The new bottles in this case are a group of outwardly middle-aged RV owners who pilot their land yachts aimlessly back and forth across America, backing up traffic wherever they go and pissing off considerate drivers like me.
But these folks are not tourists. They call themselves the True Knot. They’re kind of like vampires, but they don’t feed on blood. What they really need is “steam,” their euphemism for the paranormal energy produced in certain rare individuals. They’re more or less mortal — they eat and sleep and have sex — but they can live hundreds of years as long as they keep a supply of steam on hand. That involves scouring the country for children who possess this energy to a degree that they show up on the True Knot’s mental radar. Then it’s harvest time.
I like the premise for two reasons: It validates my hatred for supersize RVs, and it imposes an explanation for the incomprehensible horror of child abduction and child murder. It’s not hard to believe that ones who do such things — there seem to be so many in America — are not really human. I guess I’ve occasionally thought that about RV jockeys too.
A little confession here: I read pretty much everything Stephen King writes, sooner or later. I’m a sucker for horror yarns, but King’s stuff always appeals to me because it’s so distinctly American. The panoply of the horrors he’s concocted down the years all spring from the banality of small-town American life. That’s what makes them so convincing. And frequently so horrifying.
Is this as horrifying as his earlier stuff? Probably not. King may not be slowing down much in his writing schedule, but he’s definitely mellowing. In Doctor Sleep, he sometimes taps the brakes where the old, hard-drinking Stephen would have put the pedal down. Some of his characters seem more wooden than usual, and all of them will seem pretty familiar to anyone who’s as steeped in the King canon as I am.
That’s OK. I never cared for the gratuitous gore anyway, and I don’t pick up a King novel expecting to learn a great deal about the complexities of the human soul. For me, it’s all about the story, wanting to see what happens next. And I don’t think any living writer is as a good at making you turn the pages as Stephen King. Anybody who read and enjoyed The Shining — one of his best novels — will certainly want to know what became of young Danny Torrance.