Length: 497 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Five year old Danny Torrance had a gift – psychic abilities that showed him much more than a child would understand. The cook at the Overlook Hotel, Mr. Hallorann, called it ‘the shine’; and Danny was a shiner like no one else. When Danny’s father, Jack Torrance, gets a job as a winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, Danny knows that it is the last chance of redemption his recovering alcoholic father has to try to get his life and his skill as a writer back. So, he chooses to ignore the fearful visions that begin to haunt him from the moment his father lands the job. And allows himself and his parents to get snowed into, in the Overlook, cut off from the rest of the world, as winter finally sets in.
But, as Danny discovers, Mr. Hallorann was not the only one who could recognize his potential. Danny’s visions worsen in the Overlook, until the line between reality and vision begins to blur. The woman in 217, the animal hedges, the people partaking in a masquerade ball, all begin to come horrifically alive right before his eyes. Soon, Jack and his wife, Wendy, begin to feel it too. And slowly, reality takes on its own, horrifying form, pulling each and every one of them into the dark depths of whatever lies in the empty hotel. Because the Overlook no longer desires to hide its secrets. The evil that lies within it no longer wishes to be ignored.
Stephen King states that there are three types of terror (read the whole quote here). The worst one is terror, the emotion you feel “when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”
That is how most of The Shining progresses – you sense it, but you don’t see it. Except at one point when you turn around, and there is actually something there, something that you’ve sensed, something that is smiling that very wrong smile, something that you know is very, very evil, and something that simply wants… you.
The book is a brand of scary that, I think, only Stephen King can achieve. It didn’t make me cringe. It made me hold my breath and then think six times before turning the page, simply because I was too afraid to read further, too scared that instead of words, the image that he’s so, ridiculously clearly painted, would exist on the next page. That is what The Shining does. It paints vivid, crystal clear images that remain in your head, just behind your eyelids, long after the book is done. And every time you close your eyes, you can see it. It makes you want to open your eyes so you don’t have to see it. But then, you hesitate because you’re afraid that what you can see behind closed eyes, might just be waiting in front of you, waiting for you to open your eyes.
At some point, the fear you feel while reading the book begins to stay with you. And while it may eventually diminish, it will come back to haunt you at every opportunity it gets.
I can say nothing new or unheard about his style of writing – it’s very Stephen King-esque and very interesting. It grabs on to you and you can’t really shake off the book, or its freaky characters, until it’s done, and then some. It moves along quite well and keeps you wondering when the ax will fall nearly through the first entire half. Some creepy moments come up, moments that make your eyes widen but that you can brush off. And then, you land smack dab in the middle of some petrifying stuff that’ll never let you forget it, or the images it conjures. The best part? You won’t see it coming until it hits you… hard.
Then, the book maintains a brisk pace, with some build up, some creepiness, and a lot more terror. And soon, the terror turns inwards, into your very human senses, forcing you to wonder just how much evil there lies within each one of us, and what it can take for it to be brought to the surface; and once it has been unleashed, does it maintain any semblance of a limit?
The Shining is much more than a book about a little boy and his gift. It is about the humanity of people, it is about one’s past, and it is about recognizing that, sometimes, you need to look not at what your eyes show you, but what your heart does. With his skill at characterization, King takes a story about a hotel and turns it into so much more.
So, should you read The Shining?
I’d definitely say yes, if you’re a fan of horror. And if you’re like me, too scared to read horror books or watch horror films, then hell yes! You may lose a few nights of sleep, but you’ll gain the satisfaction of reading one hell of a book. And if things get too scary for you, take the advice of Joey (from Friends) – let the book, and all its inhabitants, cool off in the freezer!
Let me know your thoughts on the book in the comments below. And for those of you who’d like to help – any suggestions for which horror I should go next, Stephen King or otherwise?