Stephen King is back – and he’s written a book with his son. No, the other one.
Released OUT NOW! 718 pages | Hardback/ebook/audiobook Authors stephen King, Owen King Publisher Hodder & stoughton
One thing’s for sure: Sleeping Beauties won’t win any fans on the Red Pill Reddit. But it may raise the ire of the liberal elite as well. Because this is a very brave book. Not in terms of scope, not in terms of breaking literary boundaries, but because it’s two men writing a feminist novel. That’s a minefield, and King Sr and King Jr don’t make it through totally unscathed. Though by the end you do feel like ruffling their hair and saying, “Bless ’em!” for even trying.
Sleeping Beauties begins with women all over the globe falling comatose and becoming wrapped in webby cocoons when they go to asleep. If anyone tries breaking into the cocoons, the women inside go killer zombie until the webs grow back.
But the book doesn’t examine the global impact of this. Much of what’s going on around the world is communicated through news reports and hearsay. Instead Sleeping Beauties takes place in familiar King territory: small-town America – in this case Dooling, in the Appalachians. Dooling is dominated by a women’s prison, which becomes the focus of the “Aurora” phenomenon (as it comes to be known) when it takes in a new inmate – a mysterious woman called Eve, found naked in the woods having just murdered a couple of drugged-up hicks. It’s almost like she wants to be in the prison. And she can sleep without becoming cocooned.
As time goes on and more women find it impossible not to give in to sleep, it’s left to the men to sort things out. And because they’re men – the Kings postulate – that means sorting them out with violence. The women, meanwhile… well, maybe they have gone to a better place.
The book has the usual massive Stephen King cast (though – shock horror – no writers or artists of any sort): lots of prison guards, lawyers and cops, plus a dog catcher and a prison shrink. They all have their own issues that are woven in and out of the story, some more pertinent than others… some more interesting than others. It’s written in a TV script style – with lots of leaping about between short scenes, featuring different sets of characters. This is great for keeping the pace lively, but does mean that even though it’s over 700 pages long, some characters feel like mere cogs.
It’s also not that scary. Admittedly, King Sr long ago surpassed being a mere horror writer, but here there are moments that are crying out for a full-on horror treatment, both in terms of creeping terror and out-and-out gore, and they are largely squandered. Deaths – even bizarre ones – often feel like throwaway lines, and an extended action set-piece and bloodbath at the end actually ends up rather boring.
King Jr, a successful novelist in his own right, injects some wry pop culture references and humorous dialogue into the usual King Sr formula – there are nods to Doctor Who, swipes at Fox News and even a mention of some author called Joe Hill. The King combo certainly write compelling, page-turning text, but they don’t seem to be able to edit each other. There’s far too much chaff here that should have been cut.
The main problem with the book, though, is its slightly embarrassing bleeding-heart liberalism. All credit to the Kings for trying to write a book apologising for all the ills that men have inflicted on women, but they feel cringingly right-on at times. It’s almost like the dust jacket should say, “THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST NOVEL LOOKS LIKE”. Dave Golder
Owen King considered writing Sleeping Beauties as a TV mini-series, and even scripted the first two episodes.
Moments cry out for the horror treatment