Monday, September 26, 2011

DR. SLEEP: Stephen King Shines On

For years, King talked about writing a sequel to 'SALEM'S LOT, his second published novel. Details were sketchy, and he was never very clear on what this follow-up would entail. There was talk, however briefly, about some kind of shared world sequel to LOT-- he'd write one, but other authors would get a chance to, as well. (As I recall, he specifically mentioned his wife Tabitha and Clive Barker.)

Eventually we got a 'SALEM'S LOT sequel of sorts, in the form of DARK TOWER V: WOLVES OF THE CALLA, in which Father Callahan's exploits following his trip to the Greyhound station are explored in great detail.

King allows his books to overlap quite often, but with the exception of the DARK TOWER and THE TALISMAN, he's never really been a sequel kind of guy... until now.

As we near the release of his JFK/time travel epic, 11/22/63, King is working on DR. SLEEP, a sequel to THE SHINING--his third published novel and perhaps his most well-known and iconic work (thanks as much to Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick as to the novel, if not more so).

He first broached the DR. SLEEP subject while touring to promote UNDER THE DOME. The novel would, he said, follow forty-year-old Danny Torrance, now an orderly at a hospice, surrounded by death and still dealing with the scars he obtained during his stay at the Overlook. In addition to using his powers at the horse track, Danny secretly helps the terminally ill at the hospice to peacefully pass on to the other side.

King seemed excited about the idea and was eager to share, but quickly warned that he should probably stop talking about it, as it would hurt its chances of becoming a reality. “It’s a great idea," he told Entertainment Weekly in November of 2009. "And I just can’t seem to get down to it... People shouldn’t hold their breath."

Not long after, there was a poll at King's official site, asking which book Constant Readers wanted more --DR. SLEEP or THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE (a DARK TOWER novel that takes places between Books IV and V).

DR. SLEEP won by 49 votes, but the call of the Tower was stronger: King wrote THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE and DR. SLEEP seemed to have gone away for a while...

...until King read from it three days ago at The Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where he was given the 2011 Mason Award. The selection he read deals with "The Tribe," a group of psychic vampires who travel the highways and byways of America in mobile homes.

One can assume that Danny Torrance will encounter these creatures at some point.

I'm of two minds: excited and cautious. THE SHINING has nearly thirty-five years of cultural saturation under its belt. For many readers, it's an old friend. Even if DR. SLEEP is a technically better novel (it's possible--when he's on, King is a better writer today than he ever was), it will come as a disappointment to most.

Then there's the issue of which King is writing this novel--the serious, focused King who wrote BAG OF BONES, LISEY'S STORY, and DUMA KEY--or the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink goofball behind DESPERATION and UNDER THE DOME.

I'm there either way, of course. Such is the life of a Constant Reader...

(Aside: THE SHINING, as you may know, is dedicated to "Joe Hill King, who shines on." Going back to the concept of someone else writing a sequel to a King novel, can you imagine a SHINING sequel penned by Joe Hill?)

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