Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Stephen King ReReads!

While most human beings are celebrating the end of 2019 with their families and/or friends, I'm sitting at a desk, sipping on a coffee, and attempting to get myself in the mood to write belated reviews for three Stephen King titles — IT, The Shining, and Doctor Sleep — which I'd reread this year.

Reading IT was a long awaited personal challenge of mine. It's a whopping 1,000+ page epic with tiny lettering, so it took me most of the summer to read darn the thing!

I've owned an IT paperback for many years but I always made some sort of an excuse to avoid reading it. I have some bad memories (or more like nightmares) of watching part 1 of the 1989 miniseries when I was a little kid. Yep, Tim Curry's version of Pennywise the clown scared the crap out me. I didn't even attempt to watch the last half of the miniseries. It wasn't until I was a teenager when I finally finished watching IT!

IT is a tale of good vs. evil. The novel is set in two different time periods — 1957-1958 and 1984-1985. During the late '50s, seven Derry Maine middle graders (Bill, Stan, Eddie, Ben, Richie, Mike, and Beverly), or otherwise known as "The Losers Club," are stalked by an alien creature, Pennywise, that has taken the form of a clown. Pennywise has killed many children and residents of Derry, including Bill's younger brother Georgie. Together, the group locate the creature's hideout and attempt to kill it. Derry is pretty much a peaceful time until the mid-1980s when several murders occur. Mike is the only member of "The Losers Club" still living in Derry and takes it upon himself to reach out to his old friends as they made a blood pack when they were children that if Pennywise returned, then they would return to kill it!

Like many of King's works, IT focuses heavily on character development and with 1,138 pages there's plenty of time to get know the "The Losers Club." Warning for those who have never read IT before  — this novel is extremely graphic. And I'm not just referring to the violence. Spoiler Alert: The way "The Loser's Club" gets out of the tunnels is by having an orgy! The last thing I want to read about is minors having sex! Unfortunately, the scene is in the novel! King did have a reason for the orgy as it was the only way the children could remember what occurred inside the tunnels — a.k.a. Pennywise.

Final Thoughts

IT has been on my reading list for nearly two years and I'm glad I finally took the time to read the epic novel. It's right up there with Pet Sematary as one of the scariest books Stephen King has ever written. Pennywise the clown is the scariest "baddie" I have ever read or seen on screen. FYI: The 1989 miniseries scared me to death during my childhood.

If you're looking for a fast-read, well, you're not going to find it here, as IT is overly written at 1,138 pages. IT is a book that'll take you a few weeks or months to complete. There are a lot of descriptions — and I mean a lot! The seven members of "The Loser Club" are realistically written. The horror scenes are scary as hell.

Overall, IT is a must read for any horror lover, if you have the stomach for it. And if you aren't afraid of clowns! The writing by itself deserves a perfect 5 out of 5 rating. However, I'm giving it a 4 out of 5 due for the unneeded orgy scene. Ugh!

For those of you who don't already know, I first read The Shining way back when I was in elementary school in the early 90s. Yeah, I don't recommend any child to start reading Stephen King novels unless you're mature enough to understand the material, and, of course, always get your parents' permission first before reading an adult novel. I was weird kid who was watching horror and action movies at an early age so reading about a husband/father who loses his mind and attempts to kill his family didn't affect me at all. IT is a completely different story!

The Shining centers around an aspiring writer Jack Torrance taking a job as a caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies for the winter. He brings along his wife, Wendy, and their five-year-old Danny, who has "the shining," which is a mixture of telepathy and clairvoyance.

Jack is a recovering alcoholic and living in an isolated hotel for several months with no alcohol should be a good thing right. Wrong!

It turns the Overlook Hotel is haunted with many ghosts and these spirits are preying upon Jack's insanity. This is a terrible thing for Wendy and Danny as Jack wants to murder them!

Final Thoughts

Once you've read The Shining a couple of times, it's no longer as scary as it was the first time you've read it. While there are many horror elements included in the novel, I would never call it a horror story. Instead, The Shining is a story about a man's struggle with addiction, and it just happens to be set in a haunted hotel.

Overall, The Shining is an incredible read. It's one of my favorite Stephen King novels. I prefer the novel over the classic 1978 feature film and '90s miniseries, even though the latter follows the story more closely than the movie. 

Like many Stephen King fans, I was 100% surprised when he announced there would be a sequel to The Shining, which always seemed to me to be a standalone story with no loose ends. However, Mr. King didn't feel that way as he came up with an intriguing story about an adult Danny Torrence.

The sequel is called Doctor Sleep, which the film adaptation was released to theatres in early November. (FYI: I haven't seen the movie yet. I'm waiting for the Blu-ray.) Just like his father, Danny has become alcoholic; though his struggle is less about addiction and more about tuning down his "shining" abilities. Even though he left the Overlook Hotel many years, the ghosts still haunt him. Eventually, he attempts to live a somewhat normal life in New Hampshire, where he joins an AA community and gets a job at a nursing home. Due to his supernatural abilities, Danny provides comfort to the dying, which has resulted in him being dubbed, "Doctor Sleep."

Danny's life is turned upside down when he meets Abra Stone, a young girl who has the shining — the brightest "shining" he has ever seen. A group of psychic vampires, known as the True Knot, prey upon children with the shining as it keeps their immortality intact. Because of Abra's strong abilities, the True Knot senses her and will do everything in their power to drain her of the shining. The only way Danny can protect Abra is to travel back to the remains of the Overlook Hotel and confront his past.

Final Thoughts

There are many fans who don't care for Doctor Sleep as it's not a haunted house story. I, for one, am glad Mr. King went a completely different route for his sequel to The Shining. After all, the Overlook Hotel did burned to the ground at the end of 1977 novel so there was no need to redo what was already done in the original.

The Shining was about addiction and Doctor Sleep is about recovery. The only difference between the two stories is Jack was the addict in the original and in the sequel, Danny is trying to recover from his own demons.

Overall, Doctor Sleep is an excellent followup to The Shining. No, it's not quite as scary, but it's a good read in it's own right.

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