I can't count how many times someone has told me to read The Shining because of how much better and different it is than the Stanley Kubrick film. For years I've wandered around with the memories of people saying how Kubrick ruined the book, how he changed everything that was important to the book to create a film that resembled the book in title only. "Oh, you'll understand so much more", and "the book is way scarier", and "there is good motivation for what Jack does in the book", people have said to me. And so I've been curious about this book for a long time. I've wondered what exactly it is about this book that causes people to, quite emphatically, state that arguably the greatest filmmaker in the history of motion pictures, not to mention one of humanity's greatest artists had someone botched the whole thing.
Good horror is created by not knowing all of the pieces of a dangerous puzzle: "What's around the corner?", "Who's screaming in that graveyard on this stormy night?", "Is there a killer alien with acid for blood on-board this old mining ship?". Combine not knowing important information with the chance of death (or worse) and you've got the basic formula for horror. And often a thing ceases to be scary when we see it, when the lights come on, or when we understand it - fear is born of the unknown.
In this novel, King attempts to create fear and terror by setting us up in a fancy hotel with a mysterious past for a few months of winter isolation; it's basically his take on the old haunted house story. The problem, however, is that he really does wind up explaining too much or tries too hard to give us two plausible interpretations of what is going on - are they just hallucinating, is Jack just going through alcohol withdrawal, or is the hotel really haunted. And if the hotel is haunted, who is haunting it? Old Hollywood mobsters and a rich old lady who killed herself?
I can see why Stanley Kubrick was attracted to this book because there are a lot of good ideas, but Kubrick trimmed all of the fat and turned a fairly shaggy book that, frankly, isn't that scary into one of the greatest horror films ever made. And all Kubrick did was not explain everything that King went into great detail about. Kubrick pretty much went through the book, crossed out everything that even smelt like an explanation, reconfigured a few scenes to be more efficient (having Hallorann give them the full tour instead of it being broken up into two parts like in the book).
Now I'll admit that in a book where we are supposed to live inside the character's heads King couldn't just give us limited information otherwise the book would have been about 150 pages long, at best. And King is at his best when he's creating characters and having them interact, though this book largest weakness is that there are so few characters that it sort of goes against King's strength as a popular writer. Books like The Stand, Tommyknockers, and It work well because the characters have a lot to do and it wasn't until later with Misery and Pet Cemetery that he could do more with fewer characters because by then he'd become a better writer.
So in a way this book really can only ever be a good template for a great film because it just doesn't work that well as a book. The characters a thin, Wendy in particular is useless and flat - in fact she's so bad that not even Kubrick could do anything interesting with her outside of making her life miserable in the film. Danny is pretty good, as is Hallorann, but they don't feel very fleshed out, they exist only to keep things moving or to make things weird. I do, however, much prefer King's Stuart Ullman to Kubrick's. Why Kubrick made Ullman so likable was a missed opportunity because Ullman is our introduction to the hotel, it's spokesman so-to-speak, and Kubrick should have made him more menacing.
My biggest gripe I reserve for the hedge animals. In small doses they would have been fine, but by the end I just could not take them seriously. The second you actually try to visualize a hedge animal attacking someone the image is just too comical to be scary or to even be taken seriously. Kubrick was wise to carry on with the European flavor of the hotel by using a hedge maze instead.
One thing I did find odd is that so many people have told me that the alcoholism of Jack is far more played up in the book and is a possible central cause to his insanity. Yet this is also true in the film. The scenes with Lloyd are almost identical, Kubrick changed almost nothing for those scenes and it's quite apparent Jack has a drinking problem and that the hotel is using that against him to drive him more insane and to control him. True the film isn't about a alcoholic losing control, Kubrick's film is more supernatural, but the themes are still there and one could easily say that the hotel (right down to the film's neuron receptor carpets) is a manifestation of Jack's drinking issues and abuse. For King (and audiences who prefer King over Kubrick) to claim Kubrick messed this up is idiotic and says more about King's (and his fan's) inability to contextualize theme.
I also was scratching my head about the whole side-story with Jack's drinking friend, especially the part where they thought they killed a child on a bicycle. What was that all about? That whole idea literately goes nowhere. Yes it scared them both to stop drinking, but why didn't King tie that into the rest of the book? And speaking of missed opportunities, why didn't King include Grady's dead wife and, more importantly, dead little girls? Kubrick immediately took advantage of this to create what is arguably the most iconic image in the film: the Diane Arbus style twin girls holding hands. The hotel had all the other ghosts of people past, why not them, too?
I did like that Hallorann played a more important role in the book. Kubrick just kills him off the second he gets to the hotel and that was only used in that he needed a way to get Danny and Wendy out. King used Hallorann more, but that character dipped so dangerously close into a "black man" stereotype that I cringed more than once.
All in all the book isn't bad, but the last quarter is just a lot of grunting and screaming and inane dialogue with too much pleading and yelling. The Shining is a shaggy ghost story that isn't nearly as well crafted as King's later, and much scarier books (Pet Cemetery being my personal favorite because it's also a little goofy) . I really was let down because not only because I didn't find it all the scary, but also because the book and Kubrick's film are far more similar than I was led to believe - I had been hoping for something much different.
First the narrator is superb and masterfully delineates between characters. If you've seen the movie, many of the phrases will be familiar, although if you're waiting for "here's Johnny", you'll be disappointed. The narrator isn't, nor does he try to be, Jack Nicholson. In fact, the difference is refreshing, in that Jack Torrance seems more like a regular guy. When you see Jack....well, you expect a little crazy/weird from the beginning. The contrast in the actual character (not the movie character) makes the story even more chilling. Jack goes from family guy struggling with addiction, anger and family woes to a madman. I appreciate King's way of detailing things about the story that would be difficult to translate onto a movie screen. These would bore the movie-going public. The history of the hotel is fascinating and having been in a similar hotel that had quite a history (not necessarily a supernatural one), it was an interesting addition to the story.I'm glad I read this book many years ago, before the movie came out, and now again all these years later. Once you see the movie a few dozen times, you start forgetting the original work. All in all, this is a definite read for King fans and fans of this genre. He always delivers! Now, on to "Doctor Sleep!"
I already have recommended this book to several people. If you like twisted, creepy, and yet brilliant writing this book is for you.
The character development was masterful!
The narrator was terrible. He was dry and monotone through most of the book. It wasn't until the last quarter of the book that I could pick upon his subtle voice inflections for different characters. Although his voice for Crazy Jack Torrence was pretty good.
I have read, and listened to a lot of so called scary books. This is the first book I have ever actually got a little creeped out.
Fantastic book! Weak narration, but worth the listen.
Life Learner that has to occasionally sprinkle some fiction into my audio entertainment. Be educated, be worldly, and keep switching gears!
Yes...I unwittingly already have. I was telling a friend that the book was not what I expected and in doing so I mentioned some parts that I really enjoyed- all the while I was advocating the indulgence and so she purchased the physical book as she hasn't caught the Audible buzz yet.
Dick Hallorann. He introduced the substance of the talent of 'shining' thus helping to put Danny's capabilities in perspective. His actual involvement was limited yet very necessary!
Voice inflection character personality. Great Job!
The name is perfect. Now I understand. I ask people who love the movie do they know what the title stood for and non could answer- I explain and all were like... "Oh, wow".
My first King book....I expected non stop thrill- not what it was; however definitely not disappointing. I am learning to appreciate his style: very descriptive. I like.
Yes. Very well thought out and original. Not as incredible in terms of a horror story, but more as a super natural story.
The idea that a hotel can be alive is great.
Scott was made to narrate for King.
the narrated hardly tried to change his voice for the different characters.
great story but impossible to liten to.
As with all of the King books I've read so far, this one kept me pulled in. I didn't want to stop listening.
This was the first I've listened to one that was narrated by Campbell Scott and thoroughly enjoyed his performance.
I have read, and loved, many Stephen King books but "The Shining" is definitely a stand out classic. The creeping sense of dread the book evokes right from the start gradually, and almost unbearably, builds to a fine crescendo of horror. The characters are beatifully drawn, particularly Jack in all his complexities and, as in a number of other King novels, he interweaves something of the art of writing itself into the story. Although the shadow of the Overlook Hotel looms dark and forbidding over all, the real terror of the story, that grips you chillingly by the heart, is Jack's own demons and terrible internal struggles. The narration is absolutely perfect and although I did see the movie many years ago and will now watch it again sometime soon, I cannot imagine that the movie comes anywhere near close to the all consuming experience of the audiobook.
This is an absolute audible must listen!