I was excited to read a sequel to The Shining the moment Stephen King announced it. The idea of seeing what young Danny was up to after so many years sounded great. While I knew it was possible that he may have lost touch with who these characters were after all this time, honestly I wasn't too concerned. I think reading the Dark Tower series is a large part of that, because he brought other old characters back to life years after originally writing them there too.
I appreciate that the book takes a decent amount of time filling in the gaps of Danny's life from his time at the Overlook to now. I also thought it logical to see him repeating his father's sins as an alcoholic. Anyone who has seen the things Danny has could very easily turn to drink. A large part of The Shining was about how Wendy and Jack were both heavily influenced by the sins of their own parents, so it makes sense to see Dan continue that theme and journey. This time, AA plays a heavy part in his recovery, and given how King chose to include them in the mini-series adaptation of The Shining, I largely expected that.
Once again, this theme of family and personal demons is combined with the supernatural. While I can't say Doctor Sleep filled me with as much tension and dread as The Shining did, I was still very much fascinated by the villains of the story, the True Knot. They're despicable creatures, and their actions are certainly revolting at times. Perhaps because they primarily prey on children, its natural they wouldn't scare me as much as the ghosts in the Overlook, who were more than happy to terrorize the adults as well. But I'll certainly never look at winnebagos and campers the same way ever again.
King once again builds multifaceted characters on both sides of the line of good and evil, and the heroes are made up of a good mix of characters as well. It was great to see Dick Halloran again, and I really liked Billy Freeman and Concetta among the supporting cast, and young Abra makes a great duel lead with Dan. She's got just enough moody teenage girl in her mixed with the wisdom that would come from having the shining so young. Given the nature of the True Knot, it was important to once again have a young protagonist here, and it's great to see Dan do for someone what Dick once did for him. In the book King says "life is a wheel" and as someone who often sees cycles recurring in my own life, I appreciated that sentiment.
There is one twist toward the end of the novel that I suspect some people may not like. I personally was a little disappointed by it, though I'll admit King did set up the proper groundwork in this novel for it to make sense. I'm just not sure it entirely fits with what we learned in The Shining. It's plausible, but I wouldn't have expected it back then.
Naturally, I spent some time while reading thinking about whether or not this would make a good film. I think there are some great cinematic moments here, especially with the Knot's powers, and the plot would make for a great horror thriller. The problem is that so many people think of Kubrick's Shining and the way it ends is very different. I think they would have to do another version of that film first and then this as a sequel. While the mini-series is certainly closer, I doubt most people remember it at this point to jump off from there. You also couldn't do it as a stand alone film, because removing all traces of Jack Torrence and the Overlook. Making Dan just a guy in his 30s with psychic powers and alcoholism loses a lot of the significance.
I'll be interested to see if anyone wants to try that. I know last I heard Hollywood was more interested in doing a prequel rather than a remake.
Until that happens, I definitely recommend the book for fans of the original novel. While I think the book provides you with enough info that you could read this one alone, it definitely has more meaning when read in context. It's a good follow up and a good continuation of the story of the Torrance family.