Michael's Reviews > Just After Sunset

Just After Sunset by Stephen King
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's review
Dec 08, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2008
Read in December, 2008

I love Stephen King stories. There are lots of authors I read, but few that I am as eager to consume as any new work by King (Elizabeth George is a close second). Any new offering by King is a cause for celebration for me.

"Just After Sunset" is King's latest collection of short stories, written over a period of about two years. Thematically, several of the stories look at what happens to us in the moments and years after we shuffle off this mortal coil and several of them are heavily impacted by the real-life horrors of 9/11. No, King doesn't take advantage or exploit the day for commercial gain. Instead, he examines the implications on those left behind in the wake of the tragedy. One haunting story finds a man who was running late the morning of 9/11 and who worked in the Twin Towers, finding objects from his lost office and co-workers turning up in is apartment. He tries to get rid of them, but they keep returning to him. He then decides he has to bring them to the families to offer those families a bit of closure--even if it's from something as out there as a novelty ice cube or a whoopie cushion.

Another story finds a widow being able to connect with her husband who dies in a plane crash. The husband was calling on his cell phone as the plane went down and now finds himself in a limbo, waiting area. His phone is slowly dying and he laments he didn't take the time to charge it the night before in order to be able to talk longer before he passes onward. The story doesn't say or really imply that it's related to any of the crashes of 9/11, but it's hard not to read that into any story about a plane crash after that fateful day.

As always, the strength of King's stories is their grounding in reality with strong characters reacting in authentic ways to bizarre and supernatural circumstances. King has, in my mind, long since moved out of the realm of a simple horror novelist and inhabits a place as simply a great storyteller. Yes, he can and does tap into some of the more twisted and bizarre visions or our time, but he always does so in such a way as to make the stories work and feel real, even when the supernatural element is turned up to the n-th degree. These stories are about death--as is a lot of King's work--and how we react to it.

Will we be like "The Gingerbread Girl" who flees from life in the wake of the death of her child? She literally begins running away from the problem before come face to face with an even greater evil and horror that snaps her back into survival mode and where she finds the will to live. Or will we be like those who ghosts who have died, inhabiting a strange camp and dance hall, going through the same motions over and over again, denying that we've left this mortal coil and refusing to embrace or accept what can or does come next?

It's not to say that every story in this collection is perfect. Some work better than others and there are one or two stories that just didn't connect with me and enthrall me as much as I'd hoped. But in a collection of short stories, odds are that is going to happen. But when King is on in this collection, his stories are as compelling and engrossing as any author out there today.
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11/28 page 148
03/23 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Mary JL I am a King fan also Michael, so I am looking forward to this one. Thanks for the review.

message 2: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle You described King's work exactly like I do. Glad I'm not the only one who sees it that way.

Michael Michelle wrote: "You described King's work exactly like I do. Glad I'm not the only one who sees it that way."

Thank you for the kind words!

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