“Sometimes human places create inhuman monsters.”
To make me feel old, I realize now it's almost 20 years since the last time I read this. I was in Junior High school the first time around and, as you can imagine, I've forgotten pretty much the entire book. A re-read was completely in order and a must.
Being an earlier King work, it still stands as one of his creepiest, complex, and unique works. The story is mainly told through the point of view of five people - Danny, a small boy with an amazing ability which still manages to creep me out (as it's meant to); Jack, a recovering alcoholic who struggles with anger issues, writing woes, and being a family man amidst his past mistakes; Wendy, a submissive woman who puts up with a lot of crap from her domineering husband and gets on everyone's nerves at least a little bit; the cook who realizes something is tragically wrong when he shares his ability with the child; and the evil hotel spirit, who is too fully explained and a bit cheesy to boot.
Mixing all of these and putting it into the Overlook hotel was a treat. The cold winter made isolation convincing and necessary. I don't know about you, but cabin fever would not be fun in that large hotel locked up with my family either. It's much bigger than a cabin, of course, but the isolation and the big, echoing rooms while everyone struggled with their personal inner demons before even encountering the evil spirit was epic.
The maze and the hedge animals - creepy as can be. The lion, the rabbit, all the animals worked together for a few scenes to make the suspense raise through the roof. Were they really moving out of the corner of the eye, was it the imagination, should you look back when you are running away and risk it just in case?
Jack may have ended up being the bad guy, but he was a likeable character. I sympathized with him. He was flawed, as everyone is, and under immense pressure. It didn't excuse his weaknesses to the drink and former outbursts of anger toward his wife and child, but he kept trying to move forward and genuinely did love his family. Wendy whined and was clingy, yet was a good mother/wife in her way and lent to the credibility of the story. Danny as the little guy was adorable, but the gift of the Shining was the coolest part of the book. I thought it fascinated and putting this gift in almost any situation or story would have made it a good book.
The suspense and tension in this book is always thick and present, even during some of the slower scenes, but this slower buildup and psychological play that's always going on with the inner demons is what makes this work so fascinating. Unfortunately the ending of the book soured on me. I think giving the evilness a personality and childishness was a mistake. Having it realize the end and what was going to transpire and how it talked was, well, irritating, and put in a lot of cheese into what otherwise was a sophisticated, serious horror novel.
Despite the ending, which to me was weak and irritating, this stands as one of the best haunted stories ever. Everyone owes it to themselves to read this one.
“Once, during the drinking phase, Wendy had accused him of desiring his own destruction but not possessing the necessary moral fiber to support a full-blown deathwish. So he manufactured ways in which other people could do it, lopping a piece at a time off himself and their family.”
“A lot of folks, they got a little bit of shine to them. They don't even know it. But they always seem to show up with flowers when their wives are feelin blue with the monthlies, they do good on school tests they don't even study for, they got a good idea how people are feelin as soon as they walk into a room.”