Doctor Sleep

Doctor SleepDoctor Sleep is the sequel I never thought I wanted.

I was a teenager, somewhere around fourteen, when I read The Shining. I was on a Dean Koontz teen horror kick and I figured I better try the so-called King of horror. The Shining was way scarier than anything I read by Koontz. The idea of being snowed in and unable to leave an old, haunted, abandoned hotel, the gruesome ghosts, the topiary that moved, the dad turning against the family, all of this scared the crap out of me.

Another scary thing was the son, Danny. Danny was a five-year-old who had secret psychic powers, the shine, that made him very intriguing to the hotel’s ghosts. Through Danny is where we see the brunt of the supernatural beings and this poor little kid has to fight them and then eventually his dad.

Doctor Sleep is all about grown-up Danny, or Dan as he’s known in his thirties, and Dan’s not doing too well. A full-blown alcoholic and one step away from being homeless, Dan seems hopeless until he hits a really low point in a cocaine-induced haze. Scared with what he did, Dan moves to a different part of the country and gets help from some new friends, one of them being a 12-year-old girl, Abra, who has the same psychic powers he does, though hers are much more powerful.

But Doctor Sleep isn’t all about Dan and Abra. There’s also the True Knot, a group of traveling vampire-like gypsies who have been around for centuries feasting on the souls, or the steam, of the shining. When these gypsies set their sights on Abra, Dan once again has to fight.

This was a great sequel, but even with a spooky band of soul-sucking gypsies, Doctor Sleep is not as scary as The Shining. It’s really not scary at all. People expecting as much terror as in The Shining will not find it, but what they will find is a fabulous character-driven thriller, with a splash of the supernatural, that is really emotional and moving at times.

The moving parts come with Dan, both when he’s overcoming his alcoholism and when he’s working in hospice care. Part of Dan’s sobriety is how he channels his shine. Instead of drinking it away, Dan uses it to help comfort the dying. Some of these scenes are incredibly touching and not what I expected with a sequel to The Shining.

When it comes to horror novels, I prefer The Shining to Doctor Sleep, but Doctor Sleep has a leg up on character development and compassion where we can really see where King has grown. Some of the scariest things in life aren’t the supernatural, but are in purely human moments, like death and the way we handle relationships and problems put in our path. This is where Doctor Sleep shines and why I would recommend this book. I liked the True Knot and the clever ways Dan and Abra fight against them, but it’s not why this was so good. This was good because it was an intimate, well-developed look at Dan and who he has become.

This was the sequel I didn’t need but I’m so glad I got.

Originally reviewed at Minnesota Reads.

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Under the Dome, the show

Wow. There are a lot of differences in the “Under the Dome” TV show.

In preparation for the show, I recently read Stephen King’s Under the Dome. It was 1072-page beast, but I raced through it, and while the ending wasn’t my favorite, the story as a whole was fabulous.

And I knew that they’d have to cut things and change some characters for the transition to the small screen, but I don’t think anyone is the same.

MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT (run away!).

First of all, Dale “Barbie” Barbara, what the hell? He’s supposed to be our savior, our ex-military man, our idealistic, never-do-wrong hero. Why was he burying someone at the beginning of the show? And not a nice burial in a cemetery with a clergy, family and friends, and flowers. He was in the woods burying someone on the down low.

And when he drove away (he’s not supposed to have a car), who was he talking to on the phone where he said, “Your guy, Smith, shows up. He doesn’t have the money. And then he tries to renegotiate, aggressively.” What?

At least the actor they got is delicious, because Barbie was delicious in my head, too.

As for Rose the diner owner, she’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s Aunt Zelda! There’s nothing majorly different about her, at least yet, but her voice is so distinctive that I instantly wondered what spell she was cooking.

And then there was the dome. I was so hoping for the perspective from the woodchuck, but alas, no woodchuck. Instead we get a cow sliced in half, the long way. It was gross. And funny. It probably shouldn’t have been funny. I’m not a serial killer, I promise.

And couldn’t they hear through the dome? Here they can’t. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but I thought they could speak to people on the other side. And they said it was 20,000 feet high, but in the book it’s 47,000 feet.

Julia Shumway is also different. I pictured her older with more balls. Maybe she’ll grow some as we go.

Oh, and she’s supposed to be single, but here she’s married to Peter the doctor, who’s supposed to survive for a long time, but he was actually the guy Barbie was burying.

My head is spinning.

There’s a lot more. Norrie doesn’t live in the town and she has lesbian parents. The radio station plays rock music instead of Christian music. Phil in the radio station isn’t crazy and Dodee is helping him. Angie and Dodee don’t get murdered by Junior, but Junior keeps Angie prisoner in a storm shelter. And Joe is apparently now Angie’s brother. And Duke was part of Big Jim’s drug trade.

Although I’m still not sure it is a drug trade. It seems like it will be what with the massive supply of propane tanks, but no one has mentioned drugs yet.

With all this being said, I actually really like the show. They set up the panic of the dome really well with the plane and car crashes into the dome, the silence from the outside world, and the subtle but fabulous story Angie tells about a goldfish trapped in a tank eating the other goldfish. That’s foreshadowing, folks!

I think from here on out I have to ignore the book. I kept comparing things while I watched it and tweeting the differences, but the show is really interesting. I kind of wish I hadn’t read the book because I would’ve loved the show. Right now I like it, I’m intrigued, and I’m going to keep watching.

One thing I was happy about was the ending of the episode where Duke’s pacemaker bursts out of his chest, killing him. I’m so glad they kept that from the book.

Really, I’m not a serial killer.

Under the Dome

Under-the-Dome-coverYou may have seen commercials for “Under the Dome,” a miniseries starting in June based upon Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The premise got my attention right away: a dome suddenly, and without warning, encompasses a small town and mass chaos ensues.

This series is pretty much designed for me, so for the past two weeks I’ve been making my way through Stephen King’s 1072-page behemoth. You should be very impressed that I finished it in two weeks, not only because it’s 1072 pages, but because this isn’t a small book with large print. I feel like these 1072 pages are really 1500 pages of a normal book, so I’m pretty proud of my two-week readathon.

It didn’t hurt that this was actually a quick read. Stephen King knows how to create suspense, curiosity, and disturbingly bad, but completely satisfying, characters. And he really likes to kill people.

Under the Dome begins on October 21, the day a clear dome suddenly surrounds the small town of Chester’s Mill, Maine. No one can get in or out, and no one can actually see the dome, which makes for some disastrous airplane and car crashes. But the dome is the least of the town’s worries. In true Stephen King fashion, the people in Chester’s Mill are way more frightening than a stupid, mysterious barrier. This is pretty much Lord of the Flies but with adults.

It doesn’t take long for the town to break down after the dome appears. Power-hungry James “Big Jim” Rennie, the town’s second selectman, sees this as an opportunity to gain even more control over the townspeople, while his son Junior starts cracking and causing a lot of trouble. Dale “Barbie” Barbara, a former Army captain turned fry cook, is put in charge of the town through an edict issued by the President of the United States, but that doesn’t sit well with Big Jim. Trying not to lose his power, he turns the town against Barbie and conspiracy theories, criminal behavior, and vigilante justice are rampant. The clashes between Big Jim and Barbie, and townspeople on both sides, make up this tale of a town gone crazy.

Stephen King does a great job turning Chester’s Mill into an awful, totalitarian town. Panic is widespread and supplies are dwindling, including the propane that runs generators. All of this is terrifying in and of itself, because there seems to be no end in sight for when the dome will go away, but King takes it one step further and creates abominable characters.

Actually, when it comes to the characters, either people are really evil, with their evil quadrupled because of the dome, or they’re really nice and can’t comprehend the evil doers. There aren’t that many in-between characters, and it’s shocking how many evil ones there are, like the newly appointed police deputies. Big Jim thinks they need more police, so he scrounges up twenty somethings and teenagers, which is just what we need in a crisis – armed, untrained teenagers. These deputies really highlight the mob mentality, and, sadly, even though some of their actions made me cringe, I believed them. I don’t know if that’s because of King’s writing or because there are awful people in the world, but I believed the mob mentality.

I think the pacing in the book also should be praised, because even though this is a long book, full of many characters (there are three pages of characters listed at the beginning of the book), this moves at a breakneck speed. The whole thing takes place over a week, which probably helps with its speed, but nothing here is expendable. Not one thing should be left out because it all works so well. It jumps between characters in different parts of town, sometimes seeing or hearing the same events from multiple perspectives, and I loved it.

The thing I didn’t like as much is the ending. It was just kind of…boring. Everything leading up to it is fabulous. I was nervous, gasping, and scared, but then it just ends. We find out about the dome and why it’s there, but I found it rather simplistic. I wanted it to be more grand and ominous like the rest of the book, especially because the death toll is so large. With that many goners, I want something more.

I still really liked this book and I can’t wait for the miniseries. I’m curious to see the changes they make, because watching the commercial I see younger, prettier people than I saw in my head. Let’s hope not much changes, because this was a fantastic ride.

Reviewed at Minnesota Reads.