The Shining - Stephen King


How do you review a novel that has already been classified as one of the greatest horror novels of all time? No matter what I say, the opinions of previous reviewers are going to prevail. But pretend for a second that The Shining wasn't written by possibly the greatest horror writer this side of 1950 and isn't nearly forty years old. What if it was a brand new novel published this year, written exactly how we know it to be, by a new up and coming author? Say for instance it was Jayne Doe's debut novel, would it still be as widely recognised as what we know it to be today? Probably not.  Not because Jayne Doe is a terrible writer, but because it'll be thirty-eight years behind the times, will have a lot more competition, and because let's face it, well recognised women horror writers are few and far between.

The Shining has had almost forty years of publication, a movie (starring Jack Nicholson) and a Mini TV series to thrust it into the light of which we see it today - not forgetting the fact that King has an impressive ninety-five novels published, plus a further seven under the Pseudonym, Richard Bachman. That's ONE HUNDRED AND TWO NOVELS. That's the equivalent of all of the books on one of my bookshelves being by Stephen King. (I have three bookshelves in my bedroom, and a further two in my office)

I do not doubt that The Shining will always be one of his most recognisable novels, but looking at it from the perspective of the twenty-first century, if was published today I do not think it would gain that much traction in world of literature. So many novels have broken so many boundaries in the past thirty-eight years, that readers today probably wouldn't even bat an eyelid at many of the Scenes in The Shining.

If you have been living under a rock and aren't aware of The Shining's plot, let me just give you a brief overview - or should I say, Overlook, of the novel!

Jack Torrence, a recovering alcoholic, takes a job looking after a hotel in the mountains of Colorado whilst it is closed over the winter. His family, wife, Wendy and their son, Danny, move into the hotel and are left alone, unable to leave due to the heavy weather. As time progresses, Jack goes a little stir crazy (we all remember the iconic movie scene, HERES JOHNNY, Right?) and his family are left in peril. What makes this particular story interesting, is that Danny has a special gift known as 'Shining' which allows him to see things that aren't there, and to hear people's thoughts, so as well as having to deal with his now deranged father, he has to deal with the images of the horrific events that he sees in his head.
Dexter wanted to help take photos!

The Shining was the first Stephen King book I ever read. I was about nine and had finished reading all of my own books, so started making my way through my mothers. Whilst most kids of my age group were reading and eagerly awaiting the next instalment of Harry Potter, I was sitting under my duvet, making my way through Stephen King novels. Before I really knew who he was, I loved him. I loved the way he wrote, and although I probably didn't necessarily understand everything he was writing about, it didn't deter me from reading, if anything, it forced me to widen my knowledge and my vocabulary so I could fully appreciate his novels. I have re-read it many times since then, and each time I am always that little bit older and wiser, I notice things that I didn't notice before, and each time I read it, I take something new from it, a  thought, a quote, a general overview, which I wouldn't necessarily have been achieved if it was written today.

Because it was written in 1973, we aren't expecting technology or know-how of certain objects. It is perfectly feasible that they are trapped in the mountains, without communication. But, if it were to be a brand new novel, we would expect the characters to know about elements of the paranormal (what with the amount it has been taken advantage of within popular media), have a mobile phone, and internet access. People today are exposed to a lot more than what people of the seventies were exposed to, which is often reflected in the characters of novels published today, so taking those characters, and the exact elements of The Shining, and placing them into 2015, simply wouldn't work. A 2015 version of the novel, would probably render Jack as an Alcoholic Drug user who constantly beats his kid, Wendy as a neurotic over-protective mother, that spends her time watching her shows, and who is afraid to leave Jack because she loves him, and Danny would be the messed up product of the two, who sits on his iPad playing candy crush, and tweeting about the whole ordeal, that is until the internet stops working, anyway! The breakdown of technology would be the only turning point in the novel, because then they really would be alone, and would have to face their problems without the ability to communicate, or google what to do. If only there was a way to un-desensitize them to all the paranormal/horror they would have seen on TV/in general, modern culture, too!

The shining has stood the test of time, and is often regarded as the pinnacle of horror novels, to which I would widely agree with.

Stephen King recently published, Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining of which I am yet to read, but to my knowledge, it is set many years after the events of the first novel, and follows the original protagonist, Danny Torrence as he travels with other people who share his gift. So I am guessing, we will find out if The Shining really will work in the modern era.

Should you read The Shining?
It would be rude not to. It is a classic in its own right. Not a turn of the century classic, no. But Stephen Kind has captivated the elements of fear, and through mundane events which would ordinarily scare us, he keeps us gripped to the seat, and fearful yet curious of what is on the other side the page. Even if you only read one horror novel in your lifetime, let this be it. And to really appreciate it, give it the justice it deserves and read the book. Part of the suspense is through turning the page and feeling it within your fingertips, an experience you cannot truly know if you read it as an ebook.

You can buy it here!

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