The First 100 Pages: The Shining by Stephen King

I started reading The Shining this past weekend.  It’s actually King’s 3rd book and was first published in the late ’70s.  It became a cult classic after Stanley Kubrick’s film version which was released in 1980.

The film was highly criticized because Kubrick loosely followed the book and chose to leave several classic scenes out or change them all together. However, we can easily guess why the film is so popular today – Jack Nicholson (“Here’s Johnny!”).  That, and there’s a conspiracy theory behind the film that Kubrick hid symbols in the movie about him having directed and filmed the Apollo 11 mission.

I’ve actually never seen the film from beginning to end.  You’d think I’d probably catch it on the TV this month, but I think I’d like to wait and see it after I finish the book. Speaking of, I’m 134 pages into it on my Kindle. The version I’m reading is marked at 672 pages – a much smaller book compared to the tomes King has written since then. Last year’s 11/22/63 which I read in November became the largest book I ever read all the way through at 880 pages.

I have to say The Shining is quite timeless. Even to have been written in the 70s, it still feels fresh and undated to me.  Sure, there are certain anomalies that stick out which certainly date the book, but they aren’t jarring and all that obvious unless you are looking for them.

King is definitely a master at characterization alone. He lets his characters tell the story.  He builds on their psyche and unusual nuances, so much that when something strange happens, it happens to the character and the reader because the reader is drawn inside the mind of that character. As a writer myself, I’m really trying to learn from King’s narrative.

I’m only 134 pages in and I’m completely invested in the lives of Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their son Danny. The chapters are intertwined, each from their different perspectives, and you believe each of them.  You don’t know or understand the strange precognitive powers that Danny possesses – King doesn’t spoon feed the plot to you – but you aren’t supposed to because Danny is so young and he doesn’t understand them either.

King sets up Jack’s problems right from the start – He’s had problems with the “Bad Thing” (drinking). He can’t keep a job.  He has anger problems – he broke Danny’s arm when he was two, and Jack also hit a student who was letting the air out of his tires.

As for Wendy, she’s fragile.  She was going to leave Jack after what he did to Danny, but she stayed.  She’s still afraid and unsure, but she wants to believe in and have faith in her husband. And all this from just the first 100 pages!  As a reader, I can’t wait for them to get to the hotel where we already know, thanks to small mentions and cliff hangers King throws in to spark interest, that all hell will break lose.

And just before the staff of the hotel is about to leave for the season, the reader and Danny both learn something very important.  Dick Halloran, the cook, meets with the couple to show them the kitchen.  He literally takes “a shining” to little Danny because they have a connection. They both have a special gift – which Dick calls “The Shining.”  It’s the ability to see things, things that haven’t happened or that aren’t there, and to communicate telepathically. He also warns little Danny to stay away from Room 217.

We already know Danny sees things.  He has a “special friend” named Tony that shows him things.  Bad things.  Danny doesn’t know why, but it’s the crucial meeting with Dick that solidifies how important Danny will be to the events that lie ahead now that Danny has a better understanding of his ability to shine.

Another reason I chose to read this book now – not only because it’s the perfect time of year being October – is because there is a sequel due out late next year.  It’s called Dr. Sleep and tells a different story of a grown-up Danny.  I, along with millions others, will no doubt be reading it the day it releases and I look forward to that.  But for now, I wanted to read where Danny’s story began – at The Overlook hotel in The Shining.

Full review to follow….

Bad things lie ahead…

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