Genre: Horror, Fiction
Publication Date for this Edition: 2012 (originally: 1977)
Scare-o-meter: Put it in the freezer (“FRIENDS” reference); or for the non-FRIENDS fans: Triggers a case of the heebie-jeebies for about a month
“Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.” – Stephen King, The Shining
I decided to finally read The Shining in order to answer two specific questions:
- Can a book really be scary?
- Was Joey on FRIENDS being overly dramatic when he put the book in the freezer?
Well, I can say that both questions were successfully answered:
- Yes, a book can be scary. Uncomfortably scary.
- No, not dramatic at all. Joey was spot on.
This book is about a family of three who end up moving into a Colorado hotel during the winter off-season to maintain the place. Sounds normal enough, right?
The hotel has a few aspects that add suspense to the novel’s eerie atmosphere:
- Properly named the Overlook Hotel, it is located in a remote area on an actual mountain overlook of the Colorado Rockies. Meaning: secluded characters – good luck asking anyone around for help.
- Since the story takes place in the winter off-season of the hotel, the building is completely empty and surrounded by impenetrable drifts of snow. No employees, no guests, no one. Again, good luck asking for help or even trying to leave the place.
- The Overlook Hotel has a very gruesome past that is filled with secrecy and murder. Seems like a perfect environment for upset paranormal spirits.
Stephen King created a secluded, unsettling environment that not only unnerves the characters in the story but that also keeps the reader looking over their shoulder at all times.
Now, combine this haunting setting with a 5-year old child who has supernatural senses allowing him to see the hotel’s unpleasant past in flashes of hallucinations and a father who has a past history of alcoholism and a simmering temper that is bound to be unleashed.
You may need to give the book a chance for the first 200 pages when the characters are being introduced. I’ll admit that I was not expecting the beginning to have such a slow moving start. As someone who has never seen the movie but who has heard the fearful reactions, I was anticipating more of a non-stop thriller from page one to the end; The Shining is not that. The extra background information eventually adds to the depth of character the reader is able to appreciate, which actually allows the reader to feel more connected to the characters. This is what truly makes the book successful in being scary. You will find yourself empathizing with the 5-year old who sees premonitions that others do not believe, hoping for Jack Torrance to hold his mental state together, and feeling sorrow for Wendy Torrance and her love torn heart between her son and her husband Jack. Especially towards the end when… well, I’ll let you find out the rest.
Just give the book a chance until the winter season starts. As soon as the snow starts falling, sh*t happens. Seriously.
Read this book if you are looking for something that does more than just throw horror right in your face. It does not begin smack-dab in the middle of a murder scene nor does it drip with gory details from the first initial pages. This novel slowly releases a disturbingly haunting detail here and there until the ending chapters in which the accumulating creepiness completely engulfs the reader.
Think of this book like a roller coaster ride. On the way up to the large drop-off point, you can slowly feel the butterflies building in your stomach. And, when you finally get above the top… WHOOSH! The thrill hits you. That is what The Shining provides.
Video Clip from the FRIENDS reference for “The Shining”: