May 17th, 2012


Book Review: The Shining, by Stephen King

Ghosts and alcoholism drive a writer crazy during a winter stay at a sinister hotel.

The Shining

Doubleday, 1977, 447 pages

First published in 1977, The Shining quickly became a benchmark in the literary career of Stephen King. This tale of a troubled man hired to care for a remote mountain resort over the winter, his loyal wife, and their uniquely gifted son slowly but steadily unfolds as secrets from the Overlook Hotel's past are revealed, and the hotel itself attempts to claim the very souls of the Torrance family. Adapted into a cinematic masterpiece of horror by legendary director Stanley Kubrick, featuring an unforgettable performance by a demonic Jack Nicholson, The Shining stands as a cultural icon of modern horror, a searing study of a family torn apart, and a nightmarish glimpse into the dark recesses of human weakness and dementia.

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Verdict: The Shining is one of King's better books, possibly one of his best. It's quintessential King. The horror is both supernatural and human, there is quite a bit of subtext, and (unlike many of King's novels) it actually has something like a decent ending. If you've only seen the Stanley Kubrick movie, you should read the book for more depth and less artsy visuals, and a character who's more believable in his madness than Jack Nicholson's demonic ranting. If you haven't liked King's later books, this would be a good starting point to sample his classic horror novels, back when he was writing drunk better than most writers write sober.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of Blaze, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Lisey's Story, and Cell.

My complete list of book reviews.