Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties - Stephen King, Owen King While I don’t necessarily agree with other reviewers who disparage Stephen King’s latest release, Sleeping Beauties (co-authored with his son, Owen), I do agree that King has had trouble recently re-capturing the brilliance of his earlier works. I don’t know if that is because he has been so prolific that new ideas cannot come quickly enough, or if his “constant”readers have become jaded over the years. Whereas King was once a pioneer in the horror genre, many inferior copycats have perhaps stolen some of the magic. Sleeping Beauties is your standard King novel- filled with his signature realism and nonchalant acceptance of the fantastic. A slow build leads up to a cinematic finish that already screams out for a screenplay adaptation or (heaven forbid) another disappointing tv miniseries. As a clever retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, the plot centers around a mysterious illness (spell?) that is causing the women of the world to fall into a comatose state. As more and more of them fall asleep, the remaining men are conflicted about how to handle the catastrophe. Needless to say, there are many themes to explore here about power dynamics and stereotypical gender “characteristics.” King and son do an admirable job handling the variety of responses without tripping too quickly over potential controversial landmines. Many negative comments have centered around the length and number of characters in this book. I think of this as a response to the Game of Thrones Phenomenon: the more characters you introduce, the more casually you can kill them off. Even ones that seem to have been carefully crafted and pivotal are not safe from the grinding churn of events. It is a challenge to keep track of everyone, but the large cast provides for more plot twist possibilities and a greater feeling of immersion in the action. In my opinion, there is enough new here to satisfy ardent fans, but readers new to King would benefit greatly by exploring one of his earlier works before tackling this one.