Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reviews From a Humble Book Nerd (The Shining - Stephen King)

I read this a few months ago, and decided to talk about it here for Halloween. I saw the movie and was sufficiently creeped out by Jack Nicholson, but apart from that I almost fell asleep through it. After hearing people complain that the book was SO much better, I thought I'd see for myself.

Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of an the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel - and that too had begun to shine...


Here follows my review as posted on Goodreads:

I confess myself to be disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, now. If I didn't like this book I wouldn't have given it four stars. But I thought this was supposed to be scary! Through part one I was breathless with anticipation in a hit-me-hard-I-don't-feel-like-sleeping-anyway kind of way. Towards the middle, I felt distinctly duped. When things started getting serious, I found myself thinking, "At this point I'd settle for reasonably unnerved." Come on, now, moving hedges ("What the heck is this?"), regenerating wasps' nests ("All right, that's a little better."), a dead woman floating in a bath tub ("Haven't I seen this before?"), a sinister masked ball ("Yep, I've definitely seen this before."), and a highly questionable fire hose ("Oh, for crying out loud!")...I've seen worse. And while murderous rampages are no doubt suspenseful, and Mr. King handles his like a pro, they don't exactly chill the blood.

I was also surprised to find that the iconic lines from the movie, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" and "Here's Johnny!" weren't actually in the book. Go figure.

On a positive note, Mr. King's description of Jack Torrance continually impressed me. Jack's got issues, to put it mildly, and his struggle back from his past mistakes to start fresh endeared me to him. That's probably why it really hurt to watch him fall apart under the Overlook's influence. Even when the roque mallet came into play, I was still sympathetic towards him; after all, the hotel had virtually destroyed him and he's lost his mind. His shining moment of redemption, no pun intended, nearly brought a tear to my eye.

Wendy started out as bland and forgettable for me, but caught between a husband she barely trusts and a son she doesn't understand, she really came into her own. She concocted an escape plan, never mind that it didn't work, she confronted Jack with a butcher knife, and when it came to protecting Danny, it was do or die. Brava, madame!

And then there's Danny, precocious, somber, and forced to bear witness to things no five-year-old boy should have to cope with. There are words to describe Danny Torrance, but they escape me at the moment.

The style was snarky, there was more emotional depth than I expected, and I was surprised and delighted at a reference to The Phantom of the Opera. I would have loved to give this book five stars, but I picked it up expecting a downright terrifying horror novel, and it didn't deliver.

Sorry, Mr. King. Better luck next time.

So, in summary, I liked the book, but it was in no way whatsoever scary to me. I enjoyed it more as a character study than a horror classic, which is something of a no-no in regards to Stephen King. Still, though, I have read worse!

Your pal,

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