Stephen King brings these things upon himself.
Critics will rightfully say, “Doctor Sleep is okay, but it isn’t as good as The Shining.” But how could it be? The Shining is a classic (its status doubly bolstered by Stanley’s Kubrick’s equally iconic film adaptation.) The Shining has enjoyed four decades of popularity, accolades, and analysis. Fanboys like me grew up with The Shining as a culture touchstone, a literary benchmark against which all other horror novels were judged.
So King is practically begging for bad reviews for Doctor Sleep. It’s impossible to fill The Shining’s big shoes. Fortunately, King doesn’t even try, allowing Doctor Sleep to take its own path into new literary territories.
Doctor Sleep finds Danny Torrance all grown up, and suffering from the same alcoholism that plagued his father. It’s a subject King seems to know intimately, and the novel’s most authentic moments unfold when Danny Torrance views the world through a 12-stepper’s hardened-yet-knowing gaze.
There are plenty of fumbles in Doctor Sleep. Female hero Abra is inconsistent; wise beyond her years one moment, and inexplicably innocent the next. There’s a family revelation late in the novel that’s hollow and cringe inducing, along with several Freaky Friday -style body swaps that are equally douche-chilly.
That doesn’t mean Doctor Sleep is a bad novel, or an unsatisfying read. It’s nice seeing Danny shine again. Tony reprises his role as psychic messenger, and there are sweet cameos by Dick Hallorann, and the ghoulish ghost from Room 217. Doctor Sleep is well paced, Rose The Hat is a badass villain, and everything wraps up neatly enough.
Doctor Sleep is okay, but it isn’t as good as The Shining.