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Reviews of Shining, the (1977)

Review by StefanY (2007-08-24)
The Shining is a complex tale combining the supernatural elements of a haunted hotel with the paranormal powers of a boy with the ability to shine and an intense character study of a man driven deeper and deeper into madness.

Laced throughout with an undercurrent of tension, the story moves us quickly on a roller-coaster ride of events that lead to an intense, action-packed conclusion.

The main story revolves around a man and his family who are trying to regroup their lives and take one last chance at attaining some stability. Jack Torrance has had a long history of drinking and rage issues that have threatened to tear his family apart and have recently lost him a prestigious teaching position. Taking the job as the winter care-taker of the closed for the season Overlook Hotel seems like the perfect way to re-bond with his family and to write his novel. But the hotel has other plans. Plans that send Jack spiraling doward deeper and deeper into insanity.

In a previous review, I mentioned that Salem's Lot is my favorite King novel. I continue to stand by that statement even as I say that The Shining is one of his better written novels. The depth of the story and richness of his description in this novel are at the top of his game.

Truly a great novel that I highly recommend.

Review by nzilla (2003-10-30)
The Shining, Stephen King’s third and possibly most famous novel, was a bit of step backward from his second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, in some areas, but a huge step forward in others. His first novel, Carrie, was a quick, fun read, but was more like an extended short story, which it was, than a full-fledged novel. The characters and the town the book took place in were not as developed as in all of his later works. There were a couple strong themes of alienation and religious fanaticism that were done well, if a little unsubtle. ‘Salem’s Lot was much more similar to King’s later work. An entire town and its inhabitants were deftly fleshed-out and eventually destroyed. This small town dynamic is seen in the majority of King’s novels.

Instead of portraying an entire town, The Shining focuses on one family in an isolated hotel, the Overlook, in the mountains of Colorado, where the father slowly loses his sanity as ghosts and vision haunt his telepathic son. The Shining is like Carrie in that we never intimately get to know many of the characters. The father, Jack Torrance, is the most fleshed out character. We see his descent into relative madness with excellent plotting. We feel sorry for him even though he is far from perfectly sane even at the beginning of the story. Danny, the child protagonist, and his mother, Wendy are not as complex or interesting as characters, but they do seem perfectly human and believable.

The first section “Prefatory Matters” is somewhat plodding, but the book soon picks up afterwards. One annoyance that I found was that an interesting subplot that was introduced in this section and developed from time to time throughout the story never really went anywhere. It is necessary to the story, but it seems to be hinted that there is more to it that is never delved into.

King uses a third person omniscient view that spends a majority of the time focusing on Danny. Since the narrator mimics the thoughts of the person being followed, we are treated to disturbingly different views from each character. This does also mean that some of the parts from Danny’s point of view are a little inane. Fortunately the book is not written in first person, as the novel would have been considerably harder to read and weaker if the entire book was Danny’s thoughts.

One thing that makes The Shining stand out is that it is possibly King’s scariest novel, and on my list of the most terrifying books ever. There are beautiful passages that both describe the scenery and create a foreboding mood. Things are lurking in the Overlook that are vividly described, yet used sparingly enough to create tons of suspense.

The titular ability of Danny’s could have been omitted without hurting the story. In the end it serves only to justify what would have otherwise been a very obvious deus ex machina. The “shining” is a little interesting at times, but I think it ultimately ended up being a little hokey.

Overall, The Shining is a very good example of the horror genre. While it lacks what became King’s trademark verbose and wry prose, it makes up in sheer horror and the psychological analysis of the father.

Review by kmr (2003-06-29)
This book actually scared me. I will no longer go anywhere near a topiary.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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