Book Review: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

Sleeping Beauties is an insane thriller and it is also a father and son collaboration.  Owen King has written a few books by himself, but this time he teams up with his dad, Stephen King, to write a book about a fictional disease that affects women when they go to sleep.

Stephen and Owen work like mad men creating a world with a bizarre disease called the Aurora Sickness.

As the women sleep, a soft growth like the cocoon of a moth grows out of their mouths and covers their heads and the rest of their bodies.  But if you peel the cocoon off of their faces to get to them, the women go berserk and start killing people.

Making matters worse, little is known about the disease: How is it spread? Does a moth carry it?  Does it affect animals?

In Dooling County, a small women’s prison in the Appalachian Mountains, people are frightened because what you don’t know is more threatening than what you think you know.

The book begins with a meth lab blowing up and a woman known as the Avon Lady killing the meth cook by putting his head through the trailer wall.  Linny Mars, the desk dispatcher, takes the 911 call from a thoroughly freaked out Tiffany Jones.

At first Linny Mars doesn’t believe Tiffany Jones, but then she hears a boom in the background.  Linny asks Tiffany how they will be able to identify the Avon Lady, and Tiffany tells her that she’ll be the woman covered in the meth cook’s blood.

Linny alerts Deputy Lila Norcross who doubts the story until she sees smoke rising up near Adams Lumberyard.  

This book is full of twists and turns and women who are desperately trying to stay awake.  Fifty percent of the prison staff is female, and the male staff are always making unwanted sexual advances on the women.

Evie, a prisoner who can talk to animals, sleeps but does not seem to be affected by the Aurora Sickness.

Evie was arrested under the name of Eve Black after she blew up the meth lab where she killed the meth cook along with another man.

Stephen King and Owen King have been working together since Owen was a child. Growing up in a house full of writers, Stephen, Tabitha, Joe and Owen were all filled with word soul from a  young age.

At the kitchen table there was an ongoing story in which everyone took part.  Each person tried to leave the story in a place where it would take some verbal maneuvering to get the hero out of a seemingly impossible jam.

This ongoing game kept everyone in the house on their toes and helped them learn to build thrilling narratives.  The story drives the writer and the writer steers the story.  

Nothing is impossible in this story.  

There is a talking fox, a Mother Tree, and the mystery of why Eve Black is unaffected by the Aurora Sickness.

While the men in the story think of the webbing and sleeping women as sick and in the grips of a strange disease, it could it be just the opposite.  Why is it that when a person tries to strip the webbing from a woman’s face to wake her up, the woman reacts violently and slays the intruder as if they are invading a world where they are resting peacefully?

Owen King and Stephen King have come up with a dark fairy tale that seems to draw more from the original Sleeping Beauty than the Walt Disney version in which a kiss can bring the princess back to life. In the original tale, the princess is raped by a king who comes into her home after she doesn’t answer the door, and is awakened only after giving birth to twins.

Perhaps the women in the book are enjoying being in dreamland, rather than in a prison full of sexually predacious guards.

Sleeping Beauties, is an evil tale and it is another King Conspiracy.  You can find it at the Harvard Book Store, where I bought mine, or on the Internet.  This appears to be Owen King’s breakthrough novel and I am sure that Joe Hill, Owen’s brother, is excited that another member of his family has reached out to twist the minds of the American and European public.

Don’t miss this twisted tale by Owen and Stephen King.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper’s poetry editor.

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