In this year of all things King, with nearly two dozen movies, TV shows or miniseries based on Bangor’s own horror-meister in production or on screens, it makes perfect sense to add another Stephen King-thing to what has become a total-immersion experience.
Enter “Sleeping Beauties,” a novel that’s a team effort by Stephen King and his son, Owen. Published by Scribner, it goes on sale on Tuesday, Sept. 25 ($32.50 hardcover).
The duo’s first tandem effort on a novel, “Sleeping Beauties” is an ambitious work that combines some age-old Stephen King themes — the potential end of the world, the battle between good and … well … not so good, if not evil — with a distinctly sci-fi premise.
Simply put: Women around the world are falling asleep, and being covered in wispy cocoons. They may never wake up (and in true Stephen King fashion, those who try to rouse the females from their slumber quickly learn that doing so was a big, bad, bloody mistake).
Is the human race’s demise insured? Will a world with no women become a reality (for a time)? Or is there another option that we just can’t see on this side of the story? Good questions, all.
Adding another edge, and keeping the plot cranking is a great setting decision by the Kings. Think about it: If you’re looking to inject some drama into a novel about women falling victim to a mysterious scourge, why not set much of the tale in a women’s prison, where all of the inmates will be forced to deal with that outbreak in one way or another?
Add in the mysterious Evie Black, who seems to have something to do with the sleeping sickness, and who also seems to have powers that aren’t of this world, and you’ve got the makings for another great King (or Kings) thriller.
And for much of the book, “Sleeping Beauties” is just that: Another great King effort, and a story that leaves readers feverishly turning pages, and rooting for good, in some form or other, to prevail.
For the past 40 years or so, King (the elder) has led his “Constant Readers” into various delights and horrors, and in doing so, his style has become as comfortable as a soft pair of slippers. Read a Stephen King novel, and the rhythm, the patter, the voices come to life. Put another name on those book jackets (Bachman, perhaps?) and those of us who count ourselves in that club figure we’d recognize the master’s voice in before long.
The most irritating part about “Sleeping Beauties,” especially to long-time Stephen King fans, may be that there are two King voices at work.
Neither jacket nor author’s notes at the end of “Sleeping Beauties” explains their method of creation.
Did they alternate chapters? Did one write from the prison, and the other from other scenes? Did one create the fictional world and the other fill in the gaps?
Readers are left to create their own explanations.
And for those who’ve ready plenty of King prose, that means that inevitably, a guessing game may begin.
Who am I reading? Did Owen write this? This sounds like Stephen?
The resulting distraction — I played the same senseless game while reading Stephen King’s 1984 collaboration with Peter Straub, “The Talisman” — is best avoided. Don’t even start worrying about who wrote what part of “Sleeping Beauties.” Period.
Good luck with that.
But rest assured, “Sleeping Beauties” is no “take your kid to work” project on Stephen King’s behalf. Owen King is an accomplished author in his own right, and their collaboration reflects positively on both. No matter which King was tapping the keys, readers will enjoy a riveting novel with plenty of characters to root for, and to root against … and, in another King trademark, to root both for and against.
One thing that’s certain: In a year or four, you can expect to see “Sleeping Beauties” emerge as yet another King family project on the big (or little) screen.
“Sleeping Beauties,” is available where books are sold including Gerald Winters & Son and The Briar Patch in downtown Bangor, BAM and Bull Moose in Bangor and bookstores throughout the state.