The Shining- Stephen King Review

Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”

Good evening and happy October! My apologies for being away from here, I had to socialise. Yes, a book owl like myself went outside and socialised with real people. Now I get to review one of my favourite books of all time which I finally read on audio and loved very much.

Jack Torrance needs a break. Recovering from alcoholism and the loss of his job as well as almost losing his wife, Jack is offered the position of winter caretaker of the grand Overlook Hotel. However Jack’s son Danny is a special child, Danny has ‘the shine’. The shine tells Danny things. And the shine has told Danny something bad is coming. Something big at the Overlook Hotel.

Another beloved Stephen King book that I first read at 16 and have loved ever since. This is my second time reading The Shining and I listened to it on audio. Scott Campbell is a great narrator who manages the cast characters perfectly and really maintains the suspense throughout the story.

This book is the perfect closed circle horror story and is definitely one of King’s best written works. The sheer isolation of the location is very overwhelming that really affected me as the reader. The hotel is very high up in the mountains and closes for the bitter winters so there is no getting out. Once the snow hits, no moving. We don’t get extreme snow in Ireland so this alone unnerves me a bit.

Jack Torrance is a fascinating protagonist, a very flawed character with some Stephen King tropes thrown in and that manages to be very unique. He struggles very heavily with his addiction that has in turn affected his family with which he is also struggling. This book deals heavily with domestic abuse and the effect it has on families so definitely steer clear of this if you are affected by any of that. Jack Torrance is a thinly veiled disguise for King himself, a writer struggling with a drinking problem and trying to care for his family is a common theme but Torrance is the best written ideal of this trope.

Danny Torrance is the true main character of this story. Danny is a hugely powerful child who utterly adores his father despite past incidents. The whole notion of ‘the shine’ is explained very well to readers through Danny’s experiences with visions, feelings and mild telepathy. It works really well for the reader to experience the way the shine differs between people and how it affects someone who has it through the eyes of a child since the reader is learning about it like someone who is growing up with something like this. I also really like Wendy Torrance and Dick Halloran. Wendy is a strong as nails woman who loves her husband but will burn the world down for her son if she needs to. Dick is another character with the shine who reassures Danny he is not truly alone.

And how could I not talk about the Overlook Hotel? The place is absolutely terrifying. One of my favourite horror tropes is ‘location as the antagonist’. The Overlook itself is unsettling for one reason only. Noone knows how it became like this. There are theories throughout the book as to what caused this abstract evil to take over the hotel but its never clarified. That is ultimately the most unsettling aspect of the supernatural forces in the story.

The various things the hotel does to terrorise the Torrances are truly sinister. I’m not going to spoil the actual incident for anyone since I think its the most terrifying moment in the book but there is a scene involving the elevator which operates on its own sometimes that literally had me pausing while listening to the book and looking behind me to be sure I was alone.

October is the perfect time of year to read this book and I obviously love this book very much but one thing has to be said. This book was published in 1977 and has a lot of the racist, homophobic language that was very common and “okay” in that time. This book didn’t bother me at 16 but now at 26 I can see parts of the book that are not so up to date.

If you love suspense, creepy locations, domestic thrillers and just scary as fuck stories then definitely try this. The physical and the audio book are both great. Rereading my favourites is always a fantastic experience that I recommend to others but this book holds up better again on reread. Definitely a good time of year to read a lot.

★★★★★/5

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

‘ ‘And they do say the p-pen is mightier than the sss-
‘-sword,’ said Esk ‘All right, but which would you rather be hit with?’ ‘

Welcome back to the Discworld! This is part of my return to the Disc to finally finish the series so I am very excited to review this to begin the entire journey here on the blog.

The eighth son of an eighth son is a powerful thing living on the Disc. The eight son of an eighth son is destined to be a wizard, but what if that eighth son is not a son? Meet Eskarina Smith! She is going to be the first lady Wizard, but women can’t be wizards can they?

This book got off to a slower start than the previous two books in the series but has quickly become my favourite. In terms of worldbuilding, the groundwork has already been laid in the previous novels, namely A’tuin and the Disc but Esk’s (Eskarina) home is in a new part we have yet to see. Esk lives in the town of Badass (haw) in the Ramtops. The Ramtops are the mountains, 500 miles Hubwards of the city of Ankh-Morpork which is the main setting for many of the Discworld novels. It was very entertaining to see that small village mentality in action and under the hand of Pratchett.

The plot itself is pretty well contained and follows the journey of Esk and Granny Weatherwax as they make their way to Unseen University so Esk can be trained as a wizard. It does have a slower build up to the climax and it speeds up very suddenly when it does arrive. This didn’t really impact my enjoyment much but it did make it seem a bit like it was slogging in places but it still works perfectly for a Discworld novel.

At last, the characters are WONDERFUL. We meet our first witch on the Disc, Granny Weatherwax. Granny is honestly my favourite character in the story, I love Esk too but I really loved the way Granny was written. She is the resident witch of Bad Ass and when she takes Esk in she struggles with how to navigate dealing with someone Esk’s age (she is nine years old). Esk is the kind of little girl we all wished we could be, taken in by a witch with a big set of powers passed on to her and a bigger undertaking for being the first girl to enter the Unseen University. Granny and Esk develop a close bond as the novel progresses and its honestly heartwarming. We do meet other characters at the University but since this is a story focusing on feminism and women most of all I feel that Granny and Esk stand out in a way they are supposed to.

This is not a perfect book by any means but it still has all the elements of Discworld that I fell in love with in the first place and it further expands the world for us. The wit is razor sharp, the characters fall out of the book and on to your desk while you’re eating your lunch and we continue to learn more of the ways of this world. This was only the third book in the series aswell so I think it’s only fair to give Pratchett the benefit of the doubt on this one.

★★★★/5

Brown Girl in the Ring- Nalo Hopkinson

The African powers, child. The spirits. The loas. The orishas. The oldest ancestors. You will hear people from Haiti and Cuba and Brazil and so call them different names. You will even hear some names I ain’t tell you, but we all mean the same thing. Them is the ones who does carry we prayers to God Father, for he too busy to listen to every single one of we on earth talking at he all the time. ‘

Welcome to my first review on the blog! I find it extremely satisfying to review a book by an author on my radar for so long and to read a book that appeals to me so much as a reader and that really captures my tastes in genre.

‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ is set in a dystopic Toronto where the city is now ruled by violence and murder. Those of money and privilege have long fled, those left behind having to navigate a ruined world . At the heart of it stands Ti-Jeanne, a new mother finding with her own place in society and her struggle to accept the ways of her own people. When Ti-Jeanne finds herself at the heart of a wicked scheme she must learn to accept not only her own power but that sometimes the old ways are the most reliable.

First off to talk about the world, I found it very easy to picture the slums of Toronto despite never being there. There wasn’t much world building needed because it is a real city. I think was a good move since the book spent more time as a result establishing the culture and the characters which the novel really depended on.

On that note, the book draws heavily from Afro/Caribbean culture. Hopkinson herself is Jamaican born Canadian and spends a lot of the book describing figures from Caribbean folklore. Some of my favourite parts of the book are the descriptions of the various deities and creatures that Ti-Jeanne encounters. The story doesn’t shy away from graphic violence or gore either, so if you are anyway upset by blood magics or gory rituals this may not be for you. I particularly loved the Duppy spirits and the depiction of some of the Gods such as Legbara and Eshu. One of the stumbling blocks I had in the reading was the language used by Ti-Jeanne and the others in her community, mostly because I am obviously not from the relevant background. However I did like one moment when Ti-Jeanne’s grandmother, Gros-Jeanne , switched to a more standard English when talking to some quote ‘non-Caribbean people’. I like the fact it is acknowledged that when the characters are at home that they have their own language that is specifically for them and their own community.

Finally, I want to talk about the characters. Ti-Jeanne is the hero of the novel but we do meet other characters in her life including her grandmother Gros-Jeanne, Tony her ex lover and the novels main antagonist Rudy Sheldon. We meet Ti-Jeannes baby son also but since he is unnamed for the whole novel we just meet him as ‘Baby’. I liked the characters most of all, Ti-Jeanne and Gros Jeanne being my favourites. Ti-Jeanne goes through a lot of growth in the book and her grandmother functions as her main mother figure as well as the voice that educates us on her culture and her ways.

Ti-Jeanne as a character is not only very believable but also very easy to empathise with. I really enjoyed the brutal honesty of how she is struggling with motherhood. It also presents a very real scenario of how Ti-Jeanne finds it hard not to blame her son for her loss of freedom or resent him for needing all her attention. I think also by the end of the story we finally see Ti-Jeanne accept her own life for what it is. She also manages to discover her own voice over the course of the book and take back what was robbed from her.

There is a strong theme of feminism in this novel, obviously focusing on women of colour and the power they can have within this world so it will come as no surprise that Rudy is presented as the main antagonist of the plot, aside from Toronto itself. Rudy is a vengeful, bitter control freak who uses abuse and violence to maintain his hold on people. As the plot reveals more about him we come to understand how awful he truly is and how he really maintains his power. The eventual crossing of paths that brings Ti-Jeanne to Rudy’s attention is what ultimately leads to her own self discovery and how she needs to motivate herself to defeat Rudy. It’s this confrontation with control that I think really displays how easy power can be taken away from those who bully others to keep it and how much those who are at the bottom of society really have when they take their power back.

Overall I absolutely loved this book, it was so easy to read and once I got used to the language I flew through it. It helps I also like more complex protagonists like Ti-Jeanne. This is a must read for fans of Octavia Butler and Nnedi Okorafor and I can’t wait to read more of Hopkinson’s work.

★ ★ ★ ★ /5