Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review: The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining

Author: Stephen King
Release: January 28th 1977
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Adult
#1 in the Shining duology
Sequel: Doctor Sleep (#2)


Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Hallorann he was a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control. 

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive? 

Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel - and that too had begun to shine... 


Not as good as I'd thought it would be. 

Honestly, what killed this book for me were the overflowing, lengthy descriptions. The actual horrifying elements of the horror novel don't really start working and creating a horrific atmosphere until we're about 40% in, which is way too late for my taste. There's just way too much bumbling about, way too much back story and while it's nice that we get to know every character's thoughts and feelings in excruciating detail, it also just REALLY drags the pace. Literally, I felt like a prisoner who's shackled to the horse and supposed to keep pace while the rider in front leisurely trots along. It was exhausting and made me want to fall asleep multiple times, which is the exact opposite of what a horror novel is supposed to make me feel.

Still, in some contradictory way, I really enjoyed the agonizing details and extraordinary touches that King put into his story, because it made all of it truly come alive on the pages. The characters are immensely fleshed out and feel like real, solid human beings, especially because I didn't always sympathize with them. They had their annoying and/or bad sides, but their redeeming qualities as well, which simply made them amazing. As such, I didn't mind that there weren't many side characters to focus on, there's a couple that we get introduced to in the beginning but almost none except one of them really has any impact on the story, but it was okay, because the three main ones were able to carry the novel on their own.

The horror elements were focused more on the psychological, mental workings of people, which I personally usually love, but in this instance, felt like something was missing. It wasn't bad or anything, I still enjoyed it and the terror it brought, but I wasn't completely satisfied with it. I simply felt like some basics were lacking, some jumpscares or whatever, as cliché as it sounds. The novel failed to convey this constant underlying tension of "oh damn shit's about to hit the fan." At least, that's how it was for me. 

King's writing also hindered the horror elements from truly unfolding as well, in my opinion, because sometimes the way he focuses on a detail here and there just made it lose the glamour overall. It's like looking at something too closely and losing sight of the bigger picture in the process, or getting too close in a video game and seeing all the pixels, ruining the actual, overall beautiful graphics. I don't know, it's hard to explain, but sometimes it was ... too much. Stephen King meant well, but it didn't work for me all the time.

Ultimately, I did enjoy the novel. It was pleasant enough and I can see why it's considered a classic among some circles. I am glad I got to read it and finally know what the fuss was all about.

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