Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King & Owen King

Synopsis: In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain?

Holly: Dooling, West Virginia. A small town that suddenly is taken over by a sleeping sickness called the Aurora Flu, named after the Disney princess, Sleeping Beauty. Because the victims are all conveniently female. They find themselves wrapped up in cocoons when they fall asleep. AND THEY CAN’T WAKE UP! Nor does one want to try to wake them, because that will result in a violent attack on the person doing so. So here we have human nature in the face of adversity in a small town that is under the influence of something.. not quite understood.

Under the Dome part two, in many ways.

This had all of the ingredients to make a delicious King novel. Intriguing storyline, sprawling page count, a small town populated by many (MANY) characters. Then throw in the fact Uncle Stevie worked with the younger King on this & you’ve got a bowl full of yum! That is, until you look a little closer & realize you mixed up the salt & the sugar (who actually does this? For serious? I think even a potato could tell the difference!) Maybe the milk has expired. Something is off. This.. ugh. This is not good. ::spits it out, tries to get the taste out of her mouth::

This was a fucking SLOG to get through! It took me at least 200 pages before I started to feel.. well, anything. Like I had mentioned to you Corey, I felt like it was missing the King magic that I love so much. Some of his sparkle! It lacks the page-turning intensity that we’ve grown to expect from him. Although there are many characters, none of them really came to life for me. I wasn’t that interested in any of them & in fact, they felt incredibly repetitive. Not only was this far too drawn out, but it often seemed choppy at times. I can only assume that is because of the collaboration between father & son.

Corey: Slog is the actual best word to describe this one. I mean…fuck. This was going to be it, right?! The epic King novel we got to read & review together. Like you said, it had all the elements we’ve come to know & love from Stephen King: that small town feel, huge cast of characters, the NEVER-ENDING page count. It was going to be EPIC!!! And this book was just…flat. Almost totally flat, the whole way through.

I think the lack of memorable characters is the biggest knock against this one, for sure. Out of them all (and there’s a shit-ton), it was Sheriff Lila Norcross I wanted to root for the most. But now, with some distance between me & this book….even she is just kind of fading from my memory. There’s certainly a lot of people in Sleeping Beauties, but not a lot of great characters.

I was really intrigued with the concept of Sleeping Beauties. It should have worked….it could have worked. And there was some imagery in this book that left an impression on me. But it just wasn’t enough. Like you said, Holly, it suffers from a sort of repetitive quality. And I know we both felt like this book could easily have been 200 (or more) pages shorter. I also feel like this was a book that was trying hard to say something…but I’m not completely sure what that was. The whole thing just kind of…happened.

Holly: I completely get what you are saying. For me, I felt like this book was trying *too* hard to be *all* the things. I am a loud & proud feminist, but fuck me. The gender politics in this book were over the top, yeah? All the men act within their own stereotypes. Violent, dumb cavemen, sexist, saviors. ME TARZAN! YOU JANE! That doesn’t help with equality any, King 1 & King 2!

It also doesn’t explore any deeper into gender binary, which is often the underlying topic to this story & how it damages society. And yet? What determines who is & isn’t a female? Is it just genitalia that this virus is attacking? Only people with a uterus & ovaries? What about trans men & women? What about intersex people? It is disappointing that this topic wasn’t handled better.

For a book that is trying so hard to go against the stereotypical gender dynamics, it hangs on a little too tightly to them. I mean.. even the hero of this story is male. Because of course.

Speaking of which, you brought up Lila & I have to agree with you that out of the (70?!) characters, she had the most potential (I also didn’t mind Jared in the beginning!) But instead, she ends up being the sidekick to her husband Clint. It does nothing to fight the stereotypes.. which is problematic, but especially when this is touted almost as a feminist manifesto. Sleeping Beauties isn’t some forward thinking story. It’s actually quite insultingly typical & highly clichéd.

I appreciate where Owen & Stephen were headed.. but this fell short in many regards, especially with that. I normally love how outspoken King is with his politics & how he uses his voice to bring awareness. This felt forced, however. I just feel as though every worn-out trope imaginable was used here & it was political just to be political.

Corey: You’re able to articulate all that in a way I never could, Holly. It’s like this book is striving incredibly hard to enlighten Constant Readers about feminism…but I’m not sure it ever does. It really does seem to perpetuate some of the basest stereotypes about both men & women, while trying to stay safe beneath the quasi-feminist exterior. And that’s a brilliant point you made: what exactly is this disease preying on? How is the Aurora Flu determining who is & isn’t woman? That’s a big leap they are asking us to take in this day & age.

You have to wonder just what the editing process is like for someone like Stephen King at this point. Beyond the fact that this book seems heavily bloated, couldn’t some of the issues we’re talking about have been picked up by another pair of eyes?

I think I tried putting too much of a positive spin on this book as I was reading, even after a ridiculous number of pages. I just kept waiting to flip a page and have things really take a turn for the better. And in the end, it is a readable book. Even if we weren’t reading & reviewing this for the blog, I would’ve never given up on it. But readable isn’t exactly high praise when Stephen King’s name is on the cover. We were expecting so much more out of this, and it was just a big fucking letdown.

Holly: I’m with you. I would never even CONSIDER quitting a Stephen King book. I just.. no. I couldn’t do it. Not ever. I will read anything that man puts on paper! Including his grocery list. (Which I bet is more interesting than this book.. ZING!)

This was such a tedious read, however. I’ve never said that about a King novel.. EVER. He’s written something like 18273 books, so the man is allowed to have a stinker or two. But goddamn. This was a snooze-fest. It just blows my mind that out of that massive list of characters, not one really stood out, or captured our hearts, or made us rage, or endeared us. Made us feel something. That’s incredibly disappointing, considering the kind of characters SK is known for.

Problematic gender dynamics, heavy-handed politics, a bogged down plot & empty characters, not to mention what seems like no fucks given towards editing. This father/son collaboration could have been a much better story with proper editing. I know it’s Stephen King & all, but come on people!

The cover may be pretty, but the story inside is incredibly sleepy.

YMMV, Constant Readers!

The Grimdragons Rating: 2.25 escapist gossamer webs out of 5!

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