The Shining by Stephen King

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“What you got, son, I call it shinin on, the Bible calls it having visions, and there’s scientists that call it precognition. I’ve read up on it, son. I’ve studied on it. They all mean seeing the future.”

It’s an oldie, but boy is it a goodie. I have always known the reputation of Stephen King as a mastermind of horror. While I’ve seen the movie version, I have to admit this is my first encounter with the horror genius that is Stephen King. Maybe it’s because my mother imbued in me a true sense and respect for King’s ability in his genre that it was only recently that I decided I was enough of an adult to make a leap into the dark swimming pool of his work. And after that decision was made, what better novel to start with than The Shining? I was certainly not disappointed.

Jack Torrence, a struggling writer, has found the perfect creative get-away and way to provide for his struggling family as the caretaker of the infamous Overlook hotel nestled away in the mountains of Colorado. For the entire winter he, his wife Wendy and their young son Danny will be the only inhabitants of a hotel that is known for grand parties and famous guests. But this hotel has a darker side as well, infested by the memories of gangsters, murder and death, and all of these forces will be drawn to Danny. Dick Hallorann, the Overlook’s head chef, recognizes that Danny possesses a unique ability, much like his own talent, and it is Dick who warns Danny that there are places within the Overlook that will take a dangerous liking to his “shining”. The Overlook ultimately does so by praying on Jack’s weaknesses and, combined with regrets and memories from the past, turn a loving father into a horrendous face that is unrecognizable.

King can certainly weave an intricate tale of horror. It’s a different kind of horror however, not the kind that is bathed in the gore that is so common in modern day movies and entertainment, but one that is based on suspense and psychological fright. The fact that  a child is at the center of the story creates a sense of vulnerability that is compounded by the other assortment of emotions the Overlook causes within this small family.

The history of the Overlook was intriguing and King takes advantage of that curiosity that many people likely have when climbing into a bed in a hotel and wonder how many (and what kind of) people have slept in the very same bed before they have. However, he takes it beyond that common query and questions what can be left beyond in locations by the passing of time and the events that have taken place there. It’s always been an interesting concept that tragic events may leave behind some manner of energy that imprints a place with those negative occurrences. It seems to be a core theory of the paranormal field and in the case of the Overlook, it is a hotel with such an extensive history, most of which is negative, that the presence of a sensitive individual breathes life back into shocking memories.

The book, to me, at its core was about demons; personal, past, present, real. Having been originally published in 1977, this modern day edition came with a foreword written by King in which he acknowledges that the novel was that much scarier in his mind because the evil that shines through in the story is due to the hotel, but also because of the experiences and person that Jack is. In some ways, The Shining forces us to acknowledge that not all evil can be squarely blamed on the paranormal and that much of it is of a human making. There’s no doubt that Danny’s presence strengthens the activity within the Overlook and that these paranormal experiences are real. However, the reader is forced to wonder if things would have been different if Jack had not been so flawed to begin with, had not been abused himself as a child, had not become an alcoholic as an adult. Just as Danny’s precognition feeds the ghosts of the Overlook, the Overlook fed off of Jack’s character flaws.

Though The Shining is over 30 years old, it still held a considerable amount of literary sway and left a lingering impression. When discussing it with a few friends they all agreed that it was a book that they can remember exactly where they were when they read it. King has that level of skill and can certainly weave a tale of horror that stays with you by stressing the human elements and flaws of his characters. I will certainly be picking up its successor, Doctor Sleep, soon with hopes of the same results.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Stephen King: Stephen King has written extensively in the Horror genre but some of his more recent releases include 11/22/63 (2011) and Doctor Sleep (2013)

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