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Doctor Sleep: A Novel

Doctor Sleep - Stephen King Four and a half stars. I guess unlike a lot of other people, I never really wondered what happened to young Danny Torrance after the events of the Overlook Hotel in his youth, and when I first heard of Doctor Sleep, I was admittedly very nervous. [b:The Shining|11588|The Shining (The Shining, #1)|Stephen King|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1353277730s/11588.jpg|849585] had a unique geography, it's horror defined by the claustrophobic feeling of being stuck - isolated - somewhere between the lower rung of this earthly plane and the first rung of hell. But more importantly than that, The Shining was Jack's novel - as intimate a study of alcoholism and unchecked rage as you can find in all of fiction and while Danny was a special, integral part of Jack's spiraling descent, he always seemed to me to simultaneously be a catalyst and a life preserver. In both cases, more of an accessory to the tragedy of Jack Torrance's series of poor decisions and bad luck rather than an interesting guy in his own right. The idea of a novel focused solely on this supporting character didn't really appeal to me. All I can say really is that I've been very wrong on a lot of things before.

The very first chapter we meet mature Dan Torrance is so powerful you can't help but feel an immediately paradoxical sympathy and revulsion. It's so utterly and emotionally confusing, so tragically sad, but inevitable, that it's impossible to step away without hoping for his redemption. In many ways that journey becomes a redemptive one for Jack himself as he creeps along the edges of Danny's life, his presence large and his shadow long. Might there be a chance to restore some humanity to the mallet-swinging monster that nearly killed his wife and child over that crazy, brutal winter? But, "life is a wheel, its only job was to turn and it always came back to where it had started." Ultimately, old Danny has unresolved business with the Overlook and the events and people of his past, his baggage of ghosts, that bring a finality and resolution to the story of Jack begun in The Shining.

The novel is replete with metaphors that are meaningful, clever and powerful - wheels for the cyclical nature of life (and it's obvious Dark Tower connotations for the Constant Reader), steam for the energy and vitality of life, that which gives us locomotion, but which in excess can drive us to uncontrollable rage like a train barreling down mountain tracks with no brakes - their appearance frequent, but not annoying; thought-provoking and reflective more than gaudy ornamentation. And as usual, King's word-smithing, cadence and voice are like a lullaby. His words flow through you and immerse you in his tale the way only a confident, master storyteller can.

And what a tale it is, not-so-young Dan Torrance is running from his past and looking for a fresh start. Confronting his alcoholism, he arrives in a small New Hampshire town looking to build a new life and put old demons to rest. Young Abra Stone, born soon after Dan's arrival manifests the Shining like a lighthouse and quickly draws the attention of the True Knot - a wandering band of shine-stealing vampires who soon find that Abra's essence, her "steam," is vital to their survival. Dan's life quickly becomes entangled with young Abra's as they fight for their survival against monsters new and old.

Young King unleashed some fantastically chilling nightmares upon the world, but Old King has become a master at heartwarming stories of friendship, growth and transformation. Dr. Sleep has a fundamentally different style and tone than its predecessor, but that doesn't make it bad, or even unworthy. Far from it, the relationship between the now grown man Danny and Abra is wonderful, compassionate and beautifully orchestrated. It could have done with a bit more tragedy though - that always seals the deal for me.. I think my only real complaint is that certain parts of the story are a little too neat and convenient. I understand King wanted to emphasize the circle of life and all that jazz, but there's on particular character detail I could have done without and didn't really play an integral part of the story in my mind. Dan turns out to be the miraculous real-life uncle of Abra after it's revealed that his dad had an affair with a young student-teacher who was Abra's grandmother. Talk about putting things in a neat little box with a bow on top. Said familial relationship plays no central part in the later unfolding of events. Their blood relation is completely meaningless and becomes somewhat of a contrivance that sticks in my mind in unpleasant ways. Granted, they do have the family anger talk toward the end, but that could just as easily have been related by personal experience or a result of the shine or not bothered with too much at all. All-in-all, pleasantly surprising. It's King, so I knew I'd at least like it, but by the end, I found myself loving all the people in it, especially Danny Torrance.