Stephen King sequels are a rare thing. While all of his books do have a shared multiverse, most of King’s stories allude to his previous works rather than directly interacting. Doctor Sleep is only the third time King wrote a direct sequel (which he has done one other time since). And The Shining came out in 1977, a good 36 years before Doctor Sleep. If you have not read the Shining in a while (like me), a brief reminder of how it ended: 5-year old Danny Torrance, his mother Wendy, and caretaker Dick Halloran scarcely survived the destruction of the Overlook and death of Wendy’s husband Jack, who had been possessed by the hotel’s ghosts.
Doctor Sleep begins a bit after the end of The Shining. The very beginning of the book covers parts of Danny’s childhood as he copes with the events at the Overlook. Not to mention his newfound awareness of his powers with The Shining. But life goes on and Danny the child becomes Dan the adult, someone in the real world with grown-up problems. And if you go into Doctor Sleep having only seen The Shining movie, it is drastically different from the book. While the movie is great in its own right, many changes were made from King’s original work.
The premise of this book involves the adult Dan meeting a young girl, Abra, who has The Shining. Like Danny, Abra loses bits of her childhood innocence early because of her powers. This time around, Dan takes on Dick Halloran’s role as he attempts to help this young girl with her gifts. But The Shining is not the only thing Abra and Dan have in common. Like Danny before her, supernatural enemies want Abra’s abilities and plan to take her life to get them. These “people” have killed children before to claim their Shining and are more than happy to do it again.
There are so many parallels between Doctor Sleep and The Shining. Despite what Dan and his mother went through, there is a lot of his father in him. Dan makes the same mistake as his father, alcoholism. He knows he is doing it. He knows that it is bad for him and the wrong thing to do. But he does it anyway in that moment of weakness and it destroys him for years. Despite the premise involving Abra and the danger she is in, Doctor Sleep is just as much Dan’s story as The Shining was Danny’s. His story features a battle between good and evil on the inside as much as on the outside. And every step of the way, King delivers a story on par with the first book.