A horror/fantasy novel about a rural Appalachian town, whose primary employer is a women's prison, dealing with the global pandemic of sleeping sickness that has affected only women--with terrifying results.
Sleeping Beauties is the first published collaboration between father and son. Whatever the co-writing process might have been, it produced a seamless, scary and satisfying story ... In Sleeping Beauties, the dynamics of male-female relationships are at the core of the disaster. What the men left behind must do is interpret what Aurora means. What caused the outbreak? What happens to the women while they sleep? Will they ever return? And what will happen if they do? ... Sleeping Beauties has myriad subplots, all reverberating with that theme of gender relationships, and a large cast — the character list at the beginning of the book is 3 ½ pages long. But the Kings keep all that machinery running fast and smooth, creating an all-too-credible picture of a world engulfed by a disaster for which absolutely no one is prepared ... Despite its 702 pages, I rushed through it headlong. Next time you're looking for a way to distract yourself from a potentially apocalyptic hurricane, try a totally apocalyptic novel. It worked for me.
...a bulging, colourful epic; a super-sized happy meal, liberally salted with supporting characters and garnished with splashes of arterial ketchup ... In framing small-town America as the microcosm of a single-sex planet, Sleeping Beauties could be the Y-chromosome sibling to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, in which three explorers gatecrash a feminist utopia. But devotees of King Sr will find more familiar echoes here, too ... Sleeping Beauties is at its most satisfying during its breakneck opening half, as the crisis takes hold, before the allegorical baggage piles up. One of King Sr’s great strengths as a writer is his mastery of the milieu of small-town USA, his uncanny ability to ventriloquise its inhabitants and keep his myriad pieces in play. His tale only falters when it doubles down on its premise, belatedly introducing a parallel Dooling, a shadow world for the sleeping women that is 'so much better than the old man-driven one' – although even here it manages to redeem itself. The denouement is ambiguous, elegantly open-ended. Assuming the two tribes can be reconciled, one is left with the sense that they are destined to remain at a distance ... perhaps it’s no accident that this epic feels so vital and fresh. Sleeping Beauties comes fuelled by a youthful vigour that King Sr hasn’t shown us in years.
Like Under the Dome, Sleeping Beauties is straightforwardly written. There are no long, dreamy passages in italics here. That’s the good news; the less happy news is that this co-authored book is sleepy in its own right. It too has a lot of characters, but very few of them spring to life, and many of them seem repetitive. Without speculating on what the father-son writing process was like, it feels as though some kind of politesse kept this 700-page book from being usefully tightened ... Sleeping Beauties will inevitably wind up on the screen somehow. Whoever adapts it will have to beef up the characters and deflect attention from the nonthrilling main theme ... What you may well come away thinking is: meh. For a book about resetting gender stereotypes, this one clings surprisingly tightly to them. Women are healers (though there are some tough customers here, thanks to the cast of law enforcers and prison inmates); men are either warriors or jerks who deserve to die. Everyone who survives this story is a little nicer by the time it’s over, but the basics still apply. And for a book that separates the sexes, the sudden impossibility of heterosexual sex goes strangely unnoticed ... Stephen King didn’t become Stephen King by waffling this way.