In the universe of Stephen King’s “Sleeping Beauties,” every woman in the world is captured in a enormous furry cocoon upon falling asleep, unable to wake up. Despite its promising premise, the only thing scary about the book is how difficult it is to follow, and how easy it is for the reader to fall asleep while reading.
Famous for his iconic plots in novels such as “The Shining,” and recent film success “It,” Stephen King is modern literature’s best known horror author. His newest novel, released a month before Halloween, was co-written by his son, Owen King. Despite the two authors working together, the novel fails to evoke any feelings of fear or an emotional connection to the characters.
The novel follows the story of the fictional town of Dooling, when one day a disease called “Aurora” sweeps the planet. Webs sprout out the face of every woman who falls asleep, threading cocoons around them. When the cocoons are broken or torn, the women inside wake up and become violent, engaging in a murderous rage. The sleeping women are then transported to an alternate, completely female world, leaving men to adapt to a world without women.
Seemingly as an attempt to make a statement about the damaging aspects of masculinity and the importance of women in society, King tells of an all male society unable to function peacefully. However, he instead spends chapter upon chapter describing the violent tendencies of men after the women fall asleep. Instead of emphasizing the importance of gender equality, King creates a world where men never fail to resort to violent means, and women are unable to stand up to their male oppressors.
King enforces the damaging idea that men are unable to show vulnerability or make logical decisions without resolving to guns and cursing. The women of the novel are portrayed as frustrated at the shameful behavior of their male counterparts, but unable to have any independence of their own.
Out of the whopping 702 pages the father-son pair used to write the novel, less than half seemed necessary to tell the story. Despite the book’s excessive length, King is still unable to provide enough information to distinguish individual characters and create meaning out of the various subplots worked into the book. With a barrage of over 30 characters, each with their own issues, it was nearly impossible to keep track of every police officer, prison inmate or random citizen affected by the disease.
With every introduction of a new character, the book seemed to become increasingly tedious, deviating from the action and terror of the disease ravaged world to complications between minor characters that are completely irrelevant to the plot.
Unable to keep its readers intrigued, King’s novel leaves readers frustrated with its inability to create a coherent storyline, as well as its damaging portrayal of gender roles.