Written by: Stephen King
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
When you bring up “The Shining”, most people seem to think about the movie first, and rightfully so: it’s a spectacular film. And with all due respect to the novel, without its settings, story line, and characters, the movie never would have been made. Still, I didn’t enjoy the novel; I must say, however, that many of my opinions and views toward it have likely been biased and swayed by my dozens of viewings of its film companion.
Before I go on, I would like to clarify that I respect Stephen King as a writer, entertainer, and artist. The Dark Tower alone, in my mind, earns him a spot among unforgettable authors. In disliking one of his most cherished works, and grading it harshly, I do not mean to tarnish his body of work.
Jack Torrance will always be Jack Nicholson, and Jack Nicholson will always be Jack Torrance, no matter how many roles he plays. But as I read, the character in the book is flat and boring. In fact, the most interesting characters are the ones we barely see. In this way King shows flashes of the great characterization he is capable of but which is never fully realized within the cast of The Shining.
Though King has never been known for his prose, the writing here felt elementary most of the time, almost as if Danny had written it. Combine this childish prose with the agonizingly slow second act, and I was barely able to keep focused for much of the middle section. I often considered that after seeing the film so many times, and seeing as the book and film are almost identical, I was lulled not by poor writing but because I already knew every twist and turn. This is very possible, yet I cannot separate my viewings from the reading. I’ve read other books after watching films that were remade almost word for word without being bored like this, so I think this is a case of a little of both.
I wouldn’t call it a bad book, because any book that gives birth to a movie great as The Shining must have merit. But I did think it was boring, below the quality of writing and characterization that Stephen King is capable of, and overrated.
If you’re curious, then read it, but if you were on the fence already, I would read one of his other classics instead.