Release Date: 26th September 2017
In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?
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. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.
I was a little hesitant going into this book considering the plot and the fact it was written by two men. Nevertheless, I tore through this chunk of a book in a couple of days after buying it as a treat for getting through a rough few weeks. It provided the escapism and King-ness I wanted from it – double King-ness in fact! I’ve never read anything from Owen King so I can’t say how much of his style was put into the book but this read like classic Stephen King.
‘”I shall pay for these another day,” she said. And, as Mary assisted her to her feet: “Thank you. I shop here all the time, and some of these people are my neighbours, but I don’t know any of them tonight.”‘
What I love most about his books are the elements of survival in dystopic worlds and how people react to disaster. It was very present here, as it was in Under The Dome and The Stand. I’d say I love it more than the horror in his books. It’s just so interesting seeing how different people behave when thrust into supernatural, dangerous situations.
As with any King book, a lot of the characters are unlikeable and extremely flawed. Sleeping Beauties makes a point of a lot of these unlikeable characters being men, and that was great. I got the impression that the book wasn’t endorsing what they were doing and their misogynistic viewpoints, but it was kind of poking fun at them? I interpreted the tone of some of the POV from the men to be subtly mocking, which I thought was hilarious, especially during internal monologues from men talking about how hard their life is but at least women are around to cater to their every need!
The main woman in this book is Evie, and I love her. She’s either based upon, or an embodiment of the Eve from the Bible (which I’m not sure where I stand on, considering the disease spreads through the entire world, not just Christian countries and people) and is basically the powerful, snarky bitch I wanted from this book. She has goddess-level magic and mystery.
However, the book does have issues, especially with this awfully ableist passage:
‘What reason did insane people have to worry? Crazy reasons, probably, though in his fantasy of madness, Frank liked to imagine it was simpler. Do I pour the milk and cereal over my head, or do I pour it all over the mailbox? If you were bonkers, perhaps that was a stressful situation.’
It then goes on to say that he (Frank Greary) has real problems, i.e. his wife has left him because he’s an abusive arsehole. Yes, it can be argued that it was put in there to emphasise how much of a shitty person he is, but I don’t think adding unchallenged ableism is really necessary given how he is already established as a terrible person because of how he treats his wife and daughter.
The construction of Greary himself is also a little problematic, as he is one of the few explicitly mentioned (if, any?) black characters, and he is portrayed as uncontrollably violent and aggressive. Do with that what you will.
There is also the issue of the erasure of trans people in this world. Ana Mardoll’s thread is much better than anything I, as a cis woman, can write on this issue so I encourage you to give it a read.
Despite these issues, it would be disingenuous for me to say I didn’t enjoy the book. It was genuinely entertaining and gave me the thrill that Stephen King’s books always do. It has also given me a lot to think about, both good and bad.
Have you read Sleeping Beauties? If so, let me know in the comments and we can discuss!
Thanks for reading, lovelies.
See you in the next one!