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Review: “Doctor Sleep,” by Stephen King

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Having read every book that Mr. King has written, I needed to read this as well. But once again, Mr. King fails to deliver, much to my chagrin. Let me try to explain. There are probably more dedicated fans than I for Mr. King but I certainly spent the first 20 years of his writing career devoted and loving each and every novel. They seemed to get better every year and I would devour them upon publication. Something seems to have occurred over the last several books which maybe demands that I go back and read a couple of those much loved earlier tomes and see if it was about them or me. Maybe it has to do with age. It certainly can't be writing skill, King still delivers on that end (not that he's a great wordsmith, but he has a nice simple flow.) Here's the rub again (see my Under the Dome review as well). No one sets the mood better, the middle of the book is awesome. The characters sketched out well enough. The "pictures" in one's mind are vibrant, visual, filmable (I wonder if that's good or bad for King). But the closing, the payoff, the gigantic conflict and resolution are just so unsatisfying!! To have built up these creatures as so horrible and long lived and to have them defeated so easily just felt weak and ineffective. Here's the real trouble. This book, of course, comes from an amazing source, "The Shining" certainly among his top four or five books. King builds us a nice picture of Danny grown up, in fact, it may be the most interesting part of the book, but never takes him to the darkest of places, the places where his father slowly descended. That's where I wanted to go. That's what this material deserves. One of the great child characters of horror fiction and we don't give him anything really, except for strength of purpose and a good heart. In this novel, every single good person survives. Really? Seriously! I feel "sequel" here. Where is Pet Cemetery when we need it? Bad things happen to good people...and then it just gets worse! "Sleep" isn't horror, it's kind of a warm, slightly dark Little House on the Prairie. Maybe King is older, survivor of his being run over by a car, maybe he looks down the tunnel of his own life and feels a bit more forgiving. His best books peered into the Heart of Darkness and sucked some very nice and good characters in. Mostly the heroes/main characters won, but lots of good people got chewed up and were lost along the way. It takes a bit more courage to do that. And some people might throw that type of book down at the end and protest, "That was terrible!" That's what you want out of horror. That's what I want.