Like writing a sequel to Casa Blanca or Moby Dick, Stephen King does the unthinkable and writes a sequel to The Shining. The Shining, of course, is one of King’s mixed blessings. Like all writers he was pretty excited that his book was going to be made into a movie, and pretty much horror stricken with what Stanley Kubrick did to his story. It doesn’t help that many people consider Kubrick’s Shining a masterpiece, an opinion not shared by King. In his Author’s Notes he tells us that this is a sequel to his book, not a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s movie.
Sleep Doctor is the story Dan Torrance, the little boy from The Shining. It’s also a story about AA, a little girl with a Shine of her own, and a group of rather nasty people who live in RVs. Sleep Doctor is a long audio book, running about 18 and 1/2 hours, but the story is one that easily fills all those hours. Will Patton, most recently a grumpy commandeer on Falling Skies, does a pretty good job as the reader.
The bulk of Sleep Doctor takes place long after that winter at the Overlook Hotel and we have a lot more people to keep track of than one drunk’s family and a handful of ghosts. Danny still has the Shining and we still get glimpses of a world beyond our own. Danny is a drunk and spends a lot of time fighting his demons. At the same time we are introduced to a group of villains with fun names like Rose The Hat and Silent Sally and Token Charlie. There are too many of these bad guys to keep track of and there are a fair amount of good guys as well.
There’s a lot of talk about Alcoholics Anonymous and we spend a lot of time in Meetings and hear a lot of the same old AA cliches that fill most TV shows and movies that have a character with substance abuse problems. Dan takes it all to heart and tends to quote The Big Book as others might quote the Bible. Whenever he reaches a turning point, he has a handy one liner he puts to use to help him stay on the straight and narrow. When he talks about what his life might have been like if his Dad had found AA instead of using White Knuckle Sobriety, I couldn’t help but think that King was talking about his own life and the drunk who wrote The Shining all those years ago.
Time has a fluid quality in Sleep Doctor, the meat of the story takes about 16 years to unfold, but we tend to hop over a lot of those years and just hit the high points. Since part of the cast is immortal, I never really got much of a sense of time passing and once or twice the shifts seems pretty sudden.
Sleep Doctor’s ending felt a bit abrupt. The finial epic battles felt a little less epic than I would have liked. Sleep Doctor was a very good read.