'Doctor Sleep', the sequel to 'The Shining' was always going to be a big ask. I really wanted to like this, and on the whole I did. Quite a lot in fact. Unfortunately, it does miss the mark in a very, very big way as far as I'm concerned. As enjoyable as the story is and as well as the characters are written(of course, it being Stephen King), I really did miss that fantastically eerie, creepy atmosphere that pervaded 'The Shining'. A lot of that had to do with the solitude of the Overlook Hotel of course, and then there's the fact that it was winter with all the snow and the cold and so on and so forth, but still, it would have been nice if just a little of that wonderful atmosphere had made it into the sequel. It didn't, and it's a crushing shame.
So, the story itself isn't half bad. A group of people(creatures?) calling themselves 'The True Knot' survive by slowly killing their victims and inhaling what they refer to as steam. Their victims are people like Danny who have a bit of the Shine about them. We follow Dan as he fights his alcoholism and ends up settling for a time in a small town where he helps people who are dying pass more peacefully, assuaging their fears and generally giving them a helping hand with the aid of his 'Shining' talent. A nice little touch is the cat, Azzie, who waits with those that are about to die until Dan can get there, at which point it resumes its daily routine patrolling the corridors of the hospice again.
Things come to a head when the little girl that Dan has befriended, Abra, goes into battle with 'The True Knot', and in particular with it's leader, a woman called Rose. Abra has the greatest Shining talent Dan has ever encountered, even more than him in fact. It was a pleasant surprise that this battle didn't drag on and on as I was expecting it to do but was over in a flash really considering the fact that the entire story had been building up to this point all along. I could see some people marking this as a weak point, perhaps suggesting it was rushed, but I liked it. I fully expected the long drawn out battle and when it didn't happen I was glad. It just seemed more likely this way, more realistic somehow.
The book ends with Dan, years later, accepting an award from his Alcoholics Anonymous group for being sober for fifteen years which I felt kind of rounded the novel off quite nicely really.
So in the end, I think this stands up well as a good, solid paranormal/supernatural story with very well realized characters, but it's definitely missing something. Unfortunately, the fantastically eerie, creepy atmosphere of 'The Shining' is entirely absent, and without that this sequel just doesn't do it for me in the same way it's predecessor did. It's a real shame too because everything else pointed to it becoming just as much a classic of the horror genre as any other. But ultimately, it's just not in the same league as 'The Shining'. Think back to the scenes in the bar, and the party going on all around. Think back to the loneliness and the sprawling emptiness of that huge hotel cut off from everything. Think back to Jack slowly descending into his own personal booze-filled hell. Think back to all those wonderfully intense moments that filled the pages of 'The Shining' and then tell me that 'Doctor Sleep' even comes close. It doesn't, it just doesn't.
It's a good story though, and it's certainly worth a read. Just try to forget that it's a sequel and just enjoy it for it's own sake and you won't be disappointed. Just don't expect it to be on a par with the 'The Shining' that's all.