Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties

by Stephen King and Owen King

Overview: 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, a better place, where harmony prevails and conflict is rare.

One woman, the mysterious “Eve Black,” is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Eve a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain? Abandoned, left to their increasingly primal urges, the men divide into warring factions, some wanting to kill Eve, some to save her. Others exploit the chaos to wreak their own vengeance on new enemies. All turn to violence in a suddenly all-male world.

Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is a wildly provocative, gloriously dramatic father-son collaboration that feels particularly urgent and relevant today.

Olga Kane (02/11/18): “Sleeping Beauties” is another totally original story by Stephen King, this time in collaboration with his son Owen. This is a book written for women, although it is somewhat rare in that men will also enjoy it. The central focus of the story is a women’s correctional institution in fictitious “Dooling County”. Many of the characters, and much of the action centers around this prison and the surrounding town, although this is an “apocalyptic” story, in that it affects the entire world.

The premise is that, beginning with a certain moment in our present time, something starts happening to women all over the world the moment they go to sleep. Silk-like threads begin to ooze from their skin, wrapping them in a cocoon, which completely cuts them off from our world. They do not wake up from this, and, if they are forcibly awakened, or the cocoon is damaged or removed, they turn into violent, murderous zombies.

As people all over the world try to cope with what is happening, it emerges that there is one woman in the town of Dooling, of all in the world, who sleeps and then wakes up. Her name is, poetically, Eve. She is arrested, and is detained in the prison. Is Eve a demon or an angel? A struggle ensues to liberate her from the jail so that this might be determined. Those in control of the prison think she must be protected from that, because they believe fear will eventually cause people to kill her.

The women awaken in a Dooling in which some disaster has taken place, perhaps a few decades in the future. The reader eventually realizes that these are their essential spirits, existing in some kind of parallel dimension, and after they get past their disorientation, they begin to rebuild their society, albeit one with no men. These women remember their pasts, and many of them long for their old lives, but for many, there is a certain level of contentment. There is no one here, no males, to hurt them or abuse them. Occasionally, someone will literally disintegrate into smoke; if their physical bodies are damaged or destroyed back in “our” world, they cease to exist. Ultimately, a decision must be made on which the entire future of the world hinges. You’ll have to read the book to see how that turns out.

As usual, King (or, in this case, both Kings) writes long, but in Technicolor. Stephen King is a master of this, in that this depth is not boring detail for its own sake. Rather, it is exactly what is needed to paint a truly vivid picture in the mind of the reader of what is taking place. The characters, even the minor ones, are given depth. As in all of King’s novels, the protagonists, you feel you know. This is a great read, because (but not only because) it deals with a lot of issues with which women will identify: sexual abuse by men in positions of power, violence, and their role as nurturers. If you think men cannot write about these issues intelligently and sensitively, here is evidence that you are wrong. The Kings have done an excellent job here; the book is totally readable and very real. Highly recommended.
Rating: *****

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