Stephen King is one of my all-time favourite horror writers, so consider yourself pre-warned that I am not walking into this review with an open mind. I picked up this book expecting to love it and I did.
I suppose that makes this blog more a rave than a review?
I’m not blind to the book’s faults, but as with most of my reviews, I prefer to write about what I liked as opposed to what I wasn’t keen on. Quite frankly there are enough reviews out there that discuss faults, some fairly and others less so, so I’m going to continue to sit here in my corner of positivity.
Today I will be looking at Sleeping Beauties, the bloody huge story by Stephen King and his boy, Owen King.
Plot Summary – Here be spoilers.
The story opens on a murder, two meth dealer/makers are killed by a woman. Pretty horribly as well, she beats them both to death and sets fire to the lab. This immediately illustrates that something is wrong, for while women do murder it is almost unheard of for a woman to do so via brutal beating. You already know something is wrong with this woman, more wrong than just the fact she’s a murderer.
Meanwhile, stories of sickness are spreading, women are falling asleep and becoming cocooned in a strange material, and anyone who tries to open the cacoon gets killed via the sleeping women going homicidal.
A local psychiatrist notices this happening to the women at the prison he works at. It is also noticed that this only started happening when the lady from the beginning of the book is incarcerated there. As the disease spreads women all over start to freak out and are trying to avoid sleep.
We then move to a character I nicknamed ‘asshole’, my reasons for this will become apparent soon. Asshole drugs a woman he’s arguing with, with sleeping pills, forcing her to lose consciousness despite the sickness that is rapidly spreading.
Murder-lady announces to our resident prison psychiatrist that she is an emissary. A creature sent to create a world where there are only women, cause women will never make a society with war, abuse etc. This instantly irritated me, as I’m sure it was supposed to. The idea that such a society could ever work, and would be better than our current society is a disservice not only to men but women also. This also shows how the book is something of a social commentary, looking into a very extream version of gender superiority. Murder-lady confirms that she is the cause of the disease and as long as she is kept safe she promises to cure the ladies afflicted in a week or so.
People continue to panic and be assholes, but while that is going on the women who are asleep wake up in another dimension. They start forming a society, at this point in the book I was half expecting some Lord of the Flies nonsense, but not quite, at least not completely. The ladies find a tree which allows then to jump back and forth between the real world and their “women only” dimension, one of the ladies tries to burn the tree and in a showdown, one of the ladies is killed.
In the real world, Murder-lady is under attack by the town who think she can fix everything. Things get out of hand very quickly, especially when the bazookas turn up. Fifteen women are killed when parts of the prison explode. Murder-lady makes her point that men are violent, completely ignoring the fact she beat people to death at the beginning of the book and has been putting women to sleep and turning those sleeping women into homicidal monster’s if they are disturbed.
Murder-Lady is allowed to live and go back to the other dimension and she gives the women there the option to stay or come home. Everyone goes home.
What I liked
There was a lot in this story that should have made me angry, the whole concept of “if men didn’t exist then the world would be sunshine and lollypops” is a personal bugbear of mine. I hate this idea, mostly cause its rubbish, people are people no matter race, gender or any other defining characteristic, some will be assholes and some won’t, that’s just the way it is. I liked that the book made this point, the fact that our main male character was not an asshole, nor was he violent, hell his job was helping people with their emotional problems (a normally feminine trope) and the fact that the supposedly peaceful women tried to burn down the tree (violence!) and also turned into murder machines if their sleep was disturbed (although that wasn’ really their fault) was a nice contrast. The fact that our main human female lead kills someone, admittedly by accident, shows that women can be just as violent as men. Making murder lady a hypocrite made me smile. I would have liked it if the ladies eutopia had gone all Lord of the Flies but I suppose that would have been pretty heavy-handed and blatantly obvious.
The characters, as always, were good, well written fully dimensional people with flaws and strengths. No one was all good or all evil, they were just people. Even the assholes in the story, one of which I really wanted to punch in the face (see violence) was angry and scared, that doesn’t excuse his behaviour and in my view, he acted as the “this is what murder lady thinks all men are like” trope. But even he had his moments of, while not sympathy, at least understanding.
Overall, I really liked this story, it was heavy going at times and was bloody long as hell (yay) but I would recommend it strongly.