What a book! All 700 pages of it!
This is Stephen King at his best, and with the collaboration of his son Owen King, Sleeping Beauties is a masterpiece of insidious evil, black comedy, the good, bad and ugly of human nature, plus brilliant plotting. When I picked up this heavy paperback tome, I nearly quailed at the size of it, but on further inspection, the book includes an extensive list of characters which I found a relief because there are plenty of them.
Now to the story itself; set in the small town of Dooling West Virginia, a strange virus is spreading through the town, including the local women’s prison. It enshrouds women in a strange cocoon of some unknown fibre. These women appear to be only sleeping as their vital signs show that they are still alive. Women succumb to this strange occurrence when they go to sleep, so women try with varying degrees of success to stay awake. But nobody can stay awake forever.
The event is also happening worldwide, and as the media shows, any tearing of the cocoon releases the woman from her sleep but turns her into a murderous killing machine. It is soon accepted that it is better for them to be left to sleep. But what of a world run only by men? The plot expertly delves into the characters and motives of those who are affected.
What is so compelling about this book is the development of the characters. The women’s prison is thrown into chaos as the chief warden succumbs to sleep leaving only a skeleton staff. The remaining women officers try to stay awake, but being in a near catatonic state cannot be relied on to make good decisions.
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The town itself undergoes a type of revolution. The townspeople themselves become the law and so the tension escalates as rumour has it that one of the women in the prison is responsible for what has happened to the town. Both of the Kings, father and son write the characters very finely. We are privy to motives of revenge and desire. Realising that a world without women is impossible, the men attempt to remedy the situation by fair means or foul.
This is where the cast of characters is very useful. From methamphetamine suppliers to crooked cops and female husband stabbers, the people on the pages are larger than life. It wouldn’t be a Stephen King book without a supernatural twist and this book does it all in a completely fresh way, bringing the wrath of nature into the equation there is also the possibility of it having a spiritual analogy.
I loved Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King. Stephen King is a unique genius on his own, but the collaboration with his son has bought a younger more vibrant tone. The plot is crazy but completely absorbing. The characters could be people we know and the outcome is not what you would expect. I read this book day and night so the 700 pages did not take me long at all. That could only happen from a book that holds my attention, and this one certainly did. Brilliant is a word I do not use lightly, but this book is brilliant. And I will never look at a moth the same way again. You will need to read the book to know why.
Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen King and Owen King, is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats from the publisher Hachette Australia. Click here for details