Doctor Sleep’s Fatal Flaws

spoiler

This is going to be a super duper major spoiler of Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. I mean, absolutely 100%. Ready? K.

I did enjoy the novel while I was reading it because the main character Dan Torrance (Danny from The Shining, all grown up) was very compelling and I wanted to find out what happened to him. But after a bit of rumination (moo!), I sadly discovered huge flaws in the story.

The evil undead True Knot creatures feast on essences aka “steam” of people who have “the shining.” They prefer young’uns, since the shining is shinier in children, but they’ll take anyone they can get, because food. They can go awhile without eating steam and in the meantime they nom on meatloaf and mac&cheese like regular polyester-clad retirees in motor homes. They aren’t exactly like vampires ~ real vampires nom only on blood, IIRC. King never fully explains how this Knot originated and endured in ye tyme of olde, what they did before they blopped around the U.S. in motorhomes and stayed connected via modern technology, but whatever. He vaguely hints at gypsy caravans, but that’s not satisfactory. They aren’t Roma peeps. They’re almost all Americans, doing American things. These are minor nits though.

A larger nit is the early reference to dogs. The True Knot doesn’t like dogs and dogs don’t like them. Got it. This is a gun placed on a table. And King forgot he put it there. If it was important enough to mention, which it is because normally motorhome peeps have some pooches traveling around with them, then it has to be used later. I’m surprised at King! There should have been a dog in the story later on. Bummer.

But the hugest plot hole of all is as follows. The Knot kills Bradley the baseball boy in 2011. Bradley, age 11, was feeling poorly that day because he was coming down with the measles. A few years later, the Knot begins getting the measles and dying. An half-baked idea is tossed out that maybe the Knot used to have immunity from “rube” diseases and now they don’t, sort of like genes turning off. OH COME ON!  This is totally insulting to the reader. Obviously the only reason this “measles device” is flung into the story two years after the Knot consumed Bradley’s measles steam, is to provide a reason why the Knot has to go after Abra right now. Otherwise, there’d be no compulsion to get going immediately.

Rose, the Knot leader, is already aware of super-shining steamgirl Abra (Danny’s niece) and definitely wants to eat her essence, but has been holding off. Now, as the Knot gets sicker and their steam reserves grow low, it becomes imperative to get Abra now. Abra’s super duper shiny steam will boost them all to fab youth and vigor, plus she’s most likely been vaccinated, so she’ll have the double-effect of protecting any Knots who haven’t caught the measles yet from any measles germies circulating in their systems from lil Bradley. Logical, yah?

Dan used this logic to destroy a big tangle of the Knot in the penultimate battle of the story as he unleashed his dead mother-in-law’s cancerous essence into the room where they were assembled. The creatures were forced to inhale her poisonous steam, at which point they shriveled up and disappeared. Ooh, so clever and satisfying! And the reader was gratified to know that Dan himself wasn’t dying of a weird mysterious stomach ailment that had been plaguing him during the trip to the Overlook (yes, of The Shining), but had simply been transporting Momo. Yay!

But but but…

HOLD ON A MINUET. Let’s back up here. In 2001, the Knot sensed something big was going down at the WTC and lumbered into NJ to watch the disaster. They fed off the “steam” of the terrified and dying people from the Twin Towers. Some of those essences naturally contained souls who had a little bit of the shining, so it was a “good feed” for the evil creatures. That’s all fine so far. (Sorta. Seemed like later on they had to be physically closer to their victims.) BUT BUT BUT. Doesn’t it also stand to reason that some of those doomed WTC souls also had cancer, heart disease, flu, measles, whatever?

HELLOOOO?!?!?! The poor peeps from the Towers couldn’t have all been perfectly healthy and disease-free with pure, clean steam. Why weren’t the Knot getting sick from all kinds of stuff between 2001 and Bradley-time?

And what about the years and decades and centuries prior to that? The Knot never killed a kid who was sick before? They never inhaled “bad” steam? Bradley was the only one? Not believable! All the reader has to go on is this throwaway non-explanation that maybe the Knot’s scyfy genes turned off their protective immunity mechanisms the same way normal humans are programmed to age and die at some point. Meh.

I submit that King’s premise of the Knot staying healthy until Bradley’s measles is a fatal flaw of Doctor Sleep.

I am totally disappointed in him for this.

PS: I’ve searched for anyone else picking up on the fatal flaw I found, and so far have not found any discussion whatever. Am I off-base? No. People are not willing to see it because they are too busy praising King or else they’re criticizing the book for not being “scary” enough, which is just silly. Horror is like porn. If this doesn’t get you going, you’re too immersed in the genre. Take a looooong break.

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6 responses to “Doctor Sleep’s Fatal Flaws

  1. SK did a similar thing to the dog reference when in ‘Salem’s Lot he made a big deal out of the rats in the junk yard suddenly disappearing. He left that device dangling, and later confessed in some book or other that the rats were to show up later but he and his editor decided to leave them out for some reason I don’t remember. But it did seem kind of lazy to not edit them out where the plant originally appeared in the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Plotholes aside, your synopsis reminded me why I don’t bother to read horror or much fantasy anymore. It’s just dumb. Weird little scary things are great because they’re subtle but entire tribes of undetected vampires / zombies / shine-eaters / immortals / aliens / natural-born wizards etc? Bah. I guess GoT is fantasy but the magic is subtle and the stories are really about believable people living in a dystopian medieval fantasyland, so it’s another thing.

    I restarted yet another blog but I’m not going to advertise it if I don’t actually write anything. Not sure what it’s for. Things I’d want to share on the facehook, I suppose, as you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. They always got sick from eating sick people, see, but they had supercharged immune systems that simply fought these things off. But then two years after they ate Bradley, they ate someone who had lymphoma, which made them immunocompromised.

    I agree it’s a plot hole. I think the thing with the dogs is just one of those little details King likes to sprinkle around, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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