Sleeping Beauties

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Sleeping Beauties Mystery & Suspense

4 out of 5 stars

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4 out of 5

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  • I Licked Boom Town

    4 out of 5

    Written by , Posted on at 12:47:39 PM

    In collaboration with his youngest son, Mr. King returns to a familiar plotline: a small town isolated from the outside world while being besieged by a baffling supernatural force. However, the story opens up unexpectedly by starting the phenomenon halfway around the world and causing it to spread globally. What draws me into this novel is that Mr. King reiterates a recurrent theme that subtly permeates many of his other novels: the female as a strong, unstoppable force. In “Carrie”, “Misery”, “Gerald’s Game”, “Rose Madder”, “It”, “Under the Dome” and “Dolores Claiborne”, women rise up against almost insurmountable odds to pit themselves against monsters…or monstrous men. “Sleeping Beauties” epitomizes this as various women fall prey to a mysterious sleep, one that cloaks them in webbing. The webbing can be pierced and easily removed but to do so spurs the sleepers to violent, murderous attack, with men being the primary victims. The story winds its way on various fronts, as is Mr. King’s wont in his small-town settings. The myriad characters are tellingly laid out, their individual thoughts, emotions and psychological underpinnings laid spread wide for the reader, sometimes in truly ugly detail. Set in the center of it all is Evie Black, a mythical figure who has let herself be locked up in a women’s prison. She is secretly monitoring and manipulating events from within (which makes this novel glaringly reminiscent of the setting for Mr. King’s tv miniseries, “Storm of the Century”). No one is quite sure who or what Evie is, only that she’s not quite of this world, she appears to have superpowers (levitation and mind reading, et al.) and she is the only woman who can sleep and wake without succumbing to webbing or coma. The story doesn’t have the visceral horror that many of Stephen King’s novels do. There is plenty of action, gore and violence but without the creeping sense of terror. What the writing does is dig into how society reacts when its basic underpinnings are yanked from underneath it. The women are being liberated and kept apart from men, in a way that the males can’t fight or accept. Even rape attempts are disastrous. The males can’t seem to cope with their womenfolk gone. They ache for sexual contact; they worry what will happen when no more babies can be born; they are almost laughingly inept at keeping fed, ironing, washing dishes, cleaning messes or otherwise taking care of themselves without the women to handle such menial tasks. The somnolent ladies, on the other hand, trapped in a decrepit but functioning Herland, rally themselves with remarkable efficiency, intelligence and resilience to craft a working society. They manage without the men, without bickering, hostility, yelling and aggression to get work done. As one woman notes, in this place, a young girl can walk home late at night without worrying that some pervert is going to attack her. The novel is a feminist tract but a highly entertaining one, with the two Kings speculating on just how a world without women would react. The final denouement is astonishing, a triumph of human intelligence in the face of temptation. The surprising solution comes not from the women but from the men. It provides glimmers of hope that you don’t often find at the resolution of King horror novels. In those novels, you sometimes get a sense of tired relief: the disaster is over; now we have to clean up this mess and get on with our lives. This one has a cautionary note yet sings with quiet triumph. The world is being restructured; humanity is given a second chance. We have been warned.