Jack Torrance's new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote...and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.
©1977 Stephen King (P)2005 Random House Audio
"A master storyteller." (Los Angeles Times)
"He's the author who can always make the improbable so scary you'll feel compelled to check the locks on the front door." (The Boston Globe)
"Scary!... Serves up horrors at a brisk, unflagging pace." (The New York Times)
I think this audiobook will suffer from people comparing it to the movie. The movie story had very little to do with the actual novel. While the movie eventually reached classic status, the story and character development veered wildly from King's vision, quite notoriously and controversially. The movie is fantastic in its own right but should stand alone. If you are looking for an audio version of the movie or Jack Nicholson's performance, you should give this a pass.
That being said the novel is a tremendously gripping and horrifying read, bringing you along as the characters are more and more absorbed by the forces at work. The centerpiece is the hotel, and King paints an amazing picture over the course of the book, giving the Overlook a back story, a personality and a voice. Campbell Scott does an admirable job capturing the myriad of voices and emotions. A very tough assignment given that he not only has to portray a woman and child, but inner voices and distinguish between lucidity and madness. His performance did not take me out of the story at all and that is a tall order in a suspense piece. I enjoyed every minute listening to this book and when listening at night was truly scared at times.
...because the book is a much more well-developed story. I saw the movie as a kid and watched it again just after finishing the novel for the first time. While I can understand why the film is iconic, it is a completely different interpretation of King's story and in my opinion just doesn't have as much depth or emotion. And I'm a Kubrick fan!
The story that most of us know: A writer takes his young family from Vermont out west to Colorado as he has taken a position as caretaker of a secluded hotel during its off season. King tackles issues such as alcoholism, self-esteem, and the strength of the family unit while telling a deliciously frightening story of the demons of the Overlook Hotel. He is one of the most talented storytellers out there, and I spent a good deal of time sitting in my driveway to listen to the end of a chapter before turning the car off and going inside my house.
Campbell Scott put me off at first as a narrator - I thought him to be a little too monotone at first, it was lolling me into a zone, not good when one is driving. But I stuck with him and he did brilliantly acting out the different characters, particularly the violent angry ones and I felt my pulse quicken during those parts.
I know it's said over and over again that the book is always better than the movie, but it's especially true in this case. Please treat yourself to this story, now one of my favorites by King.
I first read The Shining when I was *way* too young. I still remember hiding it in my bedroom so my parents wouldn't find it. The book had a serious impact on how I view stories and, if I'm being honest, the world. I don't know whether that is a good or a bad thing, but it's merely the truth. Such is the impact of books. To be fair I was reading many novels entirely too early, but that was the result of serious parents who felt a literate education was tremendously important to mental growth.
When I saw the movie at an appropriate age I was appalled; 'this isn't The Shining' I remember,' I thought. And it wasn't. It was a masterpiece all its own, but certainly not the book.
Upon listening once more (I'm in my early 30s now), I clearly picked up nuances that were deeply hidden from my preteen brain. Instead of an external horror story (which is how I always perceived it, 'The Overlook made him do it'), I began to view it as an internal horror story. While yes, there are extensive external influences, the forces of The Overlook feed on the internal conflict and torment of its residents.
It's been 6 or 7 months since I finished this listen and I now view it as both an internal and external horror story. The book is operating on numerous levels; memory, addiction, marital strife, pressures to succeed yet failing, the vestigial beast in humanity, history, etc... all viewed through the alternating lenses of the tormented and the innocent (internal horror). The sins of the Father wreaking havoc on the life of the child. Add to this the paranormal (external) horrors of The Overlook and you get an even deeper discussion and story. Of course, the impact on Danny with his Shine... that's where the book really hits a home run. Horror viewed through innocent eyes is the most terrifying of all.
It's really just a brilliant book and has impacted my life tremendously. If you haven't read it, spend the credit. Scott does a fantastic job of the narration.
Highest marks. A classic of 20th century fiction and a keystone of the horror genre.
I am brutally honest. Popular, love everything they read, reviewers are scared to go neg. and risk their ranking. It's your money!!!
After being amazed that a Stephen King masterpiece actually went on sale, I was again amazed at the listening again. In the first reading you may be scared over one of the scariest books ever written. In the second reading you might want to concentrate on the writing, the dissection of anger and human behavior. King could write in any genre and be considered a genius. I am only glad he chose horror. I belong to a family in which anger is very present and all those things that go through Jack's mind, happen a lot more than you probably think. Keep that in mind when you get one of those fake smiles from someone you are dealing with.
Grab this at the sale price while you can. In five years I have rarely seen a King masterpiece go on sale.
The Shining - Review
As to the performance: it certainly wasn't monotone. The voices are all immaculate and extremely consistent; with a smooth delivery of the constant insertion and switching of inner voice to spoken voice that keeps the listener immersed and dramatizes the story amazingly well. What people are confusing "monotone" with, I think, at the beginning of the story is a wonderful and delicate subtlety.
As the madness sets in the dramatization becomes a very intense and accurate portrayal of the characters. I really don't understand how anyone can consider this narrator to be anything other than perfectly cast.
The statement that comes to my mind is: "A pure performance."
As to the story itself: there was a point at the beginning in which I distinctly remember thinking: this certainly isn't King's best work. It certainly started a little slow and a little dull; not what I'd expected from a Stephen King masterpiece. That was part one. Part two picked up well enough. After that the story continued to get better and better until the fifth part, the climax which I couldn't "put down" until I'd finished the story.
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.
Having grown up with Kubrick's Shining I was interested in how the book would be. Now I see why Stephen King wasn't happy with the film. I found that it showed Jack Torrance as a loving caring father, missing from Kubricks adaptation. Wendy's strength is shown and Danny's love for his parents.It was great, thats all I can say. Read it, you won't be sorry!
Born and raised in the Charlestown section of Boston. Irish-American, music (punk rock), crime & history, or anything having to do with those are my favorite subjects.
The Shining was a book I had always wanted to read, having heard how different it was from the movie. I wasn't sure if that was good or bad because that was a classic horror movie. So many quotable scenes & lines.
However, after listening to this book on Audible, I found it to be much better! It is completely different, but in a GREAT way!
It not only has plot twists & scenes not in the movie, but also the characters are studied in much more detail and we see & feel what they do. It drags you in & makes you feel like you are snowed in at The Overlook.
I wish they could do a movie that was true to the book but also, with the great acting & scenes that were such a major part of the film.
In ending, this was a great piece of writing that explores many more subjects that are beyond a simple "horror" story.
Beautifully narrated and wonderfully horrific! Stephen King's best work, beautifully written and enormously engaging.
Jack Torrance, as Stephen King demonically demonstrates his slow demise...His slow disintegration of his mind and his perceptions of the evil which is lurking in the hotel are mind blowing!
Jack Torrance entering the "empty" lounge for the "fish and goose" soiree. As the Overlook Hotel is closed for the winter, and Jack and his wife and son are the only people in the hotel, the appearance of "Lloyd", the bartender, is the harbinger of the horror that is to unfold for Jack.
Since there were essentially only 4 main characters in the book, Jack Torrance would be the most interesting. He had little grasp on reality and his understanding of what was real and what wasn't, was very intriguing. Asking him about what he thought of the evil forces which were forcing him to kill his wife and child would be most interesting.
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