22 November 2013

The Shining by Stephen King [book review]

The Shining by Stephen King book cover
The Shining by Stephen King
Published by Hodder
Paperback - 513 pages
Published August 2013 (latest edition)
Review copy given by publisher
Part of the Hodderscape Review Project
With a few exceptions, I’m not particularly big horror fan when it comes to books. I used to be, but my focus shifted to fantasy quite quickly. That being said I couldn’t pass up the chance to read something as iconic as The Shining, which is arguably considered to be one of the greatest works of both Stephen King and the late Stanley Kubrick (in his movie adaptation).

This was my first proper King novel, and now I understand why he’s lauded as ‘the master of suspense’. The Shining is dripping in suspense and tension from beginning to end. From the moment that Danny has his first vision to the final confrontation, you’re gripping the pages with white knuckles as King pulls you through Jack Torrence’s decaying mind.

I liked that you never quite knew if you were reading a full-blown horror novel, or a psychological thriller. Was the hotel haunted? Was Jack possessed, or was he going insane?

His childhood abuse and subsequent alcoholism as an adult make him the prime candidate for being one to snap, but the supernatural power within the hotel transforms this into something altogether more frightening. Jack’s visions of the past, conversations with people who don’t exist and increasingly aggressive thoughts ramp up the tension even further as you’re stuck in this claustrophobic world with him.

I wasn’t too keen on Danny, who seemed too smart and eloquent for a five-year old. It felt as though he was written to be a good few years older, but was portrayed as younger to try and retain some more innocence about him. The result felt a little disjointed.

As both protagonist and antagonist, Jack Torrence is a brilliant character, and I loved both his benevolence and his darkness. His efforts to repair his marriage, his career and his relationship with his son made you root for him throughout, even when you could see the veil of madness slipping over him. King’s addition of Jack’s many ticks help you spot the warning signs of this madness beforehand, adding that extra bit of tension before the payoff.

Pickwick - horror

The Shining was absolutely fantastic, and an excellent introduction to King’s novels; well-paced with a great protagonist and so thick with tension that you need a sledgehammer to break through. Any horror fan worth their salt should read this, and serves as a brilliant start into the genre.

About the author
Jamie Gibbs is the bearded, bespectacled geek who runs Mithril Wisdom and drinks too much coffee, usually at the same time.
You can follow him on his Google+ or Twitter profiles for a daily dose of fanboy discourse.


  1. I've seen both movies but admit I've never read the book. I liked his short stories. Shame most of those movies have been awful, like Maximum Overdrive.

  2. I've heard that King's short fiction is better than his longer stuff, but to be honest, I haven't really read much of either. I read part of Firestarter in high school, but that's about it. I ought to give King's stuff a try again now, see if I like it better than I used to now that my reading tastes have changed.

  3. Stephen King's 2 best books, in my opinion, are Misery and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I read The Shining but loved the other 2 more.

  4. I have never actually read The Shining, and I've read a lot of Stephen King. Love the movie. I should really check out the book.

  5. I've always loved that movie and I love King's books, but have never read this one! I think I will, now. Thanks for the review!


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