Admittedly, the gypsies are actually some kind of energy-vampires, who traverse the US in the guise of middle-aged people in RVs. And they don’t merely abduct the infants, but slowly torture them to death to release more of whatever kind of energy it is they chow down on. And one of the infants in their sights is a girl in her teens who can shine way more powerfully than anyone else. And she knows Danny Torrance, who has grown up to become, like his father, an alcoholic, but is in Alcoholics Anonymous and sober for most of the book.
But mainly it is about gypsies abducting children. I shit you not.
Despite being a sequel to The Shining, it mostly isn’t. It shares Danny and one location and some references to Hallorann and Wendy (in whom King still cannot muster any interest) and inserts them into a mildly and differently fantastical version of the contemporary US. It is smoothly competent – the riff on Jerome Bixby’s ‘It’s a Good Life’ (1953) is nicely done, but the allusion to The Silence of the Lambs sits there for no reason like a lump in your pablum – but it is hardly gripping, suspenseful or scary. It is like bathing in a cup of tea the way my mum makes it.
King’s semi-autobiographical account of Danny’s experience of AA, of its practices and processes, suggests a strong resonance with neoliberal culture’s emphasis on getting the individual to surveil and manage him/herself, to hope for little more than surviving daily, to self-scrutinise, to locate responsibility within the self – anything rather than fix the society that produces alcoholism. But this is thin stuff, too.
Not everyone agrees. For example, Margaret Atwood says that ‘by the end of this book your fingers will be mere stubs of their former selves’.
Presumably because gypsies stole the tops of them.
PS My other Shining-related posts can be found here, here, here and here. (And boy am I kicking myself for forgetting when writing about Room 237 that Yanis Varoufakis’ book is called The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy.)