BOOK REVIEW: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen & Owen King

The sleepy (pardon my pun) town of Dooling is hit, like the rest of the world, by a strange phenomenon where women and girls who fall asleep succumb to being shrouded in a mysterious webbing. Wrapped up in body bags like cocoons, these women and girls are lost to their husbands, brothers, fathers and friends, with no apparent cause and no conclusive cures. If the cocoons are probed and the webbing torn in any way, the women respond violently and often cause fatalities.

This phenomenon is named “Aurora” and accelerates its spread like a global bush-fire. No woman is immune: aside from loading up on stimulants to temporarily resist the lull of sleep, the outcome is inevitable.

When Dooling’s Sheriff Lila is called to the scene of a gnarly crime on the first morning of Aurora’s appearance, she notes the coincidental arrival of a very enigmatic Evie to the town. Scantily clad, chillingly knowledgeable and capable of major destruction, the otherworldly Evie may have the answers to the world’s questions about Aurora.

However, in order to serve any use in reversing the weird global phenomenon, Evie will have to first survive the threats that face her from some of Dooling’s very awake, and angry, male citizens…

Aspects of the novel I wasn’t so keen on:

  • The tired repetition of themes and character arcs from other Stephen King titles. As to be expected, there are some recurring ideas within Sleeping Beauties that, to me, drew instant comparisons to the likes of The Stand, Under the Dome and Desperation. You have your classic good guys, the morally questionable guys who go on to discover great untapped potential and turn their lives around, and finally the completely unsaveable evil guys who exploit others at any available opportunity. Characters that instantly raised red flags include Eric Blass, Garth Flickinger, Frank Geary and Clint Norcross. The aforementioned cast aren’t exact replicas of other characters in the King universe, but definitely share very distinct personality traits with other characters, enough so that I’d noticed and had to take a few moments to get through the odd deja vu. That being said, I’m not sure if some repetition is entirely avoidable when a writer like Stephen King has such a vast bibliography under their belt.

Things I like about the novel:

  • The merging of two Kings in one book (trust me, no relation whatsoever to 2 girls, 1 cup). I swear I could feel from the outset that this wasn’t solely a Stephen King book. I have absolutely no idea why or whether it was entirely a placebo phenomenon because I’d seen Owen’s name on the front cover, but I did feel like the tone and writing style was ever so slightly different in a very rewarding way. I feel like, without this, I’d have maybe stalled in reading at certain points where blatant comparisons to other King novels were particularly striking.
  • The social commentary on what the world as we know it could really look like without women. I think we’re all fundamentally aware that we take aspects of our lives for granted. There are things we overlook without a second glance, and I feel like the patriarchy has done a pretty magnificent job of systematically unseeing women and their value in society for thousands of years. So yeah, reading this book was a nice imagination-booster and made me think about the inherent value of those around me, as well as the neverending battle to be seen and heard by those who are so damned good at ignoring the privileges afforded to them thanks to the hard work and exploitation of half the world’s population.
  • I really enjoyed the post-apocalyptic and fantastical elements of “Our Place”. Our Place was depicted as an almost Stranger Things-esque “Upside Down” edition of the real world. The sense of community and peace achieved by the cocooned women, when given an opportunity to start again, was utopian and dreamlike but also raised questions of viability and sustenance.

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