The Shining Audiobook

Written by Stephen King
Narrated by Campbell Scott

Buy on Audible

It’s been about five years since I’ve last watched Kubrick’s film of The Shining, and at least twenty since I’ve read King’s novel. Whilst I remember key moments from the film and know there are differences, I couldn’t tell you what they were. I’m mentioning this because I feel I’m coming to this audiobook version fairly fresh.

In case you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a brief introduction.

Danny is a special child. He has the Shining.

Danny’s parents are struggling. Wendy is super protective of her son. Jack, his dad has quit the booze, lost his job, and is looking to provide for his family. A friend has got him a job: caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Set high in the mountains, this magnificent structure closes for the winter as it’s impossible to get to. But a caretaker is needed to keep the boiler going and repair any damage due to the elements. It should be a great opportunity for Jack to finish the play he’s writing, save up some money, and reconnect to his family.

But there are forces at work at the Overlook and pretty soon they’re going to realise that isolation is not the blessing he thought it would be.

Campbell Scott had a tricky job to do here. Danny is a curious six year old boy, his mother is slightly paranoid, and Jack’s character goes on a journey that changes him to the core.

Campbell does an amazing job in breathing life into these characters. He gets Wendy’s vulnerability spot on, and he does great with Danny as the brave/scared little boy. But, it’s with Jack’s persona that he really nails it. If you’ve only ever experienced Jack from the movie, you’ll think Jack Nicholson’s performance a little two-dimensional after hearing this.

It’s often said that Stephen King writes lousy endings, but that’s not true at all in this case. The tension builds superbly throughout, his pacing is spot on, and when all hell breaks loose, you can imagine that roque mallet swinging through Jack’s hands and you’ll want to save them all.

There are a few issues that don’t work so well. Scenes with hedge animals coming to life are curious but never feel threatening. It’s understandable why they were omitted from Kubrick’s version (that, and the fact they would have been a nightmare to realise on film). I’m also not crazy with Wendy’s rationale for staying at the Overlook until it becomes too late. But, these are minor quibbles.

In short, if you like King, or suspense novels with a supernatural undercurrent this is well worth picking up.