BOOK REVIEW: The Shining by Stephen King – Folio Society Hard Back Edition

The Folio Society (which sounds ominously like an organisation from a Bond film or from one of King’s own novels) excels again in taking a classic literary book and giving it a modern make-over. In this instance, they’ve taken Stephen King’s third book (The Shining) with illustrative artwork from Edward Kinsella and have lovingly made a hard back edition available for a new generation of readers.

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If you’ve never heard of The Folio Society, I can’t stress enough how much you should check out their website and make a purchase from their vast rostrum of expertly re-branded books. If you’re a history buff you’ll find works that will make you squeal like a piggy with delight. Sci-fi nerd? Peruse the many collections of novels, ranging from Terry Pratchett’s ‘Small Gods,’ to Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ Interested in Philosophy and Politics? Then check out Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra,’ or Bertrand Russell’s ‘History of Western Philosophy.’ Essentially, The Folio Society caters for every taste, and you can feel the passion that goes into every book – for them, the act of holding a physical copy, selecting the right typography, choosing the right kind of artwork to supplement the narrative feels like pristine effort has gone into every finished piece.

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With regards to The Shining, a lot of people will only know the source material from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film of the same name. You may know that Stephen King wasn’t a great fan of Kubrick’s film interpretation of the novel, notably the way that the character of Jack Torrance was handled; Jack Nicholson, in all his maniacal, eyebrow raising glory, resented his wife and son from the outset of the film’s opening sequence. Rather than being interpreted as a complex character haunted by childhood memories of his own drunken father, the film perceived him as a two dimensional villain compelled to madness from supernatural forces from within the Overlook Hotel. Shelley Duvall, as Wendy Torrance, was reduced to ‘the hysterical woman in peril,’ stereotype. To expect a movie adaptation that rigidly sticks to its source material may be naively optimistic, but Kubrick had left out a lot of untapped (and in one case, pivotal) material from the book. Where were the hedge animals? The Roque mallet? ‘COME OUT HERE AND TAKE YOUR MEDICINE!’ The boiler? You could argue that the maze was used instead of the hedges due to technical constraints. You could argue that Kubrick wanted to build tension, rather than outright horror. You could argue that the made-for-TV series that captured all the source material was a flop, but we’re not here to talk about the movies and the series – we’re here to talk about the book.

It’s fitting then that The Folio Society has given readers of a new generation the chance to meet the real Jack Torrance, a man battling with his own addictions whilst trying to keep his family together – The Shining really is a story about fathers and sons, about redemption and the effects that addiction takes on a person and the selfishness that goes with it.

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Jack and Wendy Torrance move in to the remote Overlook Hotel for the winter to take care of it as it becomes snowbound and isolated. Their young son, Danny, has ‘the shining’, a psychic ability which allows him to pick up on remnants of the past and suggestions of the future. He’s intelligent in the novel, and you’ll need to suspend some disbelief as he talks more like an adult than his supposed five years, but he knows when things are wrong. The other main character in the book is The Overlook Hotel itself; with haunted bathrooms, echoing memories of depraved parties, wasps’ nests that feature a never-ending stream of hostile insects; the hotel is a malevolent force to be reckoned with. It grows by consuming the power of its residents, like a vampire draining the blood from its victim. The Overlook Hotel wants the power emanating from Danny, and will stop at nothing to consume the child. Jack hears the voice of the Overlook as the novel progresses and it gnaws at him, turning him away from his family.

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Edward Kinsella has provided 11 disturbing colour illustrations that capture the book’s vision of the inhuman nature of the Overlook, and the binding is emblazoned with a vividly monstrous wasp – a creature which appears as a harbinger of doom in the book. And once you’ve finished with this edition, you can start reading the semi-sequel, ‘Doctor Sleep,’ which follows a middle-aged Danny Torrance, now a doctor, struggling with his own alcoholism and a group of psychic vampires. If you’re a die-hard fan of the film, it’s probable that you’ve already ready the book. I would advise that you revisit The Overlook, however – especially The Folio Society’s hard back edition.

STEPHEN KING

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Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. He made his first professional short story sale in 1967 to Startling Mystery Stories. In the fall of 1971, he began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels. In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & Co., accepted the novel Carrie for publication, providing him the means to leave teaching and write full-time. He has since published over 50 books and has become one of the world’s most successful writers. King is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to the American Letters and the 2014 National Medal of Arts.

Stephen lives in Maine and Florida with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. They are regular contributors to a number of charities including many libraries and have been honored locally for their philanthropic activities.

The Shining was published by The Folio Society.

You can purchase a copy of The Shining from The Folio Society:

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Review by Anthony Self

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