May 29, 2024

In “Doctor Sleep” Stephen King revisits Jack Torrance’s five-year-old son Danny from one of his most well known novels, “The Shining.” Jack Torrance, famously played by Jack Nicholson in the film adaptation of “The Shining,” never did say, “Here’s Johnny!” in the novel, but King brings the Johnny Carson reference back to canon with homage to the line early on in “Doctor Sleep.”
Danny’s father had been an alcoholic; the alcoholism had been the perfect weakness for the malevolent forces in the Overlook Hotel to exploit him in his spiral towards madness. Danny thought he would never take a drink, and maybe he didn’t. As he grew older Danny became Dan to anyone other than his mother and Dick Hallorann, the cook from the hotel who taught him about shining. Our protagonist started drinking in high school. For Dan, alcohol dampened but never drowned out his ability to shine. In a world where the sinister underbelly sent him endless psychic interference and ghoulish visual reminders, dampening his power was enough for him.
In order to cope with his condition, Dan led a more or less nomadic lifestyle. He would take short-term jobs at nursing homes and hospitals and move on when he had one bad bender too many and got fired for missing work. Then he hits rock bottom and knows he needs to make a change.  On his last bus ride he rolls into Frazier, N. H. and gets himself a summer job in Teenytown with a boss who’s, “death on drinking.”
Several years later, Dan is a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he works at the hospice in the Helen Rivington House where he moonlights as Doctor Sleep with his assistant Azreel the cat. Doctor Sleep makes his house calls when the guests of the hospice are at death’s doorstep and gently guides them off to sleep.
While at the Rivington House Dan connects with a psychic child in a nearby town who sends him messages on his chalkboard. Abra Stone.
“So. Abra. As in Cadabra.”
Her power is the lighthouse to Dan’s flashlight in terms of shining, but he is able to give her some guidance and solidarity as Hallorann had with him as a child.
Nearly 36 years after the Overlook Hotel burned down in Colorado, Abra’s presence has caught the attention of the True Knot, group of supernatural beings who feed off of the essence, “They call it steam,” of children who shine. In order to harvest steam, members of the Knot torture and kill such children.
Abra possesses a massive amount of steam, but she is pursued with greater vehemence when she picks a fight with the group’s leader, Rose the Hat. To pay back his debt to society, Dan teams up with Abra in the hopes of giving children with psychic gifts a chance to shine.
“Doctor Sleep” holds up with Stephen King’s more haunting tales and will leave you on the edge of your seat as the death flies swarm.

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