Saturday, 11 September 2010
The Shining by Stephen King
For those who have never heard of it 'The Shining' is a paranormal horror story made famous by the movie of the same name starring Jack Nicholson. The story is set almost exclusively inside the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Every winter the Overlook is cut off from the outside world by heavy snow. The hotel cannot be left unattended during this period and must be looked after by a resident caretaker. Jack Torrance, a down-on-his-luck ex teacher, moves into the Overlook for the winter with his wife and five year old child, Danny. Danny has 'The Shining' a kind of psychic ability that allows him to see into the future. The Overlook has a dark and violent past and it's not long before strange things begin to happen inside the abandoned hallways and rooms. It gradually becomes apparent that the restless, maniacal spirits inhabiting the Overlook want the Torrance family dead and will go to chilling lengths to achieve this.
Before I begin to air my views on the book in earnest I feel it is only right to point this out; Jack Torrance is an arsehole. He is an arsehole at the beginning of the book and he was an even bigger arsehole at the end of it.
Sorry about the cursing but I just had to get all that off of my chest! In Jack Torrance Stephen King has, in my opinion, created one of the most infuriating, unlikeable characters in literary history! Conversely he also created Dick Halloran; one of my favourite characters from fiction.
A miserable, paranoid, violent, dishonest, cruel, self-pitying, bullying, wife and child abusing alcoholic with serious anger-management issues! I took an almost instant dislike to him and continued to dislike him for all 500 pages of the book!
It is not long before the evil spirits in the hotel begin to methodically chip away at Jack's already dwindling sanity by manipulating his deep held paranoia and weakness for alcohol to convince him to murder his family. Frankly, It doesn't take much convincing and, if left to his own devices, he might well have murdered them anyway even without the spirits intervention.
Stephen King writes too much in his books. I have no doubt at all that this book could have been 150 pages shorter and still been a good read however, in King's usual style he gives his characters too much back story. Despite this I did enjoy reading the book, kept at it and never seriously considered putting it down. The story is excellent, even if not entirely original (See 'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson) and the moving hedgerow animals truly chilled my blood on more than one occasion. The insanity of the Torrance's situation is truly claustrophobic and frightening but it didn't help that they were all so irritating. I did like the ending and felt it was the best way the book could end.
Ultimately I enjoyed this book and it certainly doesn't put me off Stephen King but it does make me look at his work with perhaps a more sceptical eye than I did before.
Final Verdict 3/5
Posted by Chris