in mortal extremis, it was the world that was passing on. In those gateway moments, Dan had always felt in the presence of some not-quite-seen enormity. They slept, they woke, they went somewhere. They went on.
♥ Ron Stimson, one of four docs who made regular day-rounds at the hospice, once told dan that Eleanor was proof that living was sometimes stronger than dying. "Her liver function is nil, her lungs are shot from eighty years of smoking, she has colorectal cancer—moving at a snail's pace, but extremely malignant—and the walls of her heart are as thin as a cat's whisker. Yet she continues."
♥ "Where are they, these empty devils?"
"In your childhood, where every devil comes from."
♥ "Honey, that must have been awful."
Standing in a first-floor alcove where there were snack machines and—mirabile dictu—a few working phones, her body aching and covered with drying sweat (she could smell herself, and it sure wasn't Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue), her head pounding with the first migraine she'd had in four years, Lucia Stone knew she could never tell him how awful it had really been. What a stinking revelation it had been. You thought you understood the basic fact—woman grows old, woman grows feeble, woman dies—and then you discovered there was quite a lot more to it. You found that out when you found the woman who had written some of the greatest poetry of her generation lying in a puddle of her own piss, shrieking at her granddaughter to make the pain stop, make it stop, oh madre de Cristo, make it stop. When you saw the formerly smooth forearm twisted like a washrag and heard the poet call it a cunting thing and then wish herself dead so the hurting would stop.
Could you tell your husband how you were still half asleep, and frozen with the fear that anything you did would be the wrong thing? Could you tell him that she scratched your face when you tried to move her and howled like a dog that had been run over in the street? Could you explain what it was like to leave your beloved grandmother sprawled on the floor while you dialed 911, and then sat beside her waiting for the ambulance, making her drink Oxycodone dissolved in water through a bendy-straw? How the ambulance didn't come and didn't come and you thought of that Gordon Lightfoot song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," the one that asks if anyone knows where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours? The waves rolling over Momo were waves of pain, and she was foundering, and they just kept coming.
When she began to scream, Lucy had gotten both arms under her and lifted her onto her bed in a clumsy clean-and-jerk way she knew she'd feel in her shoulders and lower back for days, if not weeks. Stopping her ears to Momo's cries of put me down, you're killing me. Then Lucy sat against the wall, gasping, her hair plastered to her cheeks in strings while Momo wept and cradled her hideously deformed arm and asked why Lucia would hurt her like that and why this was happening to her.
At last the ambulance had come, and a man—Lucy didn't know his name but blessed him in her incoherent porayers—had given Momes a shot that put her out. Could you tell your husband you wished the shot had killed her?
"It was pretty awful," was all she said.
♥ "Billy likes to tell people that the good thing about being old is that you don't have to worry about dying young."
♥ With a few notable exceptions (sharp-eyed old ladies and little kids were the worst), Rube America was staggeringly unobservant even twelve years into the Dark Age of Terrorism. If you see something, say something was a hell of a slogan, but first you had to see something.
♥ Dan has seen this before. The miracle of returning consciousness. Not for the first time he wondered where it came from, and where it went when it departed. Death was no less a miracle than birth.
♥ Abra stood breathing into the fog. The road they'd driven in on was nothing but a scratch, the trees on the other side completely gone. So was the motel office. Sometimes she wished she was like that, all white on the inside. But only sometimes. In der deepest heart, she had never regretted what she was.
♥ He gently pulled one of her pigtails. "You really could do it all along, couldn't you? I don't understand why you didn't just tell us, Abba-Doo."
Dan, who had grown up with the shining, could have answered that question.
Sometimes parents needed to be protected.
♥ "He was good and bad and I loved both sides of him. God help me, I guess I still do."
"You and most kids," Billy said. "You love your folks and hope for the best. What else can you do?"
♥ "What is this place, Dan?"
"A memory. There used to be a hotel here, and this was my room. Now it's a place where we can be together. You know the wheel that turns when you go into someone else?"
"This is the middle. The hub."
"I wish we could stay here. It feels... safe. Except for those." Abra pointed to the French doors with their long panes of glass. "They don't feel the same as the rest." She looked at him almost accusingly. "They weren't here, were they? When you were a kid."
"No. There weren't any windows in my room, and the only door was the one that went into the rest of the caretaker's apartment. I changed it. I had to. Do you know why?"
She studied him, her eyes grave. "Because that was then and this is now. Because the past is gone, even though it defines the present."
"There are ghostie people out there. I can't see them, but I feel them. Do you?"
"Yes." He had for years. Because the past defines the present.
♥ She thought, for just a moment, of trying to bargain. Of telling the girl that they could work together, start a new Knot. That instead of dying in 2070 or 2080, Abra could live a thousand years. Two thousand. But what good would it do?
Was there ever a teenage girl who felt anything less than immortal?
♥ They chuckled. Dan drew a deep breath, telling himself if he could face Rose and her True Knot, he could face this. Only this was different. This wasn't Dan the Hero; it was Dan the Scumbag. He had lived long enough to know there was a little scumbag in everyone, but it didn't help much when you had to take out the trash.
♥ "Can't fool you, can I? I had one swallow, just to see what it tasted like. What the big deal is. I guess she smelled it on my breath when I came home. And guess what? There is no big deal. It tasted horrible."
Dan did not reply to this. If he told her he had found his own first taste horrible, that he had also believed there was no big deal, no precious secret, she would have dismissed it as windy adult bullshit. You could not moralize children out of growing up. Or teach them how to do it.