So I finally got around to reading Stephen King’s “The Shining” last week, (super late to this party, I know) and I really need to talk about this book. Please know that this is not a review because, really, at this point in the game does Stephen King even need reviews anymore? Come on, we all know that anything the man writes is gold.
This is basically just me needing to talk about the book with ALL THE SPOILERS. So please, if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, leave now because I’m telling you I’m giving everything away in this post. I cannot find the lid to the spoiler jar, so I’m letting them run free.
I should probably start off by mentioning that I don’t scare easily. I read and watch a lot of horror, and I play a lot of horror games and more often than not, I’m always left a tad disappointed because I go into these things expecting to have the bejeezus freaked out of me at least once, to just end up with nothing but my battered expectations. So yes, The Shining didn’t scare me, but it did mess with my mind a bunch, so it definitely didn’t disappoint.
The story begins from Jack Torrence, a recovering alcoholic’s, POV and, if you’re like me and have yet to see the movie (yes, I know) and have no clue what’s going on, you can totally tell from the first paragraph that this Jack is going to be a very troublesome character. At a glance, he just looks like this decent guy trying to find a job to support his family who has to tolerate being looked down on by an obnoxious snob (Ullman). But if you take a step back and pay attention to his internal monologue, you’ll see that Jack is actually a very mercurial character, almost two-faced in how he treats Ullman as opposed to the things he thinks about him.
And then along come Wendy and Danny.
Now Wendy’s the picture of the loving wife who desperately wants her family to be happy. And you know what? I think she deserves all that and more because the instant after she’s introduced King just gives us a whole truck load of back story that just left me wanting to put her in a little pillow fort with a cup of hot chocolate. For real. She’s been through so much as a kid, and then she had to go through the whole thing with Jack breaking Danny’s arm (poor baby) AND SHE FORGAVE HIM and it’s just… you just want the woman to be happy, okay?
And then there’s Danny. I don’t know how it’s even possible to not fall in love with this kid the second he’s introduced. He’s just one of those characters that you can’t help but want to smother with love.
Danny’s six (Well, going on six, technically) and he’s clairvoyant. Or Psychic. He’s something. He’s just basically very smart and insightful and… extremely mature for his age. And he has this “imaginary friend” named Tony who shows him visions on the future – and these visions don’t always come true because the future depends on decisions people make in the present yada yada yada, whatever. The kid’s got this cool ass power and he uses it for good and he’s just totally responsible with this gift and he even has the sense not to blab to his parents about it. I mean, how cool is this kid? Did I mention he’s six?
Anyways, while Jack is being interviewed for the caretaker position at the Overlook Hotel by this Ullman guy, Danny is given this vision at home that basically tells him to stay the hell away from the Overlook. And it’s not a mild, “hey kid this place will give you the heebie jeebies” kind of warning, but a “Daniel, people will be gutted like fish in that place it isn’t safe stay away,” sort of premonition. And Danny, the adorable little darling that he is, actually considers telling his parents that maybe Daddy shouldn’t take the job there, but then decides against it because he knows his parents are having financial issues and badly need Jack to get this job. So what does he do? He toughens up, puts on his big boy pants and says, “you know what? I’m just going to be vigilant and make sure my mommy and daddy are safe in that hotel. I’m not going to worry them with my doubts about this place.” AND THEN HE STAYS AWAKE AT NIGHT IN THE HOTEL TO MAKE SURE THEY’RE SAFE. I KID YOU NOT. THE NOT-YET-SIX YEAR OLD.
(I have so many feels for this child. Leave me alone)
Okay, so Danny decides to tough it out and allows his parents to take him into the Overlook where he meets the Chef, Dick Hallorann, who turns out to be like Danny, except not as powerful, and the two of them just have little conversations in their minds while Jack and Wendy just follow them about wondering how in hell’s name Hallorann knew that Danny’s nickname was Doc. And long story short, we find out that Danny has what Hallorann’s mom liked to call a “Shining” (Yes, I totally pictured a fiery old lady with dreadlocks piled on top of her head telling her little boy about how special he was while she stirred a giant pot of gumbo)
And we also find out that, hey, The Overlook Hotel happens to get a little weird whenever someone with “a shine” is in it and would basically show these poor people with the shining these ghost images of people who’d died there and whatnot. Yuuuuup. Sounds like an excellent place for a six year old with a super powerful shine.
Hallorann has no choice but to leave Danny in the hotel against his better judgement, but tells him to psychic-ly call him if ever he needs help. Like, the kid’s so powerful that Hallorann’s certain that he’ll be able to hear Danny all the way in Florida. Yeah.
And things are fine for a few months, but as winter draws closer Jack starts to slowly lose his marbles. He starts craving alcohol and, to Wendy’s worry, restarts a whole bunch of his old habits from back when he was an alcoholic. He gives Danny a wasp nest to put by his bed (and this ultimately leads to him getting stung a bazillion times and narrowly escaping DEATH (okay, I’m exaggerating. slightly); he becomes prone to fits of wild anger and keeps referring to himself as The Caretaker (yeah, that was just plain creepy, alright?)
And poor Danny is haunted every day by visions that his father is one day going to completely snap and brutally murder him and his mother, and he’s desperately trying to find a way to make sure that this doesn’t happen. But the Hotel is hell bent on killing Danny so that it can harness his powers and use them for God knows what, so it convinces Jack that HE’S the one it wants and drives him completely loco and convinces him to try to KILL. HIS. FAMILY.
The thing I loved the most about this entire story was the way Stephen King managed to tie everything to that goddamn boiler. Really. I hear that they sort of cut that whole element out of the movie and I personally feel like that was a huge mistake, because the while boiler situation was genius. Because for all its spooky, psychotic murderous evilness, the Hotel met its downfall because it forgot that the man it was desperately trying to make kill his family was the only person who knew how to “empty the press” (whatever the hell that means. I’ve never fiddled with a boiler before. Hell, we don’t need boilers here) and by the time Danny reminded Jack/The Hotel that the boiler was going to explode, it was too bloody late. And I was blown away by how human that was. Like, who expect evil supernatural entities to forget to mind the boiler? Not me.
I spent a lot of the final chapters vehemently praying that Hallorann wouldn’t die. I even made mental deals with Stephen King (like those would have even helped) because I had such a huge soft spot for the sweet ol’ chef. Spoiler alert: he didn’t die. THANK GOD. I was also immensely grateful that Danny walked away from the whole thing physically untouched, because I swear I wouldn’t have been able to go on if he’d suffered physically after all that emotional and mental pain he went through. Seriously.
I’m going to end this soon, before I start to descend into the realm of nonsensical-ness. I just really loved this book. It restored my faith in the horror genre and renewed my love for Stephen King (I don’t think it ever went away, but you know…)
If you’ve just watched the movie without reading the book, I urge you to give it a try. You won’t be sorry. (Or… if it scares you, maybe you will. But that’ll be a good thing, right?
PS: I’m thinking of picking up either Doctor Sleep or It for my next Stephen King novel. Leave me a comment below if you have any suggestions.