Book Review – The Shining

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Book Review – The Shining

Category : Book Review

Author: Stephen King

Year: 1977

Knowing what we now know about Stephen King, having had the fortune to grow up as a reader of fiction with his books available, and having become accustomed to his presence in the world of pop culture, it’s rather shocking to look back on his early work & realize that it’s some of his very best stuff.  You’d think, as an avid King reader and as someone who claims him as their favorite author, that I would expect genius in every novel.  But even I can turn era-centric as it were, imagining that, apart from the most classic or classics, what authors churn out now must be better than what they churned out back in the day.  In other words, how can The Shining be better than The Gunslinger?  And yet it is, which shouldn’t be a surprise, but at least it’s also a pleasant one.

Jack Torrance is seeking a new beginning.  After an abusive incident reminded him how fragile his family life was, after a drunken night put him on the road to sobriety, and after a violent outburst lost him a promising job, Jack knows he only has one shot left to get it right before his tapestry unravels.  So he takes work halfway across the country, at a hotel called the Overlook in Colorado, as the winter caretaker during the offseason.  Jack will have time to work while he’s snowed in, can finally finish his play, and just might center his mind in a productive way for the first time in a decade.  Along with him come his wife Wendy & his son Danny, the latter of which has an odd ability to find lost things, pick up on emotional cues, and understand themes way beyond his age level.  But when Danny meets Dick, the Overlook’s chef, and is warned to stay away from certain rooms and to mentally call for help is anything goes wrong, the stage seems set for a season that’s far from quiet, and a family vacation that is anything but idyllic.

It’s not just an earlier work, but the third novel King ever wrote, coming after Carrie and Salem’s Lot.  He sees the novel as a turning point in his career, a story that forced his hand, a crossroads at which he had to choose to keep writing scary stories or start writing scary stories with a whole basement full of ghosts, both metaphorical & literal.  The Shining provides this magical formula, something that King has since become a master of reproducing.  His horror stories appeal to the masses because they’re gruesome, but they also appeal to a group of us because they are incredibly & unconventionally deep.  They mean much more than they say, can haunt not just your dreams but your waking thoughts as well.  The Shining is the perhaps the best example of this and the very first time King turned his talent into genius.  The story is rich, the characters are complex, the action is swift, and yet the plot is so very simple.  Thinking about it too hard will drive you mad, which I’m sure is the point, and yet you can’t stop yourself, you need to know why this book is seemingly speaking directly to you.  Surprisingly, this novel has very little actual horror in it; that’s because it only needs a dash, the psychological terror in the foundation is more than enough.  For those who love King and for those who don’t mind a challenging, emotional read, this book is definitely a must.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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