Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

‘The moth makes Evie laugh.’

Something strange seems to be happening in the world. First, Evie emerges from a tree trunk in a cloud of moths. As readers soon discover, Evie is both intriguing and powerful. Evie is soon arrested by the police (you’ll find out why, if you read the novel). And while the police are responding to the presence of Evie, something strange is happening when women go to sleep. Once asleep, the women become enshrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. And no, they can’t be woken up. Any attempt to do so will be met with violence. Fatal violence.

As the women come to realise this, many of them take whatever measures (legal or otherwise) to prevent falling asleep. While this sleeping disease is global, and only affects women, it doesn’t seem to affect Evie.

The novel, co-authored by Stephen King and his son Owen, is centred around a women’s prison in Appalachia. This is the prison to which Evie is transported, and many of the characters we meet in the story have important roles to play. While the cause of the sleeping sickness remains in the supernatural realm along with Evie, the effects become clear. What will men do in a world without women? The women themselves may be asleep in this world, but in another world, they are not. Some of the men want to kill Evie, others think she should be studied. Dr Clint Norcross, the prison psychiatrist thinks Evie needs to be defended. The stage is set for a battle.

This novel is over 700 pages, and while it mostly held my attention, I was frustrated by the time I reached the end. Frustrated because, in my reading, the novel was longer than it needed to be. Frustrated because I didn’t find the ending particularly satisfying. I guess I was expecting something different, something more definite. Or was I? Maybe compromise is always the outcome.

If you are looking to lose yourself in a 700+ page novel, to escape into a differently weird world with a huge cast of characters, then you may enjoy this more than I did. There are plenty of questions to ponder, just not very many answers.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith