Sleeping Beauties — by Stephen King and Owen King
Sleeping Beauties — by Stephen King and Owen King (Gallery Books, 2017) [Photograph by Edith-Mary Smith]
The first novel by Stephen King that I chanced upon and read some years ago was Salem’s Lot—a book about vampires. It was written well before vampires came back into fashion and I loved it.
Salem’s Lot was the first novel that King wrote and the second novel of his to be published. Carrie was the first to be published, and I loved it, too, and have been a fan of King’s ever since.
His recent book, Sleeping Beauties, is co-written with King’s son, Owen King and does not disappoint. One cannot help being drawn in by the first line of the back-cover pitch: “IN A FUTURE so real and near it might be now, . . .”
The premise is simple and devastating: Women across the world (all of them!) do not awake after they fall asleep.
Is humanity being punished by a vengeful God? Is what is happening a witch’s curse? Is it a virus of some kind?
Whatever it is, the public start calling it Aurora, after Princess Aurora in the folk tale, Sleeping Beauty.
The plot of this fast-paced thriller is centred in a women’s prison (where else?). It stars two key women (both desperate to stay awake!). One is Janice Coates, the head warden of the Dooling Correctional Facility for Women. The second woman is Lila Norcross, who is the local sheriff. The leading male character is the prison psychiatrist. His name is Dr. Clinton Norcross and he is the husband of the sheriff. (It is easy to keep track of who’s who but, in case you have trouble, the Kings have thoughtfully provided a list.)
Key to the story is the one woman in the world who is able sleep and then, afterwards, wake up as usual. Her name is Eve. (Think ‘Garden of Eden.’) She is mysterious, perhaps supernatural, perhaps a witch. She has magical powers.
She has a piece of advice for women everywhere: “You better kiss your man before you go to sleep. You better kiss him goodbye while you still have the chance.”