The Shining

shining 1st edition cover stephen king
8.0 Overall Score
Book Info

Book Name: The Shining

Publisher: Doubleday

Writer: Stephen King

Release Date: January 28, 1977

the shining paperback cover review


Jack Torrance has made some mistakes in life.  Battling alcoholism, he has a raging temper and lost his job at a prestigious East Coast school.  The only thing keeping Jack balanced is his wife Wendy and his son Danny who have both paid the price for Jack’s mistakes.  As Jack fights to keep his sobriety, he takes up an offer to work as a winter caretaker at a remote hotel where he knows he’ll have time to work on his writing and no access to alcohol.  Unfortunately, the Overlook has its own demons, and Jack’s son Danny could be just what the hotel is looking for…Danny “shines”, and the Overlook isn’t good news for those who do.

Written by Stephen King, The Shining is a supernatural horror novel.  Following ’Salem’s Lot in 1975, the novel became a bestseller and is often considered one of King’s best works by critics.  The novel was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1980 and a TV mini-series in 1997.  King also penned a sequel to The Shining in 2013 called Doctor Sleep which continued the story.

The Shining was always a classic.  I remember the book being around the house when I was little before I even saw the movie, but obviously the movie could easily be argued to have a bigger impact culturally.  King famously did not like Kubrick’s adaptation of the film and rereading the novel, you can see how Kubrick altered King’s original storytelling plans.

King came up with the story for The Shining while staying at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.  Like Jack’s character, he had a drinking problem, and the off-season at the Stanley combined with his idea for a psychic child was crafted into a great ghost story.  The story like other stories like James’s The Turn of the Screw and Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House was very much about the psychological effects of ghosts and if they do-don’t exist.

the shining paperback cover pulp edition

Galley Books 2002

What is a bit odd about The Shining is that the characters in the book come to accept the idea of the ghosts a bit quicker than those of the movie.  The Shining’s Jack, Wendy, and Danny begin to realize the Overlook is evil and dangerous early on and it almost becomes a battle to keep their sanity versus finding proof of the existence of ghosts.  Both the Wendy and Jack character recognize Danny’s abilities and realize that there could be more to the hotel than it appears…but there is no good way out for them.

Much of the big moments of the movie don’t exist in the book.  The woman in the bathtub is probably the biggest one that made the film, but the dog-man had a bigger role, a killer fire extinguisher, an elevator that runs on its own, roque mallets, and the evil topiary were not part of the film…and honestly, they may not be as scary depending on your view (but the idea of a topiary that moves when you aren’t looking is pretty freaky).

Without the hedge maze, the ending of the novel is different.  Hallorann is less of an ex machina (aka a way to get a snowcat to the family) and actually helps the characters.  The book ends with the destruction of the Overlook due to the boiler and the indication that an actual spirit inhabits it.  Jack Torrance (or what’s left of him) is killed in the explosion.  This poses problems for the Doctor Sleep movie sequel which had to decide if it followed the book or the movie.

At this point in his career King was on a roll.  His works both were original and had an extra edge to them that some of his later works lacked.  The Shining was improved at points by Kubrick and smoothed out, but it would have been good if Kubrick did keep some more aspects of the novel…but then The Shining movie might not have been as memorable.  Stephen King followed The Shining with the novella Rage (published as Richard Bachman) in 1977 and then The Stand published in 1978.

Related Links:

The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1997)

Doctor Sleep (2019)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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