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


  1. This book (and the movie) has always been a total creep-fest for me. Not sure why - just pushes my buttons for some reason. A few years back, my family stayed in the hotel in Colorado that inspired the book - The Stanley. It is a lovely old property but they do conduct ghost tours and run The Shining over and over again on one channel. Seems oddly out of place with the surroundings somehow. :)

  2. I agree that King writes way too much. You would think, like Dickens, that he gets paid by the word or something!

  3. Creepiest Movie Ever! Just the words "redrum" are enough to send shivers down my spine.

    Stephen King is definitely wordy. I just bought UNDER THE DOME because I knew I would never be able to read it in the time allotted me from the library!

  4. I read this one years ago and it is a total creepfest including the movie. My favorite book is Salem's Lot by King. Found you thru the hop.

    Have a great weekend, Bonnie

  5. This book and Salem's Lot are my favorites by Stephen King. The older novels are by far the best of them all, although I also loved his Dark Tower series. Thanks for the post!

  6. 3 of 5. Really. Your review sounds like you liked it more than that, 4 of 5 perhaps.

    I think The Shining is one of his better books. There are several very scary sections in it. I remember a bit about a fire hose that may be or may not be chasing the kid down a hallway.

    I think Stephen King is at his best with a small set of characters in a claustrophobic setting like this one.

    And I just want to say that Dickens was never paid by the word. He wrote for magazines he published himself most of his career.

  7. @ Frances: You are bolder than me, there is no way I would stay in a hotel like that! lol

    @ rhapsodyinbooks: King certainly does write too much. Even his own publishers have told him so on more than one occasion! Imagine how thick his books would be if he got his own way...

    @ I was surprised how different the film and the book are. I must say I prefer the book, Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Jack Torrance was too comical. There was little humour to his character in the book and I think it was more frightening that way.

    @ Bonnie: This was only my second King book. The first was Cujo which I enjoyed but ultimately felt a little underwhelmed by.

    @ NancyO: I've not read Salem's Lot but I have seen the movie and it scared the hell out of me! lol

    @ C.B James: I am sure you greatly admire King but I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.

  8. Hi, I'm visiting from the Hop! You have a really cool blog with a great mix of reviews. There are a lot of Stephen King books I love but The Shining isn't one of them. I recommend The Stand if you wanted to try one with more sympathetic characters.

  9. @ thebookstop: Jess has read The Stand and I must admit I was intimidated by the size of it. I'm sure I will read it someday though :o)

  10. "Jack Torrance is an arsehole."

    You crack me up. I've always been curious about this one. Thanks for the review!