Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a review of a Stephen King (& Son) novel being posted on Halloween. SPPOOOOKKKKYYYY!!
Eh….Not so much.
Around the world all the women who fall asleep become enveloped by mysterious cocoons that form almost instantly once they go night-night, and they aren’t waking up. They’re still alive, but if anyone tries to cut or tear open a cocoon the lady inside will pop awake in a psychotic rage in which she’ll immediately try to murder anyone around and then will immediately falls asleep and be cocooned again. (I can relate because I also fly into a homicidal fury if awoken from a nap.)
The small Appalachian town of Dooling is like everywhere else with the women struggling not to fall asleep, but as days pass the number of those awake begin to dwindle. Everything begins to fall apart as some men try to watch over the sleeping women they care for to protect them from jerkfaces who would do them harm. A lady named Evie is arrested for a horrific crime just as everything goes to hell and is locked up in the local women’s prison. Evie shows a supernatural awareness of the people and events around her, and it’s quickly obvious that she’s immune to what’s happening to all the other females. Meanwhile, the sleeping ladies find themselves someplace familiar but very different.
The main idea here is pretty clever as hybrid of a fairy tale story and the beginning an apocalyptic end-of-society-as-we-know-it novel. Trying to get that mixture right is one of the places where I think the book falls down a bit because the more hardnosed elements where people are having to come to terms with what’s happening and prepare for the worst was more compelling than when it went deeper into the paranormal realm aspects of Evie. Yet that’s a vital component to the flip side of the book where we find out what’s going on with the women while they snooze which the book needs. So I’m left struggling to put my finger on why I didn’t like this more.
Maybe the writing itself is a factor. With Uncle Stevie collaborating with Cousin Owen I wasn’t sure what to expect, and you can tell that this isn’t a Stephen King solo effort. It doesn’t feel exactly like one of his novels, but it’s not exactly unlike one either. Even his books co-written with Peter Straub felt more King-ish to me which seems odd. I listened to the audio version of this which included an interview with both authors at the end, and they talked about how instead of trading off chapters or sections that they would leave holes in the middle of what they wrote for the other to fill in a deliberate attempt to keep a reader from figuring out exactly who wrote what. Mission accomplished, but I’m not sure that made for the best book possible.
Another interesting bit in that interview is that this started out as a potential TV series that they wrote some scripts for, and I think that shows through in some of the structure. There’s something that feels episodic about this although again I’m not able to explain exactly why that that is. It’s not all that different from any other book with multiple characters in different locations doing things, but I felt like there were moments when the credits were going to roll. It just reads like a TV show at times is the best way I can explain it.
I’m sure some will be upset at the overall message here which is essentially that women are routinely fucked over by men, and that men overall are pretty awful. (Breaking News: That’s all true.) I admit that there were a few points where I found the male bashing a bit much, but not out of any nutjob MRA style faux indignation about double standards. It’s because I’m a cynic and a misanthrope so I’m fully committed to the belief that deep down all people, men and women, are pure garbage. So while I agree in general that women are less prone to violence as a solution and several other points the book makes I still don’t think that women would make a perfect world. Better? Probably. But not perfect. They’d just find more subtle ways to fuck things up. So for me the Kings’ idea that most women are saints who will always do the right thing that they present here was more wishful thinking than reality.
It’s not a bad book. (Certainly its miles better than The Fireman, another novel written by a King offspring in which a strange disease puts society in peril.) It’s got a good core plot, interesting characters, and decent writing, but it’s too long and never quite gets into the top gear it was straining for. It’ll fall somewhere in the middle of my King rankings.
View all my reviews