The Gentler Side of a King in "Sleeping Beauties", by Stephen and Owen King - Book Review

The King of Horror is getting sentimental in his old age. While he’s been pulling away from horror for quite some time and focusing more on thrillers with strong characters, Sleeping Beauties is almost quaint at times.

The gist of the story is that the women in Dooling, Somewhere Town America, start succumbing to some sort of hibernation when they fall asleep. As soon as they drift off, their bodies start building a cocoon around them which keeps them alive but comatose. As virtually every woman falls prey, the men are left to fend for themselves. And it’s not pretty.

Sleeping Beauties: A Novel
By Stephen King, Owen King

Meanwhile, the women are transported into another world where only women exist. They are in some version of Dooling but set well into the future in a sort of post-apocalyptic setting. There is no electricity or running water and they have to start from ground zero to set up a functioning civilization. Not surprisingly, they fare much better than the men back in Dooling, even though under much more difficult circumstances.

King, who wrote this book with son Owen, clearly thinks women are not only the fairer sex but the smarter and more cohesive. But he also acknowledges that, in the end, women and men need one another for a well-balanced society.

There are, of course, heroes and villains in this tale and they are of both gender. A number of the main characters are either locked up in a women’s prison - before they cocoon - or serve as prison employees. Some of the most nefarious of that group are the staff, not the prisoners.

This is a 700-page tome that could have been told in less pages but moves along at a reasonable pace. Not as titillating as the Mr. Mercedes series (which I previously reviewed), it is an interesting commentary on the human condition and relationships. Perhaps writing a book with one’s son brings out the soft touch in an author.

Don’t misunderstand me, there is still plenty of bloodshed and evil doing, but there just seems to be a gentler side to King’s storytelling these days.

Published: 2017
Publisher: Scribner

Elizabeth's rating: 3 stars