The first King book I ever read, in 8th grade, was The Stand. It blew my ever-loving little pea brain. I proceeded to blast through everything else he had written at that time...The Shining high up in the queue. Then in my freshman year in high school, my dad took me to see the movie. I'd never seen my dad so excited about a movie! Since then I've seen the movie, oh, probably 20 times, and has become a Nawrot classic. But I never returned to the book. I still have my original book, which is cool, but this time I thought I'd listen to the audio.
Synopsis: Jack Torrence, a man with demons and trouble in his past, has been thrown a bone so to speak, by being hired to be caretaker of the Overlook Hotel during the winter when it is closed to the public. Because of its remote location and snow accumulation, the hotel is basically closed off from the world for months. In fact, one caretaker submitted to a particularly violent case of cabin fever and hacked up his entire family. But Jack isn't thwarted; he needs to get his reputation back on track. He packs up his lovely wife Wendy and his five year-old son Danny, and heads for the mountains.
What Danny's parents don't appreciate is his ability to see into the past and future, sense others' emotions, and see dead people. According to the Overlook cook, Dick Halloran, who has the same gift, this is called "Shining". He reassures Danny, before he leaves for the winter for Florida, that while there is a sinister presence in the hotel, nothing can hurt him. But that may not actually be totally accurate. The hotel is powerful, fueled by its history of violent death, and it would be well-served to possess Danny and his gift forever. And the best way to get to Danny is to invade the weakest soul present...Jack.
My thoughts: Where to begin? I guess my first response is that I had forgotten how DIFFERENT the book is from the movie. Apparently Uncle Stevie was not pleased with how the film turned out, and did his own TV mini-series (I haven't seen that one, and have no interest in seeing it). I don't really blame him for being unhappy. It certainly sheds a different light on the movie that has always been close to perfect in my eyes.
Side note: Is is fair for me to talk so much about the movie, when this is a book review? Probably not, but I'm just not sure I can separate the two. Sorry.
There are the expected differences, like character development. In the movie, Jack is sinister from the get-go, but in the book, his deterioration is slow in building. Wendy also grows a couple of brass ones over her time spent at the Overlook, but in the movie she is an annoying, sniveling wimp! (Oh, and whoever decided Shelley Duval should be cast as a gorgeous blond woman should be smacked.) We won't even talk about the movie's lack of homicidal animal topiaries, or the boiler issue, which is the cornerstone of the entire plot. And that scene in the movie where Wendy finds Jack's novel-in-progress that is nothing but gibberish? That was Kubrick's invention. No creepy dead girls luring Danny to play, no blood spilling out of the elevator.
Not giving too much away, but the endings are as different as night and day. We have had vigorous discussions in our house as to our preferred ending. The consensus is...we actually like the ending of the movie. While people die in the movie and live in the book, the hotel is left intact. And it is incredibly alluring to think of the hotel living on, and capable of doing some evil business again in the future.
All that aside however, the story is intense and suspenseful, and moves along at a decent pace without too many side trips (something he has tended to do with his later works). This was only his third novel, and while his craft has gone through some amazing growth and transformation over the years, this is classic King...serious character development, atmosphere that you can nearly smell and touch, and tension that keeps your stomach in knots.
A few words about the audio production: I have come to expect wondrous things when it comes to the narration of King's novels. I think he is involved in the selection most times, and the man does love his audios. So I walked in with VERY high expectations. In this case, Campbell Scott is in the driver's seat. And compared to other King productions, I was neither disgruntled nor blown away. His voice tends to be fairly monosyllabic so I think the experience could have been more dynamic.
Audiobook length: 15 hours and 49 minutes (528 pages)
Another side note: There is a documentary that has recently released called "Room 237" about the possibility of hidden messages and clues that Kubrick snuck into the film. I'm dying to get my hands on this but it has yet to be picked up by Netflix. TBD on that one.
A third side note: Apparently King is working on a sequel to "The Shining" called "Doctor Sleep", to be released fall of 2013. I don't know how to feel about this. I hope Uncle Stevie is careful, that's all I'm going to say about that.
5 out of 5 stars