Earlier this year I wrote about how James Herbert's last book wasn't that great. Well I'm afraid I have similar news about Stephen King.
On a recent holiday I read The Shining. I'm sure I must've read it before, but honestly don't remember - so I thought I'd give it a read. I was in the airport in Sydney flying down to Melbourne and the choice in the bookshop in the domestic terminal at Sydney airport wasn't fantastic. So I picked it up and started to read it. I then landed in Melbourne and found myself staying in a large, old hotel with long corridors and a very empty look about it. Spooky.
Anyway, when it came out, I thought, "I'll pick up Doctor Sleep". This book came out last month, and follows the story of Danny Torrance, the boy from The Shining, quite a few years later. The premise isn't too bad - there's a group of people who travel around America in RVs living off the "steam" given off when a child with "The Shining" is tortured. Gruesome - but not a bad start for a story. Unfortunately, the story itself - and its telling - are pretty poor.
So, from here on in, there will be spoilers. Sorry. But the book's crap, so at least I've saved you having to read it to find out what happens.
The worst thing about the book is the Dialogue. I don't watch many films, but I've watched enough to know what bad dialogue sounds like, and this book was FULL of bad dialogue. Overblown, overwrought and overdone. Every time one of the characters spoke, I cringed. Sometimes physically contorting my face at having to read the terrible words.
Second to the dialogue comes the plot itself. The characters' credulity seems to come in waves. When it's important to the plot that someone "just does something" they will do it without question. Only when not really important do the characters display the cynicism of all the psychic stuff which you'd expect in the real world. It smacks of laziness.
Finally - appropriately - the ending is terrible. I won't spoil it completely, but let's just say that it turns out that the nasty people in the RVs live somewhere close to the hotel from The Shining. What are the chances? What I don't understand, though, is that these people are supposed to have some in-built ability to locate kids who "shine". So if they'd drive halfway across America to find the girl in this book, why didn't they find Danny himself when he was just up the road in the first book? It just doesn't hang together.
As my Mum said to me on Facebook - "did you really expect a crap book to have a good ending?" and I suppose I didn't. But even by the low standards set by the rest of the book the ending came like the whimper of a slowly deflating balloon.
On my way home from work tonight, I popped into Waterstones in Chiswick. I was looking around for something new to read, and picked up the recently-released sequel someone's written to "The Woman In Black". I asked the guy behind the counter... "is this any good? I've recently read Doctor Sleep and it was so bad it's put me off sequels, really". The reply was "yes, you're not the only way to say that..." and we had rather a nice chat about how authors can become complacent and just churn out books rather than applying some quality control and only putting out books they are happy with. It's disappointing that someone who's self-aware enough to have written several very-close-to-autobiographical novels ("The Dark Half" was basically the story of his own struggle with Richard Bachman, his alter-ego - with a few extra supernatural bits, of course) isn't self-aware enough to know when they are churning out crap.
My hopes aren't high for the sequel to "The Woman In Black" but I'm keeping an open mind. I'll let you know how that goes for me...