Book Review: Stephen King’s “The Shining” May Not Be What You Expect

We all know or have heard of the classic horror novel The Shining by the one-and-only Stephen King. Released in 1977, it was adapted 3 years later into the Stanley Kubrick film that terrified us all, thanks in part to Jack Nicholson’s special “brand of crazy” and two really creepy twins that took hotel hallways by storm. It recently had a sequel, Doctor Sleep, published in 2013 and has stood the test of time against many other best sellers (check out the latest best sellers here). It was even featured heavily in an episode of the sitcom Friends (where Joey hides it in the freezer every time it gets too scary for him).


stephen king's The Shining

Stephen King’s The Shining


This is all well and good – however, the novel is a total disappointment to me and many other genre fans. The thing is, few have read the work from start to finish and few know how completely different it is from the movie.

A key problem right off is that the premise lacks originality at present. You know the plot because the plot is famous. A family whose young son has mind powers stay alone at a haunted mountain hotel where the father’s plan to get over alcoholism and become a writer seriously backfires. My main gripe though, is that some of the most-inspired things of the film do not exist in the novel at all. The twin girls, blood in the elevator, “all work and no play,” dog-man in the hall, etc. are all absent and replaced by “threats” that are often uninteresting, un-scary, and really borderline corny or unbelievable. Inanimate objects such as fire-hoses or manicured bushes that may come to life are supposed to be terrifying instead. Guess what? They’re not.


 Stanley Kubrik’s The Shining Trailer

The novel drags at an extremely-overwritten near-700 pages which King himself admits in the prologue was sort of a failed experiment in trying to make the book seem more epic. Sequences of action are very rare and sorely missed. Most of the action is vague, coming in the form of dreams by the boy, Danny, and are repeated over and over. It’s strengths are its first act and final 70 pages, but I doubt you’ll find any of that worth it once you’ve slogged through the journey. Just rent the movie again and call it a day.

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