on October 20, 2012
We have all heard of the Shining. We all know it is one of Stephen King's greatest novels. But what exactly is it about? Personally, my only recollection of the story concerned a parody the Simpsons did several years ago. I knew a hotel was involved, something called "redrum," and lots of blood.
The book is brilliantly written, although some foreshadowing was a bit obvious. I really felt like we got to know the characters. Not only are we acquainted with their stay at the hotel, but we learn of their past struggles as a family. These past episodes add a depth to the characters that can be interpreted later in the story as being significant or not. Jack, the father, is a man with a history that is trying to support his family. He is an aspiring author and is looking forward to months of peace and quiet. His wife, Wendy, is along for the ride and plays a very supportive role. They have a little boy, Danny, and he is special.
Let's talk about the real aspect of the book: the horror. The horror was the believable type with a bit of supernatural essences thrown in. Or, if you'd like, it was purely believable. There were several scenes in the book with their fair share of gore, but also several creepy moments that I felt were more convincing than the gore itself. The book is not particularly scary, but it is absolutely creepy. Imagine being in a large hotel in the middle of a snowstorm, phones are out, radio doesn't work, and you can't escape. Then creepy things begin to happen. Ready to leave yet? This family all struggles with the hotel in their own way, and I felt the progression of the story with the winter was really fitting.
on August 2, 2010
Like every male with vivid imagination, born after the Seventies, I went through a Stephen King phase in my teens. Luckily, I outgrew that (not before it branded me for life with the nickname you see in the blog's title though), but I'll always have a soft spot for him, and I still read some of his books on occasion.
Reading The Shining was a result of an argument on a message board, about which one is better - the book or the movie. I am a big supporter of the "It is a different medium - don't compare!" school of thought, but I love an online argument as much as the next guy, so I had to check for myself. And checking for myself, I stumbled upon one of the best Stephen King novels I've ever read.
King's greatest strength as a writer has always been, in my opinion, his depiction of "classic" American life. The Shining however shows very little of this, as it quickly plunges into the oppressive claustrophobic setting of an isolated mountain hotel. Jack Torrance - an aspiring writer struggling with the lasting effects alcohol has had over his family and his career - accepts a job as a caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado during the winter months when the building is almost completely unreachable. He moves there with his wife Wendy, and his boy Danny. Although the place has a colorful history, and most of it - unpleasant, Jack feels it nurturing his inspiration to write. However, his son feels differently. Danny has psychic abilities that the hotel chef Dick Hallorann calls "shining". Dick himself possesses this gift, but not nearly as powerful as the boy. Before he leaves for the winter, he warns Danny to stay away from certain places in the Overlook, since the shining could attract things he may not be prepared to see. Of course, the boy couldn't resist the temptation, and the hotel begins to waken. But its first target isn't the clairvoyant Danny, but his father - Jack.
The Shining is an exceptionally well written thriller, and - as most of King's good books - an in-depth look into the psyche of ordinary people and the demons that possess them. Even though the supernatural element is strong, the true villain in this novel is not the entity inhabiting the Overlook, but the monster hiding in a loving father's weaknesses. The book is large in scope, detailing not just the Torrances' life in the few months of winter isolation, but also parts of the history of the hotel - little chunks of intrigue, happiness and drama, painting a vivid picture of the place. Although nowhere near as grand as It, there are some similarities between the two, especially in the way King beautifully captures a child's view of the world through the eyes of little Danny Torrance and his exploration of the haunting building.
King's style of writing is at its best. Exact and to the point, he doesn't waste time with unnecessary details, and no more than ten pages pass before something disquieting occurs. His ability to ascribe horrific qualities to mundane things like going down a dark staircase, avoiding a fire hose in a corridor, or - indeed - taking a drink, is sharpened to the point of cutting, and the book is filled with moments of chilling tension in situations most of us just pass through without ever thinking twice.
In the end, I enjoyed The Shining tremendously, and when I watched Stanley Kubrick's movie, my expectations were proven correct. There was little in common between the two, and little point to even try and make a comparison. But from this message board argument I was left with a great reading experience of a book I might otherwise have missed. So who says that arguing on the Internet is always like winning the Special Olympics?
on January 19, 2013
I had read this book back when it was released in the late 70's, and heard that a sequel was in the works for 2013. I bought the Kindle version, figuring that since I was no longer an easy-to-frighten teenager the book would just be a quick weekend read. Nope! My return to the Overlook was just as terrifying as the first time. I had forgotten all the subtle storylines that were omitted when it had been made into the movie.
I look forward to the release of his sequel this autumn!
on February 3, 2008
Stephen King's books are generally not short as he takes time to build characters,and settings while gradually revealing more and more of the horror bits. The first time I read this book at least 20 years ago I Found this Character development process a bit tedious and could not wait to get to the scary parts.
Now re-reading it again I found the book much more satisfying.I was able to relax and enjoy the world King had created and all the characters in it.I will re-read all of King's books as they seem to age very well.
on March 25, 2004
Before I read this book I was sure that a book could not be scary. I thought only movies could keep you up at night. But this book scared the crap out of me. This book is excellent if you haven't read any King before, despite what King "experts" say. You feel every emotion of the character. You feel the innocence of Danny, the confusion of Wendy, and most mindblowing, the insanity and desperation of Jack. Don't let either of those godforsaken movies mistake you, this is the ULTIMATE haunted house tale. Redrum!
Almost three decades after its publication, The Shining remains a visceral, gripping read that showcases Stephen King's unfathomable powers to hypnotize and terrify readers, a power King had in abundance in the early stages of his career. Coming on the heels of Carrie and 'Salem's Lot, The Shining truly established King as a modern master of horror and an unequalled purveyor of a literary mirror into pop culture. If you've only seen the original movie starring Jack Nicholson, you really owe it to yourself to read the novel; Stanley Kubrick made a fine and scary movie, but he did not capture the essence of King's story, and his dramatization followed a different path than what you find in the original vision brought to life through the words of King. The more recent miniseries was more faithful to the novel, but it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that a made-for-TV dramatization is limited in terms of what it can get away with in a number of important areas. Simply put, The Shining stands just behind Shirley Jackson's The House on Haunted Hill as one of the best "haunted house" novels ever written.
The plot should be quite familiar to one and all by this point. The Torrance family embarks on a months-long retreat into complete isolation when Jack Torrance signs on to be the winter custodian of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Jack takes some personal demons with him to a hotel chock-full of malevolent, ghostly spirits; he is a recovering alcoholic who, in the last couple of years, lost his job and broke his little boy's arm in a state of drunken fury. He thinks the months alone with his wife and son will allow him to find peace - and to finally finish the play he has been working on. His long-suffering wife has some misgivings, but the only person really clued into the dreadful possibilities is his son Danny. Danny has "the shine," a gift which allows him to see and know things he cannot possibly know; it is a powerful gift which the Overlook (which really is an entity unto itself) jealously desires for itself.
As the days pass, the Overlook exerts more and more of an influence on Jack, exploiting his weaknesses, exacerbating his paranoia and persecution complex, and basically turning him into a murderous new tool at the hotel's disposal. Danny sees what is happening, although he cannot really understand much of it given his very young age. He can certainly understand the terror of the Overlook, however, as he sees images of the hotel's murderous past and very dark near future in a number of unsettling scenes interspersed throughout the novel. This is a harrowing tale of survival against incredible odds of a supernatural nature, and King brings every nuance of the story to vivid life, capturing perfectly the internalization and externalization of fear among exceedingly real, believable characters that the reader gets to know very well indeed. As has always been the case with Stephen King, it is his incomparable powers of characterization that make the supernatural elements of his story work so amazingly well. You can't help but be emotionally committed to these characters.
The Shining really isn't one of my all-time favorite Stephen King novels, but it is exceedingly well crafted and features some of the most harrowing scenes to be found in King's immense body of work. Even though I had read the novel before and was quite familiar with the story in both its literary and cinematic manifestations, I was completely caught up in the story as I re-read it - to the point that I found myself flipping the pages faster than I normally do for a novel completely new to me. When you talk about the seminal works of modern horror, you have to talk about The Shining - it's just that good a read.
on July 18, 2004
Over 25 years after it was published, "The Shining" remains ones of King's best novels to date. It is not simply the story of a supernatural hotel, but also the all-too-normal corruption and degradation that can exist within the human heart.
Jack Torrance is a deeply-flawed man, both as a husband and a father, and when the evil presence in the Overlook Hotel finds him, it exploits his every weakness. "The Shining" is a gripping book, and it is one of the few books of King's that I would say is truly frightening. King captures his characters here with a sharp eye for detail, and tells a powerful story.
This book has suffered not one, but two adaptations to screen (one by King himself), but neither of them really captured what makes The Shining such a standout novel, not just in King's work, but in the field of American letters in general. When King is considered, in years to come, one of the 20th century's great novelists, this will be one of the books studied extensively.
Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their son Danny check in to the Overlook Hotel in remote Colorado--sort of. Jack, who struggles to be a writer and struggles not to be a drunk, has signed them up to be a caretaker family during the hotel's winter off-season. The Torrances will be alone, isolated by distance, then cut off by snow. Jack works away at his novel. Wendy and Danny explore the empty hotel.
The hotel is empty, but not abandoned. It "shines" with the residue of past evil. Dick Hallorann, the hotel's cook, explains this phenomenon to Danny before departing for the season. Recognizing that they share a psychic ability to see more than others, Dick tells Danny to ignore what he sees. It cannot harm him. While the hotel cannot harm Danny directly, it can work through others. As the book progresses, the hotel's evil takes gradual possession of Jack, releasing a homicidal rage that Wendy and Danny slowly recognize then desperately try to escape.
This story will give you a lasting scare. While you deal with this, savor two accompanying themes. The first is a strong sense of history and place. You get to know the Overlook Hotel in terms of what has happened there and as an ordinary hotel with rooms, a kitchen, ballroom, storerooms, and all of its other parts. You will wonder how a place designed to meet its guests' daily needs can possess such a hidden hunger for their souls. The well-written contrast between the ordinary and supernatural is part of the book's tension.
The second theme is the book's illustration of the nature of evil. Jack could not have been possessed by the hotel had he not taken willing steps toward it. In a key scene, Jack enters the formerly empty hotel bar to find it fully stocked and tended by a former caretaker, now deceased. Jack is slowly instructed in what he must do as a drink is prepared and set before him. Weakened by his alcoholism, Jack takes this first drink, tacitly agreeing to destroy his family and giving the hotel greater power over him. This "entice, agree, enslave" sequence repeats several times as Jack slips into madness.
It all works out. Leaving the reader thoroughly frightened and impressed. Read this Stephen King classic first, and then see the Stanley Kubrick movie.The later miniseries is also interesting, but not as moving as either of the first two.
on July 16, 2004
The main reason that The Shining is so effective as a horror story is that the horror stems from both the characters' environment and the characters themselves, namely the father, a man struggling to recover from alcoholism and struggling to establish himself as a well-respected writer. The father's demons come alive in the creepy Overlook Hotel. And what's terrific about the book, in comparison to what I thought was a more mediocre movie version, are the unexpected moments of humanity; even when the father is beastly, you can see glimpses of his guilt, his remorse, and his overwhelming love for his young son, whom he keeps hurting.
In addition to all this human drama, the supernatural qualities of the hotel are terrifying. Let me put it this way - weeks after reading this book, I would pause before drawing open a bathtub or shower curtain. I could not look at playgrounds the same way. Stephen King knows how to toy with all your senses, and it's very disturbing. This is one of his best novels, if not the best, that he's ever written.
on July 12, 2004
A homicidal Jack Torrence never screams "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" In Stephen king's classic novel. The story doesn't culminate in a frenzied chase through a hedge maze. There are no twin ghosts at the end of the hall inviting young Danny to come play. And no, Jack's novel does not consist entirely of the phrase "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy." In fact, almost every one of the Shining's cliches are the invention of Stanley Kubric, and they make for an ingenius movie. But for all of the film's merits, I maintain that the book was much better
The story of King's novel has passed into legend, so I guess I shouldn't have to retell it, but I believe it bears rtepeating, so here goes: Jack Torrence, ex-alchoholic, struggling writer, and decent family man, has taken a job as the winter caretaker for the luxurious Overlook hotel, a high-class Colorado resort located all the way up in the mountains. He and the family pack up and head for the hotel, expecting a nice winter in their big luxury hotel. Jack relishes this as the opportunity to work on that play he's been wanting to write. Wendy hopes the winter will bring the family together. And little Danny, well, he doesn't like the hotel. Soon they're snowed in, and that's when the trouble really starts. The hotel is haunted, and the ghosts aim to drive Jack crazy. Danny, thanks to a psychic voice in hs head named Tony, is the only one who can stop the madness. His only help is a cook, who is able to communicate with Danny by telepathy. Problem is, he's in Florida. Its the classic haunted house story, but beefed up with the brilliance of Stephen King.
And the Shining truly is an original novel. King's character developement is fantastic, without being tedious or bogging down the story. The plot is instantly engrossng and addictive. Danny's psychic trips are horrific, and powerfully written. The whole novel is full of strong imigary, which serves to set a dark, eerie mood, the constant feeling that something isn't right. The forray's into Jack's troubled past are fascinating, as are the discoveries Jack makes about the Overlook's unusual history.
Torrence's descent into madness is brilliantly doccumented, and makes for riveting reading. The story's climax is both satisfying and sad, wrapping everything up nicely and letting the story go out with a bang, so to speak.
In other words, movie: good. Book: better.