The Shining by Stephen King (Book Review)

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.

 

See also:

Book 2 – Doctor Sleep (review coming soon)

Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates (Book Review)

World’s Scariest Places: Book 1 – Suicide Forest

I took an interest in Jeremy Bates’s World’s Scariest Places series as it focused on real locations, which can sometimes be a nice change from made-up places usually found in fiction. However, as I began reading I remembered that what had originally piqued my interest in Suicide Forest, was the film which I had reviewed a few years before for a previous incarnation of the blog.

So I decided to post my movie review of The Forest first, and those interested can read it here.

 

I really wanted to enjoy this book, as suicide and depression are issues that are quite close to my heart, and I thought that some of these aspects of the story might be quite fascinating. However, the writing style and prose itself were very tedious, and I found myself struggling to continue reading beyond the initial 20% of the book.

My many issues with this novel include the monotonous plot – vastly different from that of The Forest – and the characters who deliberately set off for hiking and camping without proper equipment and clothing, then leaving the proper trails and paths behind, despite numerous signs and warnings not to do so.

I had expected this book to be immensely creepy or scary, considering the location, but in reality there were very few creepy moments and nothing that truly scared me. The characters plodded slowly along through this boring and overly descriptive story, until finally something of significance happened about halfway through, after which the plot dissolved into somewhat predictable and fairly ridiculous events.

At just 1 out of 5 stars, I couldn’t wait for Suicide Forest to be over, and I could move on and read something much more exciting. Frankly, and probably surprisingly, despite my negative review of the film, The Forest had a much more engaging plot than this snoozefest of a novel.

Pick up Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates, at your own risk, by following this link to Amazon.co.uk.

The Forest (Movie Review)

Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones) stars in the horror movie The Forest as Sara Price, a young woman who travels to Japan in a bid to find her twin sister Jess, a school teacher believed to have gotten lost during a routine school trip.

Aokigahara Forest is a real place in Japan, lying at the base of Mount Fuji. A place that suicidal people tend to visit when they no longer wish to continue living, and is therefore known as the Suicide Forest. Legend also has it that if you enter the forest with sadness in your heart, supernatural forces can drive that person to despair.

Despite protests from the locals, Sara is convinced that her sister is still alive due to their special spiritual connection and wishes to scour the forest in search of Jess. When she meets Aidan (Taylor Kinney – Chicago Fire), a writer who intends to journey into the forest the following day, he volunteers to accompany her to ensure that she doesn’t get lost.

When they discover Jess’s tent deep inside the forest just as night is closing in, Sara refuses to heed the advice of their guide and leave to continue their search in the morning. Instead she stays and as darkness falls, she endures strange sounds and terrifying visions.

 

When I first clapped eyes on the trailer for The Forest, I was excited to see this movie. With Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney, two actors that I admire from Game of Thrones and Chicago Fire respectively, coupled with an intriguing storyline surrounding the suicide forest, I thought ‘this looks really creepy with plenty of ghost filled jump scares’.

Oh how wrong I was. The film was definitely not the tense and scary ride that I had expected, instead being a mediocre trot around a fairly ordinary looking forest, during which time very little of interest really happens, except for an overuse of jump scares.

However, kudos to Natalie and Taylor for making The Forest a little more watchable, but by the time I reached the end and the inevitable twist, I had mostly lost all interest. The conclusion is a bit confusing and also a bit implausible. There are holes in both plotlines, regardless of whichever one you decide to believe.

The main niggles I have with the movie is that her injured ankle healed itself fairly quickly, and let’s not forget the smartphone batteries that last for well over 24 hours, despite being used as Dictaphones and torches?

This was a great idea, just very poorly executed.

At 3 out of 5 stars The Forest is worth a watch if you enjoy plenty of scares, just don’t expect too much from it. Check it out on Amazon.co.uk here.

 

See also:

World’s Scariest Places: Book 1 – Suicide Forest (Book Review)