The Shining, by Stephen King

Here’s another entry from my TBR Challenge… I saw this movie a while back and thought it was terrible, so I got it into my head that I should read the book because maybe it was better? And then my mother said, “No, really, the book is way better,” and then I found the book at the used bookstore for cheap and THEN I totally didn’t read it. Hence its addition to the challenge.

So! Now I’ve read it. Well, okay, I listened to it. And, in fact, it is way better than the movie, or at least what I remember of the movie — the problem with the movie is that it’s just so middling that there’s nothing to remember. Even after reading the book, my memory of the movie is this: Dude gets a job at a hotel. He goes all Jack Nicholson (see what I did there). He says, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” There is snow and possibly a snowmobile. The end.

The book, on the other hand, goes like this: Dude gets a job at a hotel, the only job he might even remotely get as a recovering alcoholic who, while sober beat the crap out of one of his students. His plan is to lay off the booze (which will be easy with no booze in the hotel), do some writing that will make him awesome and employable, and fix the problems with his family that are not all related to his alcoholism. This is a good plan. His wife and son come with him to take care of this hotel, which is closed for the winter, but the son has “the shining” which makes him a little bit psychic and a little too attuned to the horrors that have taken place in the hotel and that threaten to take place again. Dude is not attuned to these horrors, even as they start seeping into him, ruining his plan a little at a time until he goes all Jack Nicholson. He does not say “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” There is lots and lots of snow and one too few snowmobiles.

I didn’t exactly like the book, but compared to the movie it is downright wonderful. There’s so much more backstory in the book that makes things make sense, and that also makes things more interesting and creepy. Like, the dad was an alcoholic until one night he and his bud ran over a bicycle in the middle of the road that may or may not have had a child on it; they can’t find a kid but also can’t figure out why there would be a tiny bicycle without a tiny human. And the psychic kid sees a lot more than just REDRUM; he sees what his dad has been and will be capable of and somehow does not pee his pants in fear. And the hotel is dang creepy with its dead people and midnight parties and moving shrubbery and I really don’t think I’ll be able to look at an animal topiary the same way again. Like, ever.

There’s a lot more depth to the novel, is what I’m saying, and it allows King to be more subtle with the creepy and the psychological, which is just the way I like it. It didn’t hurt that the audiobook narrator channeled a little Jack Nicholson into his reading — just enough to be fairly terrifying without going all Witches of Eastwick.

Unfortunately, the depth also comes with a lot of long boring bits, which made me not like this book so much. Also, an epilogue. I have been reading an inordinate number of epilogued books lately. Someday I will find a good one. Today is not that day.

Recommendation: Read this if you didn’t like or don’t remember the movie; it’ll make you feel a little better. Not sure I would recommend it on its own strength.

Rating: 7/10
(TBR Challenge)

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