Just finished reading the sequel to Stephen King's universally acclaimed horror masterpiece, The Shinning, entitled Doctor Sleep. The story primarily occurs many years after the first novel, with Dan working at a hospice in rural New Hampshire, where he uses the remnants of his shining ability to ease the suffering of the dying at the moment of death. He meets a young girl named Abra Stone, who also has the shining. Abra is in mortal danger from a group of quasi-immortals called the True Knot, who live off the 'steam' that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death. Dan risks everything, to protect Abra from the murderous paranormals, just as s young black cook at the Overlook Hotel once risked everything to save him.
As a sequel, Doctor Sleep starts off promising. Early on, Dan winds up exactly where his father started in The Shinning: drunk, and hitting his rock bottom, and wanting desperately to find a good place to escape his own personal demons. Reading about Dan falling into the same fate as Jack Torrance, the exact fate I had hoped he'd avoid, was an extremely painful experience, but also a welcome one. It nearly moved me to tears, and proved to me that I still cared about the little boy I met years ago reading the first novel, even if I didn't care to much for anyone else in Doctor Sleep.
If the quality of a piece of literature is judged solely by the extent it makes you emotional, then the early chapters were the best. As Doctor Sleep got further and further away from the plot of The Shinning, I cared less and less. I think Stephen King tried hard to make me love Abra the same way I loved Dan, but I just couldn't. She was a smart and funny character, and her relationship with Dan was cute, but everything was far to easy for her. It is a characters struggle, and the fear of what might happen to them, I think, that causes people to care about fictional characters as though they were real. Abra's shinning was so powerful that I never once felt she was in any real danger. The almost comical villains with their silly names didn't exactly help make things suspenseful. I wanted to truly fear them, but there was nothing frightening about them. I wanted more along the lines of Horace Derwent or the dead woman from Room 217, and what I got was the Wicked Witch of the West. Hat and all. I remember, even though I was older when I first read it, The Shinning was genuinely scary at times, reading it alone in the dark with a flashlight. Especially with the loud BANG! caused by people bursting through my bedroom door at random intervals. I did not have the same experience with this novel. It is very different from the Shinning, not only in terms of the plot of the story, but also how it was written, even though both were obviously written by the same man.
At no point does Doctor Sleep ever come close to approaching anything I would call "horror." To use movie terms, Doctor Sleep the book felt more like a direct to DVD successor to The Shining then a true sequel. By the end, Doctor Sleep had plenty of faults, but it was still a good book, because at no point did it actually bore me, and worth the read. It just wasn't anywhere near as good as The Shinning."