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Dr. Sleep by Stephen King: Does The Shining Really Need a Sequel?

August 12, 2012
Stephen King, American author best known for h...

Most authors would be afraid to put the word “sleep” in a book title, but not Stephen King! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sequels aren’t always a good idea.  For every Godfather II or Spider-Man 2, there’s a (Godfather III or Spider-Man 3), Jaws 2, Caddyshack 2, or Ghostbusters 2.  But now that Stephen King is ready to publish a sequel to his novel The Shining (information and synopsis for Dr. Sleep found here ), it leaves potential readers like me wondering…. Why? 

It’s been around 35 years since The Shining was published, and as great as (I think) it was, I’ve never heard anybody say, “You know, The Shining really needs a sequel.” 

When you write a sequel to a much loved classic, a lot of things can go right (make tons and tons of money), but a lot can go wrong too (great idea goes stale). 

Reasons to Write a Sequel to The Shining 

  • Because Stephen King wants to. 

Who is going to tell Stephen King not to write a sequel to The Shining?  Editors (if he has any)?  Publishers?  Readers?  If Stephen King wants to write his own version of the phone book, there are a few million people who would buy it because Stephen King wrote it. 

Yeah, phone book references are probably outdated. 

  • Because there were unanswered questions in The Shining

A good/great horror book always has unanswered questions about the supernatural, and The Shining is a great example.  I don’t like spoilers, so I’m not going to list the unanswered questions I have, but a great sequel could build on what The Shining left unexplained. 

  • Because it’s going to make a lot of money. 

This reason needs no explanation.  

Reasons NOT to write a sequel to The Shining 

  • It’s been too long since The Shining

There’s an old rule in literature that I just made up that says if you take 35 years to write a sequel, then the sequel probably won’t be very good.  Unfortunately, I can’t think of too many examples of this to prove (or disprove) my point.  Most sequels that were written 35 years after the original were written by another author and that’s the reason why those sequels aren’t very good. 

  • The unanswered questions are best left unanswered. 

There were some unanswered questions in The Shining, but the answers Stephen King provides in Dr. Sleep might be disappointing.  The Matrix is a good example of this.  The Matrix is considered a great movie, but the sequels tried to explain too much, and confused fans had to write really long explanations of what they thought the movies meant.  I got confused when I watched the 2nd and 3rd movies, and I became even more confused when I read the really long explanations. 

Cool fight scenes and cool horror books shouldn’t have complicated explanations.  Hopefully Dr. Sleep won’t have a long, complicated (boring) explanation. 

  • Dr. Sleep might not be anywhere near as good as The Shining

The Shining is awesome.  But (in my opinion) Stephen King hasn’t written an awesome book in decades.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of writing an awesome book, but I haven’t seen the proof of it recently. 

A sequel to The Shining should have to be awesome before it gets published. 

WARNING SIGNS!!!! 

I haven’t read Dr. Sleep (it hasn’t come out yet), but from what I’ve read about it, I’ve got a couple concerns. 

  • The title Dr. Sleep 

The Shining was a cool title for a book.  It was mysterious, and it took a while for the reader to have an idea what it meant.  Dr. Sleep is not very mysterious (and I’m not sure it’s a cool title either).  Unless King throws a major curve ball (cliché! I know!), every reader knows what Dr. Sleep is referring to. 

It’s also risky to put the word “sleep” in your book title.  If the book is long and plodding, snarky critics will have a wonderful time making “sleep” references to your bestseller.  If an author puts the word “sleep” in a book title, the book had better be exciting. 

A couple decades ago I made a comment that Stephen King’s novel Insomnia cured mine, and all I got was the silent stare.  I learned then never to tell a Stephen King joke during a football game. 

A few days later I learned to never tell an Insomnia joke to somebody who really likes Stephen King books.  Yeesh, it was worse than talking politics. 

  •  Character name: Abra 

Meaningful names are signs of lazy writing, especially when the name is obvious (or ironic).  Abra?  Sometimes you just have to roll your eyes and say (in exasperated fashion), “C’mon!” 

***** 

Stephen King has sold more book titles than I’ve sold book copies, so maybe I have no business questioning him or his sequel.  I don’t know.  Most sports fans have never thrown a football but have no problem criticizing/questioning NFL quarterbacks (or college, high school, or pee wee league quarterbacks). 

But if there’s anybody in this world who can handle criticism (that he’ll never know about anyway), it’s Stephen King. 

***** 

I really hope this sequel is awesome, but I’m prepared for it not to be!

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8 Comments
  1. Jaen Wirefly permalink

    It won’t be The Shining – but maybe it won’t suck. If it does, well…he still wrote The Shining so I’ll give him a pass.

    • Even if it does suck, it might be like The Phantom Menace where it takes a few years for (some) people to admit that it sucked. But like you said… He wrote The Shining.

  2. I agree, King hasn’t wrote anything really good since the Bachman books. Maybe he will come back to form with this revisit. It would be nice.

  3. I read a synopsis of it and it sounds rather gruesome, but I guess that’s par for the course for him. I would be a bit prejudiced against a sequel written this long after, but as you said, this is Stephen King, so I’m sure he can pull it off.

  4. Joe 'Blondie' Manco permalink

    I remember enjoying Hearts in Atlantis, but I was pretty young at the time, and most certainly not the towering pillar of good taste that I am today.

    I also haven’t read anything he’s written since then (no interest). And the movie was awful even by Stephen King movie standards.

    • You bring up a good point. It’s been years since I’ve read The Shining, so it might not be as good as I remember. I reread Different Seasons a few months ago, and those stories held up, though.

  5. I’m with you. He’s had some good books lately, but nothing like The Shining. I read something once about an artist who still got high praise for a work done 35 years ago. He’d like to think he’d done memorable work since that time, and felt like you peaked early and your best work is behind you.

    I look forward to reading it, however, because even if the book isn’t a WAPOW! it will be good. I trust Stephen King that reading it will be worthwhile. At least, I hope it is.

  6. The Shining still haunts me, as do most horror storylines… but guess what, I’ll read (and watch), the sequel just because SK decided to extend it’s life. Big fan :o)

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