I've gotta be honest -- I had no idea how to approach this review. I feel like anything I could possibly say about one of Stephen King's most well-known works, The Shining, has already been said by folks more eloquent than me. However, I still wanted to do a review because I plan to review every King book I reread this year, and I felt like I needed to say something about it. You all know I'm a major King fan, so not discussing this one would be almost sacrilegious, right?
In a nutshell: It's awesome. It was just as awesome as the previous times I've made the trek to the Overlook Hotel with the Torrance family. I was shocked and awed just like I always am when reading this book, and I wanted to get that feeling across.
So I decided to interview myself. Enjoy. :)
Q: Hey Cody, great of you to stop by.
A: Thanks for having me. It's neat being interviewed by such a handsome person!
Q: Oh, stop it. So tell me about your Stephen King reread project. I noticed you haven't been posting as much on your blog lately, and I was wondering if you'd quit.
A: No, that's just the life of a working college student. I'm always busy.
A: I'm still doing the Stephen King reread project, and it's actually going pretty well. I just finished the third novel, The Shining. You ever read that one?
Q: Oh yeah! The one where the kid talks to his finger, right? And it has the two dead girls?
A: Well, that's the movie. I love the movie, but the book is even better
Q: Hmmm. Well, tell me a little bit about it. I don't know if I've actually read it or not.
A: Well, it's about a man named Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic with a tendency toward violence and anger, who gets a care taking job at the Overlook Hotel during the winter months. He takes his wife and young son with him, and the story is about the way they deal with, you know, being stuck indoors together for so long -- six months or so. That you know if you've seen the movie, but the book has some things the movie didn't and vice versa.
Q: Tell me about some of the stuff the book has that the movie doesn't.
A: Well, one major difference is the book shows, in agonizing detail, Jack's gradual descent into madness driven by self-loathing. He's tired of being on the wagon, and his writing has turned to crap (again). This job is his last chance, and unfortunately it's in a very haunted hotel bent on using Jack to get to his son, a boy with a special psychic power. Jack is a nice guy in the beginning of the book. Sure, he has his issues, but he's an all-around decent dad. I love the movie, but Jack Nicholson never seems caring or affectionate, at least to me. But, I digress.
The novel has hedge animals and a firehose that moves. King is an expert at creating creeping paranoia and fear from inanimate objects, and nowhere is that talent more on display than in this novel.
Other differences from the movie? Well.... Wendy is a bit tougher. Danny doesn't talk to his finger, but he does go into trances. The ending is completely different -- but no spoilers there!
Q: Alright, gotcha! Do you have a favorite scene? Favorite character?
A: My favorite scene.... that's a tough one to answer! From Jack's initial job interview to the epilogue at the lake, the whole novel just works. Every scene flows well and is important the story at large. But if I had to pick just one scene? Probably when Jack's dead father's voice comes through on the CB radio. It's a scene most people don't bring up, but I love it and consider it vital to Jack's gradual descent.
As for favorite character? I like them all. I can't pick. Sorry.
Q: Oh, neat. You really seem to love this book. I think you said before we started that you'd read it seven times?
A: Six or seven, yeah.
Q: Wow. What was the first time you read it like? Obviously it made a big impression on you.
A: Well, it was a few years ago when I was a newbie to the King-verse. I'd read a handful of his novels but I wasn't very experienced in his works yet. It was the night of Thanksgiving, and my family was out Black Friday shopping. I was going to my aunt's house early the next morning and I should have been asleep, but that tattered little paperback with the creepy yellow cover kept calling to me. I stayed up all night reading, and read in the car on the trip to my aunt's house. As I was reading, every creak my house made terrified me. I was convinced someone was gonna break in and murder me. I was very much a horror virgin, but even now that I'm more experienced in the field, I still consider The Shining to be King's scariest novel and, quite frankly, one of the scariest novels of all-time.
But the horror doesn't simply lie in the ghosties and murder -- although there is a lot of that. The true bone-chilling terror is seeing this man, Jack, try to pull himself up by his boot-straps and fail, like he's failed at everything else in his life. This book is about the disintegration of a modern American family, and that's what is truly terrifying. The fire-hose or visions of blood on the walls shock and thrill me, but every time Jack rubs his mouth or when he slaps Danny....that's what sets this story apart.
Q: Nice. I'm not really sure what to say -- what question could follow that up?
A: *laughs* Thanks. I tend to ramble when I'm talking about something that really matters to me. The Shining is certainly one of those things.
Q: Definitely, yeah. So can you tell us how you feel this compares to the previous two Stephen King novels you read before this one -- Carrie and 'Salem's Lot?
A: The Shining definitely improves on those two and that's really saying something because Carrie and SL are near-perfect in my eyes. King's early years saw him steadily progressing as a writer. So yeah, I love all three but The Shining is the best of those.
Q: Thanks for your answers. I might check out The Shining now! It was nice seeing you, man. Also, can you tell us what the next book you'll be covering in the reread project is?
A: Ah, that would be Rage, written under the name Richard Bachman. Look out for that soon!