This is by no means the strongest volume in the series (nor my favourite) -- think The Hobbit in comparison to the rest of The Lord of the Rings -- bu...moreThis is by no means the strongest volume in the series (nor my favourite) -- think The Hobbit in comparison to the rest of The Lord of the Rings -- but I gave it five stars anyway because it is the book that launched Roland on his unforgettable, addictive quest. It's a teaser, but absolutely integral to understanding everything that comes after. Don't miss that experience.
And my absolute favourite opening line (say it with me Constant Readers): The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. (less)
This is still one of my favourite King books -- a whimsical fairy tale set in a magical landscape; a Dark Tower for younger readers if you will. I cou...moreThis is still one of my favourite King books -- a whimsical fairy tale set in a magical landscape; a Dark Tower for younger readers if you will. I couldn't quite give it five stars this time around, since it's not as epic or grand as something like The Talisman, but my sheer enjoyment of the story has not diminished with the years. King weaves a truly engaging spell with this one, which prominently features the uber-villainous Flagg (who has shown up in many King novels, sometimes under other names, but always just as evil). This time he is the King's magician.
I just love the adventure here, and Peter's brave attempt to escape the Needle kept me breathless. While Shawshank will likely always be remembered as THE King prison escape story, there will always be a special place in my heart for the dramatic climax discovered in the pages of The Eyes of the Dragon.
In his introduction to Skeleton Crew, Stephen King writes: “a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and sa...moreMake you pee your pants scary!
In his introduction to Skeleton Crew, Stephen King writes: “a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and satisfying affair” whereas the short story “is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.” My literary proclivities definitely lean towards those long affairs. I don’t read a lot of short stories nor am I a fan of the format. At least give me a novella! Stephen King is one of only a handful of authors who can make me a believer in the beauty and effectiveness of the short story. For a man who has been lambasted for his “bloated” novels – King himself has referred to his condition as "literary elephantiasis" – he can still write a short story like nobody’s business. Stories that will stop your heart, chill your blood, and see the world in a new way.
King has written hundreds of short stories over his lifetime but for me none can quite compare to the ones collected here in Night Shift. The majority of these stories first appeared in the men’s magazine Cavalier, written before Carrie’s publication in 1974 and the gargantuan financial windfall that followed. King has talked quite a bit about what life was like before that watershed moment:
There were some hard, dark years before Carrie. We had two kids and no money. We rotated the bills, paying on different ones each month. I kept our car, an old Buick, going with duct tape and bailing wire….
There is a rawness in these stories that reflects the drive and hunger of a young man consumed with his craft. For me these stories burn bright and hot as if King wrote them in a fever. I can picture him now pounding them out on his wife’s Olivetti portable typewriter between the washer and dryer of their cramped trailer’s tiny laundry room. King didn't write these stories for the money, cash-strapped as he was with two small kids, he wrote them because he had to.
There’s another reason why I love the stories in this collection – they represent King’s early fascination / obsession / dedication to fear, to what haunts, creeps and crawls. King knows what scares us, because it scares him too. He gets it, it’s not a put on and these stories are as authentic as fear gets. In the introduction he writes:
The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never grab my ankle….No waking or dreaming…but only the voice of the writer….He’s telling you that you want to see the car accident, and yes, he’s right – you do. There’s a dead voice on the phone…something behind the walls of the old house that sounds bigger than a rat…movement at the foot of the cellar stairs. He wants you to see all of those things, and more; he wants you to put your hands on the shape under the sheet. And you want to put your hands there. Yes.
I think Poe and Lovecraft would agree.
For me, this collection contains some of the best examples of the modern horror story. King has tapped an artesian well of contemporary fears and anxieties penning macabre, ghoulish tales that deserve to be called classics. Not to be missed: “Children of the Corn”, “The Boogeyman”, “The Mangler”, “Strawberry Spring”, and “Quitter’s Inc.” My deepest thanks to King who was the first to convince me that sometimes even I, can be seduced by that quick kiss in the dark from a stranger. Oh yes. (less)