Friday, October 30, 2015

The Shining by Stephen King

Reviewed by Ambrea

Jack Torrance has moved to Colorado to make a fresh start as the caretaker for the Overlook Hotel.  A former teacher (and alcoholic), Jack is looking to reconnect with his writing and his family during the winter off-season.  He thinks the Overlook just might be the salvation he needs—but young Danny Torrance knows better.

A five-year-old gifted with the unique ability to read people, Danny knows that the Overlook isn’t what it pretends to be.  He can see the history the hotel is trying to hide, and he has a sinking suspicion he knows what’s going to happen to his dad and his mom.  Because Danny has what Dick Hallornan calls “a shining,” which means he’s the only one who can see the terrible things gathering in the old hotel.

Let me say, first thing, that Stephen King is an excellent writer.  His characters are fleshed out and full-bodied (and, more importantly, interesting), his writing is clear and precise (if a little heavy on wasp imagery), and his story is well formed and intricate.  And The Shining is a triumph of the horror genre.

Like any number of his books, The Shining is a gravely unsettling novel.  It preys upon one’s innate fears of isolation, darkness, doubt and despair—and the unnatural things which creep into the hallways, entirely unseen.   It shows one man’s digression into madness, and one young boy’s desperate fight to survive against a place that’s intent on swallowing him whole.

I found The Shining to be one of the scariest, one of the most unusual books I’ve ever read.  I was frightened by King’s novel, but I was also disturbed and disgusted by the gruesome things lurking in the halls of the Overlook.  Danny has a truly frightening gift, which would have made The Shining eerie no matter the circumstances; however, King takes it a step further and introduces a cast of malevolent spirits, throws in some wasps and a grisly history for a sinister (and sentient) hotel—and a particularly fiendish ghoul in Room 217.

In reading The Shining, I realized that King has a way of making me feel emotions, making me feel what his characters felt in certain situations, and he has a way of unsettling me with his writing.  I often felt squeamish and nervous, a lingering sense of disquiet, as I read The Shining—and it never really went away.  Not even after I finished the novel.

Which, I suppose, is the real point of horror:  it stays with you.

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