As has been promised/threatened for some time now, the distressingly prolific Stephen King has made official his plans to release Doctor Sleep, a sequel to his much-loved The Shining, some time next year. A page for the new novel has gone live on King’s website, complete with plot synopsis that you should avoid if you want to go in unspoiled, either in terms of what’s going to happen or in terms of what has already happened that has made you love The Shining so much to begin with.
Set in what appears to be real time after the events of The Shining (originally published in 1977, 36 years before the planned publication of Doctor Sleep), the new novel rejoins Danny Torrance – the psychic, no doubt traumatised five year old survivor of the Overlook Hotel – in his middle age. After ‘drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence’ (and writing, presumably, because where there’s despair, alcoholism and violence…), the newly truncated Dan Torrance lands in an Alcoholics Anonymous community in New Hampshire and takes a job at a nursing home, his extra-sensory powers easing the passing of its residents.
All of which actually sounds genuinely promising in a fairly low-key, mature sense, until the appearance of five crucial words: ‘aided by a prescient cat’. So, uh, yeah. No hint as yet as to how the cat expresses said prescience, but apparently it does so in a manner that plays a key role in proceedings. It’s like King looked at The Shining and found the one thing the internet felt was lacking.
On top of all the death and cats, there’s a 12 year old girl in the mix too with ‘the brightest shining ever seen’, and a roving band of polyester-clad RV travellers who are actually ‘quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death’. Which sounds kind of silly but, if you can mentally isolate it from its predecessor, also kind of awesome, because it essentially appears to be the Stephen King megamix: childhood trauma (It, Dreamcatcher), supernatural beings (Salem’s Lot), psychic healing powers (The Green Mile), malevolent high plains drifters (Desperation, The Stand), New England setting (most of them), all rolled up into one. It may not be the logical next step for King after last year’s Kennedy assasination fantasia 11/22/63 won him his best reviews in years, but it sounds like it could stand to be a hell of a lot of fun regardless.