The Shining by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I hadn't read any Stephen King for a while, so I forgot how awesome he is. It's wonderful (and wonderfully rare) to find a writer who can maintain suspense while creating such beautifully real characters. He never sacrifices character development for plot. Which is a good thing for readers like me, who can't really care what happens at all if I don't care who it's happening to.
I know people who can't read King because of his descriptions and development, people who think he's too slow to get to 'the good stuff.' Personally, I wish a lot more writers would take his lead and stop shoving 'the good stuff' down our throats from the first sentence to the last. Stephen King writes whole, complete novels. They have real, fully developed characters as well as action, and if he sacrifices some fast-paced action to make the characters real, it only adds depth to the story. Too many of the fantasy and suspense novels I’ve read have pretty much nothing going for the characters. They are flat, Barbie-and-Ken cutouts from magazines, with only physical description and no development past what they look like. If that’s what you’re looking for, King isyou’re your ‘cup of tea.’ His novels rarely have sequels. He says all he needs to say in one book, and it's plenty, and the endings of his books are, well, endings. Not teases for a following book. They are final, wrapped, complete. And usually good, although I didn't really care for the ending of this one.
In this book, as in many of King's novels, the hero is a child. I have come to understand King's fascination with child characters in horror novels after reading a couple of his nonfiction books. Children are more innocent, and therefore more psychically receptive than adults. They haven't quite yet internalized the impossible, and therefore, they are usually (in King's novels) the ones who figure out what's going on, and usually the ones who try to do something about it, often with the help of a receptive adult father figure. And it's a good thing the protagonist in this novel has one, because we all know what kind of man his father is.
I've heard a few people say that the father is the most tragic 'victim' in this haunted house classic, but I'm not sure I agree with that. The father was never a very likeable character for me, no matter how victimized he was. Sure, he was an addict, and trying to recover. But I never really got the sense that he loved his family as much as he loved the bottle. I thought that he was not only picked off because he was the weakest link, but also because perhaps there was something inherently evil in him, something that responded to the evil in the hotel. One of my only complaints about this book was the swiftness of Jack’s transformation. It seemed like in one chapter he’s a loving (if guilty) father and husband, struggling to put his life back together. Then suddenly in the next chapter he’s fantasizing about twisting his wife’s nipples off? It seemed too sudden for this kind of evenly-paced book. I skipped back to see if I’d missed something, or if it really was almost instantaneous. I thought the suspense of him going crazy could have been drawn out a little more.
I did thing that Stephen King did a great job capturing the emotions of the mother towards her son. I'm sure his wife helped him with that! I had a bit of a hard time relating to her white-bread personality, with how passive she was and how she could still love someone who had turned into a monster. But that was how she was supposed to be. Although I didn’t relate to (or even like) most of the characters in this book, it was still a superb read. Not one of King’s creepiest, although the hedge animals were pretty great.
Overall, this was a good book. I like King’s classics, and if you do too, this one is it.
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