[Book Review] The Shining by Stephen King

I have a habit of typing in random keywords into Google (or sometimes YouTube) every once in a while, just to see what I find.  In this particular case, it wasn’t completely random, but I have had some random moments.  For example, one time I went on YouTube and decided to type in “cute caterpillar,” just because I was in a cute caterpillar mood.  (Don’t ask, haha, no explanation can be given.)  Anyway, I ended up finding this video, as a result.  Recently, I felt compelled to type in “The Shining” followed by “Stephen King” both in quotations, exactly like that.  This was about a week or so ago, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the results that I got.  This is the third time in a span of three months that I’ve discovered writers of books I enjoyed are planning on making sequels to those very books.  It makes me wonder if I have “the shine” too, haha.  Or at the very least, a sixth sense that seems fine tuned to discovering announcements for sequels.  What makes it all really interesting is the timing of my searches.  I discovered  Miss Peregrine earlier this year; it was published two years ago in 2011, and the sequel is slated to come out January 2014, which is soon.  Similarly I read S.A. Bodeen’s The Compound (2009) in January of this year as well, and sure enough that sequel (which the author never planned to have happen) is currently in the works.

The Shining

After having recommended The Shining to a friend a few days ago, I decided to go back and read it so that I could do a review for this blog.  That’s when I typed in the aforementioned keywords so that I could find a book cover image to place in this entry and surprise-surprise, I discover that good ol’ S. King has decided to write up a sequel to this work that got published way back in 1977.  Whoa.  I hadn’t realized the book was that old until I looked it up.  That’s a good twelve years before I was born.  Crazy.

Anyway, the cover of the book I have pictured here is the copy I have—or did have, rather.  I had bought this back during my frequent book-buying days and at this point I have no idea whether or not I’ve given this away to the Salvation Army, as I’ve had to do a lot of book purging in recent years because I was starting to drown in the piles of books that were too great in number to fit on my shelves.  I could have sworn I saved this one, but at this point I’m assuming my memory is faulty because I haven’t been able to find it anywhere.

I read this book back when I was in the 6th grade, when my English teacher recommended it to me.  I remember not being as scared as I thought it would be—this is when I discovered reading horror is far easier than watching it because it’s easier to control where your imagination goes when all you’ve got to go on is words—and I also remember having thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Of course, I haven’t read it since that one time, so I couldn’t remember anything at all about it other than the fact that I did like it.  So knowing that and knowing that there’s a sequel coming just around the corner, I decided to re-read this novel to refresh my memory and prepare myself for the next installment.

I’ve had this discussion with another blogger before; it’s not easy to scare people anymore.  (Well, unless they’re like me, in which case it doesn’t take much, but I admit that I’m a rare case.)  I don’t know if it’s because violence is so common in our media nowadays that we as a society have become very desensitized to anything “scary,” or if people have become a bit too detached from reality, and as a result, fear.  Perhaps even both.  Horror filmmakers also seem to feel the need to make things more grisly and gory to scare people.  While I do think violent images are scary, I feel like there’s more to the element of fear than just that.  I think the most significant obstacle the genre faces today is how to make people feel the fear within themselves.  I think the reason why so many horror films are criticized for “not being scary enough” is not because what happens in it isn’t something to be feared, but rather since it isn’t happening to the person watching it, it’s easier not to feel the terror meant to be felt.

I think one way to solve the problem is to give the characters of these horror movies some more depth, so that people start to feel invested in the characters.  This is something I think Stephen King does well in his novel, The Shining.  Maybe it’s because I’m older, or perhaps it’s because I allowed myself to get a tad more involved in the story than I had when I was younger, but I definitely felt chills when I read the story this time around.

There were times where I felt the descriptions were getting a little too long, but that might also be because I’ve finally returned to my old reading habits—meaning I’m reading on average about 3 to 5 books a week when I’m real busy and 2-3 books a day on a good week.  I’ve been on an especially tight crunch recently because I have about 4 library books to finish (5, if you count this one; I had to borrow it from the library because I have no idea what happened to my copy), not to mention I have a bunch of books to read by authors I’ve met on Twitter.

Anyway, I realize I keep getting off-topic here, so back to the book.  As with most of his novels, King’s prose can get on the vulgar side at times.  I don’t think I really noticed it much when I was in middle school, but some parts definitely stood out this time around; either I hadn’t really understood it before or I’ve become more conservative over the years.  Some of the descriptions are not for the faint of heart, so if you’re the type, then it’s possible you might squirm a little here and there.

I’m also not sure if it’s because I like to root for the underdog, but lately I’ve been noticing that my favorite characters in stories tend to be the minor ones, like Millard from PeregrineIn this book, my favorite was old man Hallorann.  I think it had a lot to do with the grandfatherly vibe he gave off; it reminded me a lot of my own, whom I had loved very dearly before he passed away.  He’s also the only character that didn’t once get on my nerves, like the others did at some point or another.  The character I disliked most in this novel is the one you’re supposed not to like; my feelings towards the main character’s father have not changed since my first time reading the book.  Funny how that was the only bit I remembered clearly before diving into the book once again.


If you haven’t read Stephen King before, this is one of the best places to start.  Another book he’s written that I often like to recommend is his collection of short stories called Everything’s Eventual.  If you’re not big on reading or don’t have the time to commit to a full-length novel at the moment and you’re into the horror genre, I’d definitely give that title a try.  I think even King has admitted that his best work was probably his earlier writing, and these two definitely fall into that category.

Definitely looking forward to seeing what he comes up with for the sequel, which is apparently going to be called Doctor Sleep.  I’m excited because I read an article where it seems like he’s planning to go back to his writing roots, so to speak, kind of like how I felt Linkin’ Park was going back to theirs in their most recent album, Living Things (2012).  I’m also interested in seeing Danny as a middle-aged man with “the shine,” and how that’s working out for him.  Overall, I think it will be interesting to see how S. King will be tying the two novels together, if at all.

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