Note: Here there be spoilers for Stephen King’s latest novel, Doctor Sleep.
Disclaimer: I did actually enjoy this book quite a lot, despite all indications here to the contrary.
Doctor Sleep continues the story of Danny Torrance, the child from The Shining, as he fights his literal and figurative demons (ghosts and alcholism) and ends up plotting to bring down a centuries-old group of psychic “vampires” that eat the souls of people with psychic power. He teams up with 13-year-old super duper powerful Abra, as well as way too many boring men (Billy, Casey, John?, Abra’s Dad?) to defeat “The woman in the hat” – Rose – who leads the bad guys, called The True Knot.
Caitlin’s Alternate Ending:
The main issues I had with the book almost all revolve around Abra. a) She’s incredibly underdeveloped for someone who’s meant to be a main character and b) right from the start she’s stronger than Rose so there’s very little suspense in whether she’ll win. The book gets a little boring once Abra becomes a major part, so my suggestion would be to make her less substantial.
Instead of culminating when she’s 13, the main showdown should happen when Abra is six or seven – old enough to communicate and have some agency, but not old enough to actively problem solve. Then the main plot and character arc is Danny becoming a true good guy, a hero.
Abra’s a lighthouse of psychic power so of course the True Knot sense her when she’s still quite young and set out to find her. She feels the threat coming, and calls on Dan to help her (she’s already communicated with him a number of times by that age anyway). Dan, with just Billy’s help, goes in search of her and tries to figure out what he can about the True Knot. The climax of the book is Abra being found and kidnapped by the True Knot and a showdown between Dan and Rose, who seem much more evenly matched. Dan sacrifices himself for Abra, who goes home safely to her family but who will never forget. It’s nice because it reflects The Shining, with Dan in Dick Halloran’s place and it’s a less complex but more complete story.
King has always killed characters and it’s telling that no one important dies in Doctor Sleep. Is the King of Horror going soft on us?
As I said, I did enjoy Doctor Sleep but felt it should have been 100 pages shorter, and a bit faster paced. Now I have to figure out what other books I want to re-write the ending to.