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Danny Torrance returns as Dr. Sleep

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Stephen King confirms his latest sequel...

Stephen King's 'The Shining' to get a sequel novel, 'Dr. Sleep'

A couple of years ago Stephen King began talking in vague terms about the possibility of a sequel to one of his best loved books, The Shining. As a major fan of both the author and the novel, this had me both intrigued and worried. Intrigued because as with any cherished and adored book, the mind is always going to wonder what happened next to the (surviving) characters that we invested so much time and emotion into, but worried because when we do get served up a second helping of our favorite literary dishes, they more often than not end up tasting like reheated leftovers, and run the risk of spoiling the memory of the original feast.

Stephen King's 'The Shining' to get a sequel novel, 'Dr. Sleep'Such was the case with Black House (2001), the sequel to 1994’s The Talisman, King's epic and enjoyable collaboration with Peter Strauss. The original book remains one of my favourites, the story of Travellin’ Jack Sawyer's multi-dimensional adventures having been with me for the best part of three decades now, but my excitement at picking up the sequel on the day of release and diving back into that world was soon diminished when it slowly dawned on me, as the rate at which I turned the pages gradually slowed down, that it wasn't actually that good.

It was with a sense of great relief, then, that the long-mooted sequel to another of King's celebrated works, 'Salems Lot, was ultimately nixed by the author himself after realising that he had already continued the story in a fashion in the Dark Tower series, after the novel's Father Callahan appeared in volumes five, six and seven.

With news of the proposed sequel to The Shining having all but dried up after the initial 2009 rumblings, the only other indication of its existence being its narrow victory in a poll posted on King's website in the December of that year asking which book fans would rather see first - the aforementioned sequel or an eighth Dark Tower book to be called The Wind Through The Keyhole – I had assumed that like so many other of King's projects that he's talked about over the years, it had been quietly shelved.

Stephen King's 'The Shining' to get a sequel novel, 'Dr. Sleep'On September 23rd this year, however, while accepting an award at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, King not only revealed that he was writing the sequel, called Dr. Sleep, but proceeded to read an extract from the manuscript to the audience. Three days later his website officially confirmed that Dr. Sleep was indeed in the process of being written.

The novel picks up the story of Danny Torrance, the kid with the Shining, who is now a forty-year old hospital orderly working at a hospice for the terminally ill in upstate New York. His real purpose, however, is to “visit with patients who are just about to pass on to the other side, and to help them make that journey with the aid of his mysterious powers.” To supplement his income, Danny bets on horse races, a trick he was taught by his old friend, and ex-Head Chef at the Overlook Hotel, Dick Hallorann (who survives in the novel but isn’t so lucky in Kubrick’s 1980 film). Into the picture, however, come a group of vampires called The Tribe who feed not on blood, but on the psychic energy that resides in people like Danny Torrance.

I have to be honest, the synopsis for Dr. Sleep isn't setting my pulse racing, and the inclusion of vampires suggests that King is, perhaps subconsciously, writing a book that is a kind of hybrid sequel to both Salem's Lot and The Shining (and who knows, maybe Charlie McGhee from Firestarter (1980) may turn up as well). One thing I do hope, though, is that he resists the temptation to overlap too much with the Dark Tower universe, as he did in Black House (even going so far as to ret-con certain events in the original novel).

Not much else is known about Dr. Sleep at the moment, let alone a release date (though given that there was a gap of two years between his last novel Under The Dome, and the next release, 11/22/63, due in November this year, it’s a fair assumption that we won’t be reading this until 2013 at the earliest), but while I will, of course, pick it up and devour it as I do all of King's books (even the ones that leave a slightly bitter after-taste), I'm still haunted by the disappointment of Black House and hope that King manages to pull this off. I have a nagging suspicion, though, that King would be better off leaving little Danny Torrance back at the Overlook, preserved in near literary perfection for all eternity, and instead dreaming up a new character to pull on the Dr. Sleep scrubs.

/Film

See also:

The Shining's Overlook Hotel is even creepier than you think

Stephen King in discussions for Walking Dead ep

Dark Tower Adaptation Lives! Slightly Modified

New Dark Tower novel out in 2012

Why 'The Stand' should never be a movie

American Gods update: Gaiman talks books, TV

Mel Brooks returns to horror

New Dark Shadows pics: here

No Ash for Evil Dead remake

The Thing: First clip here


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