Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Shining (Novel)

I didn't think there was any way Stephen King's book could scare me more than the movie did.  Boy, was I wrong.

"The Shining" refers to extrasensory perception, specifically in the case of five year old Danny Torrance, who realizes at an early age that he can detect what people around him are feeling, and in some cases thinking.  As Danny gets older these perceptive powers increase to the point where he can read minds at will and also detect ghosts.

After Danny's alcoholic father, Jack, loses his job teaching at an exclusive academy for beating up a student who slashed his tires, the family temporarily moves to Colorado so that Jack can take a job as the winter caretaker at an expensive hotel in the mountains called The Overlook.  Unbeknownst to the family, the hotel is haunted, but initially the ghosts can only be seen by those who shine, like Danny.  The powers-that-be in the hotel covet Danny's power, which can be attained through his death.  The powers cannot kill him directly, though, and decide to use Jack as the intermediary by slowly driving him crazy, crazy enough to be completely willing to kill both his wife and his child.

Jack begins to terrorize his family, yelling at them as they hide, to come out and take their medicine.  They manage to keep him at bay for a while, but can't stop him forever.  In terror, Danny sends a telepathic message to the head chef of The Overlook, Hallorann, who has gone to Florida for the winter and also shines, but not to the same degree as Danny.  In a panic, Hallorann catches a flight to Colorado and drives and snowmobiles to the snowbound hotel just as things are coming to a climax.  Jack has seriously injured his wife and is ready to finish her off when he hears the snowmobile approach.  After knocking out Hallorann, Jack heads off in pursuit of Danny.  When he corners the boy, Danny gets away by telling Jack that the boiler, which needs constant attention, is about to blow up and destroy the hotel.  The powers controlling Jack realize Danny is telling the truth and send Jack to the basement to bleed off the pressure, but it is too late and the boiler blows, but not before Danny, his mother and Hallorann manage to get outside before the hotel is destroyed, killing the powers controlling it.

What I found most scary about this book were the psychological components, rather than the physical actions.  You never quite know what is real and what is just forced thoughts, and you also cannot tell what is harmful and what is not, inside the hotel.  I haven't read a King in quite a while and had almost forgotten what a good writer he is.  My appetite is now whetted for more of his work - my wife is now recommending that I read The Green Mile, another movie I enjoyed.

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