When it comes to Stephen King, I tend to struggle a little. A lot of books begin with a fabulous premise, full of promise and excitement, but somewhere along the way, they branch off toward tedious side streets and monotonous never-ending twisty plots. In a nutshell, I end up bored and these type of books can be difficult to finish. However, The Shining is one of those rare masterpieces that keeps me turning those pages and staying awake to read long past bedtime. Binge-reading chapters for hours on end.
Most people by now are probably familiar with this story: Recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance begins a new job as Winter Caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. He relocates his family, wife Wendy and five-year-old son Danny, to the remote location with him. As Jack struggles with his sobriety and anger management issues, the family hope that this will mark the start of a better future for them.
The main premise follows Danny, who has the supernatural ability known as The Shining. This essentially means that he has precognition or clairvoyance. He is more susceptible to paranormal activity, such as seeing ghosts of the past, and can also catch flashes of other people’s inner thoughts and feelings, or witness events before they happen.
As the Torrance’s arrive at the Overlook, Danny instinctively knows, thanks to his ESP (extra-sensory perception) that bad things are going to happen there. He’s not wrong, slowly but surely things go downhill for the unlucky family.
This is a bit of a slow-burn novel that gradually develops over time, it might not be to everyone’s taste as it’s a lot more thriller than it is horror. However, for me personally, I love this story with its leisurely pace and isolated location. It also has good character development, with the subtle change of Jack Torrance from his sober state to that of a mallet-wielding madman.
Having read this again after the passing of many years, I can understand the bad reviews and harsh critiques this gets for being dull and long-winded, but I honestly find it really enjoyable. I can always binge-read The Shining in a few days, despite struggling desperately with loads of other Stephen King stories. I also prefer it to the film, which for some reason didn’t really appeal to me much. The two formats are vastly different, and I find that most people will connect with one, but not the other depending on their own individual preferences.
Initially, this used to be a 5 star novel for me, but now I’d probably have to give it 4 stars at most. I love the little flecks of humour that are interspersed within the story, which always get me laughing-out-loud and cracking a smile. However, I often forget that Danny is only a five-year-old kid, as his character and inner dialogue quite often comes across as more mature and adult at times. My one other negative note is that my copy of this book had a few quality issues with spelling, which really shouldn’t exist in a professionally printed Stephen King paperback.
The Shining can be found here on Amazon.co.uk for those interested in checking it out, but beware if you’re looking for it to scare you, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Book 2 – Doctor Sleep (review coming soon)