Some call her a witch, others a goddess. The rats do her bidding and she has eyes everywhere. She will know everything about you before you’ve even met. But none of these characteristics are the strangest thing about Evie Black: when she falls asleep, she will wake up again. In a world swept up by the Aurora, she is the most enigmatic piece of the puzzle. And she has been hidden away in the Dooling Correctional Facility for Women.
Reports of women falling asleep inside cocoons have been broadcast worldwide by the time the citizens of Dooling County start their morning. Civilians are strongly advised not to try waking up their loved ones; even slightly tearing the gauzy material has violent consequences. This is a lesson harshly learned for those who didn’t turn on the television with their morning brew. Anton Dubeck, pool servicing entrepreneur and local homewrecker, ripped the cocoon off of his mother only to get his head completely bashed in by her feral subconsciousness, and he’s not the only one.
Word-of-mouth instills panic faster than any news broadcast in a small town. The bloodier the situation in Dooling got, the more frenzied everyone became. Caffeine, drugs, and every other possible “wake-up” method were being used to keep the women awake for as long as possible. Superstores and pharmacies were ransacked for anything that could help. But what’s the point in holding off the inevitable? It isn’t long before most of the women fall asleep, their bodies secreting the strange substance that will cocoon them where they lay.
The men of Dooling County have good reason to believe Evie is the orchestrator of the dubbed “Aurora Sickness”, but when asked, she only ever claims to be an emissary: the linchpin of a plan larger than herself. Her arrival is, ironically, a wake-up call for all of humanity, and she has set this backwater Appalachian town as the stage to present an ultimatum.
Rebirth or rebuild.
A collaboration between renowned horror writer Stephen King and his son, Owen King, an established writer in his own right, Sleeping Beauties is a multi-layered narrative composed of differing perspectives, interrelational conflict, and lasting consequences. The authors blend wit and memorability into their descriptions and character interactions, making the reader forget they are holding on to 700-pages of text and not experiencing these events themselves.
As I previously hadn’t read anything by Stephen King, I have nothing to compare this father-son collaboration to in order to see how Stephen’s writing differs. What I can say is that the narrative is seamless. It’s quite clear that both writers knew what they wanted and were on the same page.
Being more of a thriller novel than a classic horror case, most of the terror in regards to the Aurora Sickness is presented in the first part of the novel, which readers quickly become used to as the story progresses. Thrill and apprehension were the driving sensations of my experience, even at parts where I knew what was coming.
And small towns are perfect, secluded backdrops that allow a writer to block out the rest of the world and focus on their storytelling. Sometimes establishing the simplest setting is the perfect canvas for in-depth exploration into a more complex narrative. In Sleeping Beauties, the King writers used this to their advantage to piece together their fictional county. While Dooling County is nothing special or memorable itself, through the events of the Aurora it is transformed into a fairytale-esque landscape, with Dooling Correctional as the dragon’s keep.
Although the title of the novel and the Aurora Sickness allude to the story of “Sleeping Beauty”, the reader is not rewarded with a fairytale finale. The conclusion is abruptly realistic after reading through the novel as if in a fever dream, and despite not being what I personally hoped for, it hits home.
There is no happy ending, but it is not necessarily a bad one either. As with all things in life, it simply is what it is. Take it or leave it, but move on; a lesson both the men and women of Dooling County harshly learned.
Interested in reading Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King? You can find it at Chapters and other bookstores in your area, as well as your local library.
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Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.