What would happen in a world without women? Lucky for us, Stephen King and his son Owen King painted us a literary picture of that very scenario.
First let me say, could you imagine if Stephen King was your Dad? I would think that your whole life would be filled with stories and memories of all sorts of crazy wonderful ideas shared between you and your father. When I read that Owen King was writing a novel with his father, I was overjoyed! I thought, this book is going to be amazing! In the past when I am reading books by Mr. Stephen King (my favorite author), my only general complaint is that he has a bit of an editing problem. He tends to have an amazing premise that sometimes goes off the rails in the middle but luckily he usually brings his stories home at the end. I say that as a complete writing amateur and a huge fan of his so really that is just an opinion of mine. With that being said, I thought maybe Sleeping Beauties would be a bit tighter story wise with less extraneous details. I was wrong, but I am ok with that for the most part. This story was extremely detailed as is the case with all of King’s novels. Stephen and Owen gave us a full two page character list before the book even began and everyone had a part to play, even a fox and a family of rats. Seriously! This is going to be a long review (seeing as how the book was 702 pages!) with lots of great quotes and details so I ask that you please take the time to read the whole thing. Before I get started, here is a summary of the story in nutshell:
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, 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.
This book begins with a murder of some nasty men by a woman who is unnaturally strong. The police apprehend her walking down the street looking crazy and disheveled and the only name she will go by is Evie. Shortly after the book begins, a strange sickness affecting only women begins all around the world. Scientists, the media and the general public are calling it Aurora after Sleeping Beauty. Once a woman falls asleep, she is enshrouded in cocoon like material which she is able to breathe through but cannot be wakened without deadly consequences to whomever awakened her. All sorts of disasters begin occurring as women fall asleep including a plane crash! Side note: Have I mentioned how much I hate moths in previous posts? Haha, I can’t imagine why I would have. But in this book, moths are a main feature. The funniest thing happened when I was reading this late one night. I am sitting there reading an intense chapter, and a freaking moth flies right by my face! I literally jumped out off of the couch! Haha. Anyways…Evie brings moths wherever she goes, controls moths, uses them as ways to watch people, and the cocoons turn into moths when near a flame. Fun fact: A whole bunch of moths is called an eclipse! Another Fun Fact: Brown moths which are the ones in this book, are believed to bring sleep and dreams according to the Black Feet Indians.
As I was reading this book early on, a couple of things struck me as potential issues that would arise if all women went to sleep but were actually addressed at least partially as I continued to read: 1) I worried that even though the women showed signs of protecting themselves like we saw when their faces were exposed through their cocoons, would the same occur if they were sexually assaulted? 2) What about babies whose mothers went to sleep that didn’t have fathers or anyone else who knew to check on them? There was a cool loophole in the whole “don’t wake the women or they will kill you thing” that was added to the story which protected pre-adolescent boys who tried to wake their mothers. The moms would simply wake up enough to bring their kids to the nearest person, or just leave them outside. HAHA! The King Men certainly thought of everything when writing this book. Details I never would have thought to add like ways the women could stay awake. Drugs like speed and meth, pharmaceuticals like Adderall and Provigil, free coffee for all women at the local diner (plus they throw in free 32 milligram packets of caffeine powder). Women are exercising in the middle of town, Starbucks is still open at 2:45am and riots are breaking out at local shops over energy drinks. It’s like the apocalypse! Sheriff Lila Norcross and her husband Clint who is the Psychiatrist at the local women’s prison both immediately think ahead in the beginning of the crisis. The Sheriff tells her deputies to take inventory of the meth/speed/coke etc. type drugs and asks the pharmacists to be on alert and to use their discretion filling prescriptions like Adderall, Dexedrine and prescription meth (yes that’s a thing). Since the Sheriff is a woman, she is trying to get everything into place before she inevitably slips into sleep. She knows that being awake for too long will not only be difficult, it will make her a bit crazy towards the end.
As is the case in many of King’s stories, there are a few nasty characters. One in particular is a prison guard named Don Peters who likes to take advantage of and blackmail the female prisoners. He is a sick man whose twisted way of thinking is so warped it’s almost funny. He thinks women come on to him when in fact they try to avoid him like the plague. Frank Geary is the City of Doolings Animal Control Officer who has anger issues. Once his daughter is cocooned, he will stop at nothing to get her back. When the crux of the story happens and you begin to understand what the main point of it is, these are the guys who are on the bad side as predicted. They reminded me of characters like Big Jim Rennie from a previous book of Kings Under The Dome (Click Here To Purchase On Amazon). Same kind of bad guys who decide to take charge when the world around them is collapsing.
I don’t want to give too much away about Evie, our supernatural type character. She speaks through the animals like the fox who has his own chapters (genius) and she calls upon the rats in the prison to do things for her. She knows everything and can basically read peoples minds. Here are some facts and quotes with regards to this fascinating character:
When she visits the world on the other side of the world her brain gets scrambled.
“You see how complete the problem is? I think it might be time to erase the whole man-woman equation. Just hit delete and start over.”
Evie was around when the dinosaurs were on the planet.
“Just because I turned something on by myself doesn’t mean I can turn it off by myself but do you think angry frightened men would belive that?”
“Do you mean The Great Lesbian in the sky? A short, heavyset deity wearing a mauve pantsuit and sensible shoes? Isn’t that the image most men get when they think a woman is trying to run their lives?”
This book kind of boils down to what happens when women disappear, and the only way to get them back is for the men to behave in a way that is non-violent and peaceful. Is that possible? There is a great discussion to be had and is addressed in the book about how if the men were the ones to have fallen asleep instead of the women, then society could still function and go forward. Women are the ones who can pro-create and there is enough sperm frozen around the world (sorry to be so graphic) that really women could repopulate the planet if needed. Women have historically served as “coolies” restraining men at least when possible, from their very worst so when the women all go, the men would probably self destruct. There is a quote in the book says “Now it seems all the cookies are gone, or going. How long before men soon to be the only sex fall on each other with their guns and bombs and nuclear weapons? How long before the machine overheats and explodes?” In fact, many of the men commit suicide when this is all happening because they know that the world will end without the women.
I know it seems like I wrote a lot in this review, but I promise I have not spoiled anything. You have an awesome journey ahead of you if you choose to read this book. Stephen and Owen write so epically wonderful. I heard Stephen King saying that during the writing process they would each write parts and then collaborate on others. One would start a passage and the other would finish it so that they both wrote everything in a sense and one of their voices wasn’t stronger than the others. I would be interested to learn more about who thought up certain characters and whose ideas were whose, but I am sure that adds to the mystery and the fun of collaborating on a story.
Here are a couple more things I thought were very well written quotes and things that really resonated with me:
“Dead men don’t accept apologies. Not once in the history of the world.”
“Clint and Lila had gone out to the back porch, the overhead light turning them into actors on a stage.”
About a newborn baby…”He just cried and cried. She imagined that he hadn’t actually known what he wanted, but hoped maybe his mother might fix it for him. That was the hurtful part of motherhood. Not being able to fix what you couldn’t understand.”
“Hours are days…the world was being formed as if the surroundings of their existence was an act of collective imagination.”
“Men were taught (primarily by other men, of course) that they were to keep their pain to themselves. But she also knew that marriage was supposed to undo some of that teaching.”
“There was nothing like a pistol in a mans belt to make him feel like he had the right of way.”
“It was so undeniable like death was bright enough to scald your eyes, cool enough to go through your coat and your sweater and raise goose bumps along your skin.”
I hope you made it to the end of this loooong review (that was completely necessary I might add) to go with this loooong book. I gave it 5 Stars because once again Stephen King weaved an amazing original tale that was actually about a battle that has been the basis for stories told since the dawn of time when men were first created. I loved reading this and going along with the adventure it took me on. If I have one technical gripe it’s that I hate foreshadowing and that was done a bit in this book. That was a gripe I had when reading The Fireman (Click Here to Purchase On Amazon) by Stephens other son who writes under the name Joe Hill. I don’t read books to have what’s coming next spoiled for me and that’s what I feel like foreshadowing does.
Please let me know if you pick this as your next read and pleaaaasseee let me know what you thought when you finish.