I’ll never forget the scene in the movie where the blood comes pouring out of the lifts into the lobby of the evil Overlook Hotel. This movie scared the bejesus out of me for years as a kid, but I only got around to reading it recently.
For horror fans, the book is satisfying scary, it’s a classic ghost yarn from the King of Horror. For those who love the movie, it’s awesome you get more details, more story.
The plot is basically the same: Jack Torrance, an alcoholic writer down on his luck, takes a job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel for six months during the winter. He brings his young family with him: his wife Wendy and his son Danny. Danny has a gift —the shining— and an invisible friend called Tony. Danny gets a premonition that something bad is going to happen and doesn’t want his family to go, but he understands that his dad needs the job so reluctantly puts his fears aside.
Danny meets Dick, the chef, when the family arrive at the Overlook. Dick also has the shining and assures Danny that the ghosts in the hotel are just like pictures; they can’t hurt him. He tells him he can always call for him if he is ever in trouble. Unfortunately, trouble soon arrives: the family gets snowed in, Jack becomes slowly crazier and crazier and the ghosts in the hotel come alive and come after the family.
The best thing about the book is that it has so much more detail than the movie. We find out about Jack’s father, a drunk, who beat him when he was a child. We find out so much more about Jack’s descent into madness, how he struggles with his temper and obsessions. Best of all we’re given a window into the shining itself. How Dick and Danny’s gift works, the visions they get and Danny’s invisible friend, Tony.
The Shining is frightening, not just because of the ghosts, but because Jack’s descent into homicidal mania seems so realistic, like it could happen to anyone. You can see how easily it would be for someone to get cabin fever, stranded alone in a strange hotel with a mysterious past. There is a sense of dread throughout the book, the Torrances have so many opportunities to get out, but they just can’t. They make a terrible mistake and have to pay the price.
As Joe Hartlaub over at the Book Reporter says
… (the) real horror presented is not of a supernatural nature but made up of things we visit upon ourselves and each other.
I like this Finnish cover from 1977, check out a few more on Stephen’s site.