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The Shining    by Stephen King order for
by Stephen King
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2005 (1977)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Before Jack Nicholson cashed in on his stellar performance, leering through an axe-laden hole, madly announcing, 'Here's Johnny!', The Shining stood as one of Stephen King's first novels. Like his other publications, this story would prove to be another notch of success in the belt of one of the highest paid authors in history. Given its original success, King's continued success, and his significant inroads in the the audiobook industry, it is obvious why Simon and Schuster would record and release The Shining some twenty-five years after its publication.

Jack Torrence likes to believe he's a writer, but three published short stories, recovering from alcohol, and being virtually unemployed don't really qualify him as such. Given he has a wife, Winifred, and a five-year-old son, Danny, to care for, Torrence takes the job of grounds keeper at the Overlook, a prestigious hotel in the Rocky Mountains near Boulder, Colorado. Secluded from nearby towns by some forty miles, Torrence is to take care of the hotel while it's closed for the winter. He finds it an ideal situation - he can work on his play, make money and hopefully gain back some of his family's trust that he lost due to his drinking.

But the hotel, with its sordid and haunted past, has different plans for Torrence, and for his son. Danny has a special gift, 'the shining'; he is a very strong telepath. Though only five, Danny often picks up the thoughts of those around him, including his parents. So when he starts hearing the drifting thoughts of his father, who seems to be descending into madness, he fears for his family and must find a means to escape or call for help.

As in any Stephen King novel, the characters are rich and genuine. King knows how to depict the everyman in each of them while skillfully reflecting it against the inner madman. His strong and likeable characters keep readers returning to his dark and twisted tales. Campbell Scott easily stands as one of the best names in audiobooks today and this narration only reinforces his brilliance. Beyond giving perfect voice characterizations to each speaker, Scott generates a fantastic delivery of Jack Torrence - he can talk with calm and control yet hint at a great and surging rage within the character. His voice also cunningly contrasts angry and calm speakers at various points in the story. His reading pulls listeners in and keeps their interest throughout. At times, his haunting interjections can even prove disturbing. For a novel of this nature, Scott seems the perfect choice.

Haunted house plots can seem blasť, particularly if they were written nearly three decades ago. Yet, King's material (though sometimes dated in terms of the story's technology) maintains a timeless quality that allows it to instill fear and anticipation in his readers. The Shining proves itself still capable of haunting its audience, and even more so as delivered by Campbell Scott in audio format.

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