Number of pages: 512
Although I've seen Stanley Kubrick's The Shining several times, I've only just read the book it is based on, a decision I made mainly because of the recent release of its sequel, Doctor Sleep.
As I understand it, Stephen King does not like the 1980 movie of his book, and I saw him interviewed on TV recently, saying that the wife was "a misogynistic character", a point that it was easy to understand. I'm aware that this was the reason why Stephen King wrote a TV miniseries based on his own book in the late 1990s, which I saw before watching Kubrick's version.
I actually love both versions I've seen, but thankfully the book was even better than both.
It opens with the central character, Jack Torrance, accepting a job as caretaker at the Overlook hotel, where he and his family will stay alone through from September to May while it is closed to visitors. Meanwhile, his son Danny is having frightening dreams and visions, bought on by his apparently imaginary friend, "Tony"; the visions include someone or something chasing him through the Overlook hotel and a dead body in a bathtub. The book sets up the characters with painstaking detail, including the fact that Jack is a recovering alcoholic and that he recently broke Danny's arm (apparently by accident).
As anyone familiar with either the movie or miniseries will know, something isn't quite right at the hotel, and Jack soon discovers that several murders have taken place there. Soon lots of spooky stuff starts to happen, including visions of a dead woman in room 217 and hedge animals with lives of their own (one of the creepiest aspects of the book). However, Danny has discovered that he has a psychic connection (the "Shining" of the title) with the hotel's cook, Dick Halloran, who he can summon to the hotel if anything bad happens. Eventually the spooky stuff starts affecting the family badly, mostly in that Jack slowly undergoes a personality change.
That's about all I can say without being too spoilery, but needless to say I loved this book. Stephen King has written it in his own unique way that really feels like it is getting into the heads of his own characters. I remember that while I loved Stanley Kubrick's version, Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Jack Torrence was as a dislikable character almost from the start; an obnoxious, bullying chauvinist. In this version, you really get the sense that he cares about his family, which makes his transformation all the more shocking. I noticed too that Stephen King's TV version was more faithful to the book, even that changed a few aspects; in particular, the climactic moments were much more shocking and gruesome than anything I've seen either in film or TV, particularly the fact that:
[Spoiler (click to open)]In the Stanley Kubrick movie, Jack chases Danny into the hotel's maze; he has completely changed personality and stalks him until Danny escapes and the final shot before the credits shows that he has frozen to death, and has not been able to redeem himself in any way. Stephen King's screenplay for the TV version involved Jack dying, but he did so heroically and saved the hotel.
In the book, Jack is said to be completely dead on the inside, and the hotel is just controlling his body (although he does briefly regain his senses and tries to save Danny), but he doesn't appear to do anything heroic; he just dies tragically.
I also enjoyed the fact that, in his typical style, Stephen King does not rush to get to all the gruesome stuff but instead takes things slowly and builds up the atmosphere throughout. Overall, a superb book and I would recommend it to anyone.
Next book: The Last Hero (Terry Pratchett)