Anthony's Reviews > Night Shift

Night Shift by Stephen King
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Feb 18, 11

bookshelves: halloween-reads, short-story-collections
Read in June, 2009 — I own a copy

There are certain horror authors whose work you expect to feel like it is from a different time ... because it is. Whether it's Stoker, Poe and Hawthorne (1800s), or even Lovecraft (early 1900s), you expect the stories to feel less current. That's usually part of the charm. The stories are still scary, but they feel almost quaint or antiquated.

What surprised me about rereading Stephen King's first short story collection was how that feeling of a different time crops up. Again, the stories are still scary, but they do feel somewhat dated. Several of the stories involve being cut-off from the rest of the world, communication-wise, and it's startling -- at least once I found myself thinking 'just pick up the cell-phone ... oh wait. 1978. Right.' 1978 is not that long ago, but the world has changed a lot, especially in terms of the way we keep in touch. King has always been a master of that sense of desolation, and it fills stories like "Children of the Corn," "One For The Road," and "Trucks." But thirty years later, are there any places left in the contiguous 48 states that are as cut off from the rest of the country as the cornfields of Nebraska, or winter-bound Maine, or a lonely truck stop on an unnamed but wide-open interstate, were in 1978? I'm not sure. And that's why the stories feel a bit antiquated despite the fact that Children of the Corn and One For The Road still scare the hell out of me.

While I like almost the entire collection, my favorite stories are "One For The Road," "Jerusalem's Lot" (which is actually set in the days of Poe and Hawthorne and proves that a sense of antiquation does not diminish the sense of fear), "Children of the Corn," and "I Know What You Need" are my favorites. The only stories that somewhat disappoint are "I Am The Doorway," "The Mangler," and "Battleground."

I also think "The Last Rung On The Ladder" and "The Woman In The Room" affected me more now than they did when I first read this collection back in the early 80s. They are not horror stories, not even thrillers really ... which at the time was a major departure for King, presaging stories like "The Body" and "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption."
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