Librarian's Note: Alternate-cover edition for ISBN 0751504386
In a bumper collection of truly chilling tales, we meet Gramma - who only wanted to hug little George, even after she was dead; The Raft - a primeval sea creature with an insatiable appetite; The Monkey - an innocent-looking toy with sinister powers; the unspeakable horror of The Mist. And there is a gruesome host of other stories, each with the distinctive blend of unimaginable terror and realism that typifies King's writing.
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.
Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.
He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.
Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.
In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.
I love his short stories, although the quality and style are varying, best to see when comparing publication date with probable intoxication.
The strange thing is, that there isn´t always the correlation of drug induced boo or jay and therefore the quality of the work, it´s more a result of King´s working method of letting the characters and his subconsciousness tell the story. This can go luckily well, average, or, rare exception and seen with pink fanboy goggles, average average, because there exists no bad in King´s work, ok?. Possibly, some really aren´t that great, maybe the ones the wrote in ultra stoned blackouts and can´t remember like the whole novel Cujo.
But seriously (of course not), I want to reread it and check the publication date before because there is this timeless debate about stoned inspiration, ingenuity, and creativity, and some of King's books were made when he was a multi drug using alcoholic, so… if you want to be successful. No, really, I am so looking towards reading all of his works and compare the pre drug era, the drug era, and the later periods and dissect what makes the difference.
I´ve read most of King´s short story collections and wouldn´t suggest beginning with this one, better take one of the later works where he was a sober, super professional, and talented writing prodigy.
If you are a picky reader, I would suggest checking the single ratings of the reviewers who are so ambitious to rate every single short story and thereby extract the best of the best, I honestly can´t remember which one´s were the most disturbing and mind penetrating, because I read it a while ago. Except „Survivor type“, because are an always perfect match made in hell. Yum, now I want to have a special snack and some mind altering substances.
Lots of King shorts, best of bunch being The Mist, which, by the way, is a lot better than the movie in my opinion. 8 out of 12.
Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, from Skeleton Crew is one of my favourite short stories - it is as this simple story that I found so compelling and delightfully dark, with Mrs Todd's obsession in finding the quickest route between two pints with something a but off-kilter about the journey. 10 out of 12!
The Jaunt - a story that I consider simply King's best ever sci-fi / horror short - a perfectly set-up, chilling 10 minute read! 10 out of 12!
“I stood there for a moment, first surveying the damage, then glancing out at the mist again. It seemed closer, but it was very hard to tell for sure. If it was closer, it was defying all the laws of nature, because the wind – a very gentle breeze – was against it. That, of course, was patently impossible. It was very, very white. The only thing I can compare it to would be fresh-fallen snow lying in dazzling contrast to the deep-blue brilliance of the winter sky. But snow reflects hundreds and hundreds of diamond points in the sun, and this peculiar fogbank, although bright and clean-looking, did not sparkle…[M]ist isn’t uncommon on clear days, but when there’s a lot of it, the suspended moisture almost always causes a rainbow. But there was no rainbow here…” - Stephen King, The Mist, featured in Skeleton Crew
When I imagine a Stephen King book in my mind, I am picturing a novel that can range in size from a brick (the mass market edition of The Stand) to a puppy (the hardcover edition of Under the Dome). I conjure memories of swollen word counts, massive backstories, and side-plot detours that can wander hundreds of pages away from the main storyline. More than anything, when I think of King’s vast body of work, I think of excess, in terms of gore, in terms of violence, in terms of sheer number of pages. And frankly, for as much as I sometimes grouse about King’s meandering tomes, that’s really what I love about him. There is something absolutely marvelous about getting entirely lost in a work such as It, where a simple good-evil concept is spun to lengths of which Tolstoy or Proust would have approved.
Yet for all that, King – according to his own recollections, found in the introduction to Carrie – started his career writing short stories and selling them to various print magazines for a few hundred bucks a pop. He’d get an idea – invariably weird – and then bang out a draft in a few days before sending it off to publications that no longer exist.
Normally, I don’t care much for short stories. It’s a personal taste, one that I can’t explain, except for the unsatisfied sensation of having something ending just at the point where I start becoming invested. Nevertheless, having made a small dent in King’s voluminous bibliography, I decided to check out some of his shorter works.
Skeleton Crew is a collection of twenty-two short stories originally published between 1980 and 1985. Even though many of the individual selections are pretty quick, the whole shebang – cover to cover – is over five-hundred pages long.
The headline selection in Skeleton Crew – and the reason I chose it in the first place – is The Mist. More of a novella than a short story, The Mist follows a group of people trapped in a supermarket after being surrounded by a fog hiding a deadly threat. It is quite good, with several top notch sequences. Still, I suggest that the movie version is vastly better, with its brutally unflinching, unforgettable ending. I suppose I couldn’t get over the fact that The Mist was both too long and too short. As part of a short story assemblage, it overstayed its welcome. At the same time, the concept is crackerjack, and with the potential inherent in a large cast of characters, I would have appreciated getting the full, big-novel treatment.
Even though I was interested mainly in The Mist, I decided – out of compulsion, really – to read the rest of the stories straight through. As I suppose is true of any such collection, no matter how skillfully curated – and Skeleton Crew feels pretty random at times – it is a mixed bag.
Surprisingly, my favorites tended to be more science-fiction than horror based. In Beachworld, two astronauts end up stranded on a desert planet that seems to be alive. Immediately, one of the astronauts starts going mad. Utilizing only a handful of pages, King is able to hint at a much larger – and potentially extremely interesting – universe surrounding his compact tale. In The Jaunt, King toys with the concepts of time, space, and teleportation, while providing a gruesome kicker of a denouement. It feels very much of a piece with The Twilight Zone, with the addition of King’s omnipresent willingness to take things too far.
King has always had a warped sense of humor, and that is certainly on display in many of Skeleton Crew’s stories. For instance, in Survivor Type, a drug-running doctor ends up on a deserted island. In a series of journal entries, he narrates his increasingly extreme efforts to fend off starvation.
Unfortunately, King also has certain unfortunate literary tricks and tics that appear and reappear so often they start to feel pathological. His handling of female characters, for instance, is extremely shaky, and often revolves around disapproving descriptions of a woman’s weight. When he’s not fat-shaming his women, King is positioning them as slutty temptresses or incessant henpeckers. A story like Word Processor of the Gods, about a struggling writer who has to put up with an overweight, nagging wife, simply doesn’t work anymore, if it ever worked at all. It is borderline cruel and feels like the wish fulfillment of an eternally self-centered misogynist.
This leads to another repeated theme, that of toxic masculinity. That particular term entered the lexicon around the time that King wrote these stories, but there is no indication that he was responding to concerns about the troubling actions of certain young men. To the contrary, in Skeleton Crew, there are several stories in which the protagonist is an entitled male filled with murderous impulses that we are implicitly nudged to cheer. One unredeemable selection features a college student shooting people from his dorm room. (Though this was published long before Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas, King was clearly inspired by Charles Whitman’s 1966 slaughter from atop the tower at the University of Texas-Austin). There is no point, except that it gives King the opportunity to vividly describe headshots and spattered brains. Another equally useless wallow in depravity follows an ex-college student’s vicious rampage, every murder painted with loving, leering care.
In my experience with King, the good and bad have always gone hand-in-hand. Even his best novels have problematic parts, or sections that have aged poorly. Usually, the good outweighs the bad, often by a wide margin. Skeleton Crew has a closer balance. Every story is readable, and even the worst-conceived of the lot are written with King’s underrated skills. Even when the underlying framework is deplorable, most of the stories are effortlessly entertaining. They are also a bit insidious. On nights that I had read Skeleton Crew, I noticed that my sleep was often disrupted by vivid and unsettling dreams. That Skeleton Crew managed to disrupt my dream life is a compliment of sorts.
With that said, the best stories in this assortment are not quite good enough to make you forget the rot seeping from the worst.
Stephen King is such a master storyteller. I’ve come to love him over the past few years, and I now count him among my favorite authors. I have to agree with the masses, however; King tends to fall flat when it comes to endings. Thankfully, that’s not really an issue when it comes to short stories. They’re not supposed to really end, which I think is a huge boon in King’s favor. As with Night Shift, the first of King’s short story collections I read, Skeleton Crew was chockfull of the interesting, terrifying, and uncomfortable. While not every story was a resounding success, there were far more hits among these twenty two installments than there were misses, and a handful of these stories will be staying with me for a good long while.
The first selection in this collection is one of King’s novellas, The Mist, my review of which you can read here. Beyond that, the stories that resonated the most with me were The Monkey, The Jaunt, Word Processor of the Gods, Nona, Survivor Type, The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet, Gramma, and The Reach. All of these stories I would have rated anywhere from 4 to 5 stars, which I think is a pretty high percentage for a short story collection. Some of these story were scary, while others were merely uncomfortable. Only one story actually gave me nightmares, and that was a tale of self-cannibalism that included not a single supernatural element. It was absolutely horrifying. Then there’s The Reach, which was a poignant way to close out the collection. Also, there were a handful of Castle Rock stories, which is always fun to come across if you’re one of King’s Constant Readers, which I’m beginning to consider myself. One thing that I think King should steer clear of though is poetry. There were two poems in this collection and they just didn’t land.
If you’ve never read Stephen King and would like to give his work a try, I cannot suggest highly enough picking up one of his short story collections. You’ll get a taste for his style, and there’s something about King’s storytelling in short form that I find a good deal scarier than some of his novels. Whether he’s spinning a tale that spans a dozen pages or more than a thousand, King is undoubtably the master of the horror genre, at least in my eyes. Long live the King!
“Life goes on - that's what I should have said. That's what you say to people when a loved one dies. But, thinking it over, I was glad I didn't. Because maybe that's what she was afraid of.”
How to describe the experience that is reading Skeleton Crew... The highs are high, and the lows... my god, are they low. A crazy collection where you get to see the best - and worst - of King’s work.
Let’s start with the positives. There are some FANTASTIC stories in here, such as The Jaunt, The Raft, Survivor Type, Gramma, Mrs Todd’s Shortcut, Word Processor of the Gods, The Monkey and so forth. These were all a joy to read (yes, even Survivor Type. I felt joy whilst simultaneously wanting to throw up) I also noticed that quite a few of the stories are set in the fall, with some beautiful atmospheric descriptions... bonus points for that!
Now the bad. Let’s forget about the stories themselves and talk about the depiction of women in some of these stories. They were either fat and disgusting or overly sexualised with detailed descriptions of breasts and legs. Now this does crop up every now and again in his older books, and it does irritate me - I think he has gotten better with time, thankfully - but it felt incredibly prominent in this collection. And that was off-putting. The story The Wedding Gig in particular just had me seething with rage.
Other stories that I simply hated or just found to be very lack-lustre, include the following: Beachworld, The Reaper’s Image, Cain Rose Up, Here There Be Tygers... and the poetry. I do not like King’s poetry. To borrow a term from Holly Gibney, it’s poopy.
Incase it isn’t evident from this review, Skeleton Crew was all over the place in terms of quality and storytelling. I just didn’t know what I was going to get next. But on the whole the INCREDIBLE outweighs the very bad... it’s worth it for those gems. 3 stars.
Skeleton Crew is my least favorite Stephen King story collection. Its not a bad collection, but something just felt off. The six stories I loved are probably some of my favorite Stephen King stories but the rest were just blah!
The Good: 1)The Raft is my favorite story in this collection. A group of friends on a raft find themselves being picked off by some mysterious black slug in the water. 2)Word Processor of the Gods. A man who hates his life discovers he can delete or add people and things in his life through his new Word Processor. 3)The Reapers Image is one of King's best stories period. As someone who actually has seen an inexplicable image in a mirror, I love scary stories involving mirrors. 4)Survivor Type is so disturbing that while I loved it, I will never read it again. A surgeon is stranded on a island and finds that one particular meat is tastier than the rest. 5)Uncle Otto's Truck, Stephen King loves a haunted car and I think this story is best of all of his haunted car stories. 6) Gramma I've heard or read this story before but I can't remember where. Gramma never dies.
I'm not going to go into detail on the bottom 3 because I just don't care enough. The Mist was a disappointment because I had such high hopes. The Wedding Gift was pointless and not funny in the least. Beachworld was boring.
Skeleton Crew is a good collection but with Stephen King I've come to expect greatness. If you love Stephen King I would still recommend this but for the casual King reader maybe skip it.
The Mist is one of my favorite short stories of all time, it's a real masterpiece. This story is fast paced, it pack a huge punch and every sentence is beautifully written. I think what is truly scary about this book other than the man crushing creatures is the way humanity falls apart and turn on each other in such a short space of time. It only takes on person to feed on trauma and distress and you have yourself a mini cult. Our characters are all so well done, love them or hate them you don't want to stop reading about them. It is one of the longer books in the collection but it's so easy to read.
The Monkey – 5 Stars
The Monkey is such a great little story it is very creepy, a creepy little monkey doll reeking havoc, no thank you. It is the sort of book that would have given me nightmares as a child, it's like Toy Story gone bad and I don't know if there is anything scarier than that. I also think the dad in this story had good character growth, we get a duel timeline so we see how he deals with the Monkey as a child and as an adult, and how the Monkey is still the monster in his nightmares. He tries to protect his own child from repeating the past too and it's a really good dynamic.
The Raft – 4.5 stars.
I HATE LaVerne in this book so much, you know she will get what's coming for her and I couldn't wait. This has that element of gore that I really enjoy from King, it isn't perfect for me because it isn't quite my type of horror. This book will definitely put you off swimming for a while if nothing else. The ending was ok with this one but it didn't blow me away.
Word Processor of the Gods – 4.5 stars
A Word Processor that changes reality – a little odd. When I first read this short story I remember thinking that it wouldn't be very scary. Having said that I ended up really loving it. It is one of those Stephen King books for me that as I am reading it I am thinking what the hell am I reading but as always I just can't put it down. I think this one also has a nice message and the character growth is nice too, it is about appreciating what you have in life and not knowing what you have until it's gone.
Survivor Type – 5 Stars
This one isn’t for the faint hearted and has some really nasty scenes where that will leave you recoiling and wincing. I recommend this one if you like a little more gore in your books as this has plenty. I think our main character is awesome too, awful but awesome. It isn't a character that grows on you and he doesn't have any development or growth but I loved hating him.
Gramma – 5 Stars For me this is the scariest book in the collection. It's about the fear of death essentially, the fear of old people, being alone and not being 'a man' or a grown up. Gramma, is one of those books were if you get it you get and if you don't you don't, for some people/children seeing a grandparent ill or old is nightmarishly scary and I sympathized with the main character so much. I felt an instant fear of Gramma, and as the story progresses it only gets scarier. This one is beautifully written and has the most amazing descriptions. Spine chilling.
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet – 3 stars
This is interesting because I gave this 4.5 stars when I first read it but this time around I didn't feel a connection too it. I found it too long and too unbelievable to be scary, this story dragged for me and it didn't give me any fear. It's weird. At it's core it is about insanity and how/why someone might so insane and though I usually enjoy books about the mind, this one just didn't do it for me. It is still ok though, but it doesn't stand up to the rest of the collection.
Here There Be Tygers - 3 stars
Too short to make me feel/think anything really.
The Jaunt - 4 stars
This is a little Sc-Fi, it's odd but really interesting it is scary too. There is little elements of gore which were really nicely done. Although a really good read in this collection it doesn't do all that much to stand out.
The Wedding Gigg - 3 stars
This is pretty good, has some nice messages and it's got quite a lot of action. It didn't manage to scare me or invoke any strong emotions from me which is why I have given it such a average rating. This has a heavy element of crime too which is enjoyable.
The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands - 4 stars
Somehow I don't remember reading this one....but it is really good. It's very intriguing and it keeps you guessing about what's going to happen until the last, there isn't lots of gore or frights in particular but its is weird and creepy in it's own way.
Nona - 3 stars
Nona is ok but it just wasn't my cup of tea, because this was a short story and not a full book we didn't get enough character development and I think for the plot line we really needed that development for this to be something special.
The Reach - 5 stars
This short story is just beautiful and that's the only way I can describe it. It isn't conventionally scary but it's haunting.
I could write full reviews about each short story in here....and there are a few I have missed out. The one's I have missed out with be the one's I don't have much to say about.
Overall this short story has some of the best short stories ever (in my opinion), there are some that don't quite hit the spot but as a whole this collection is incredible!
Still a strong collection! Not my favorite collection of King stories, not even close—just a bit too much filler for my taste—but the fact that I’m still giving this 4 stars says a lot about King’s mastery of the short form. But we all know this.
“The Reach” is still my favorite, the “Milkman” stories still baffle, and the biggest grower this time was “Uncle Otto’s Truck”… I actually liked it this time. Skeleton Crew is 1980s King. Come on.
I finished Skeleton Crew with tears in my eyes. I thought I'd read "The Reach" — the story that closes out this collection — before, but I guess I hadn't. It was an entirely new experience for me, and it packed quite the emotional wallop. As I write this review I'm still trying to mentally recover from that one, so pardon me if my thoughts are a little scattered. My Fornit died, and I'm stuck doing the job myself.
By the time this collection was published in 1985, Stephen King was a bona-fide literary rock star. His fame was gargantuan, beaten in size only by his addiction to dope and alcohol. According to the man himself, his study was the site of nightly parties for one, where the beer flowed and nose candy was always available. Yeah, King wasn't in a great state of mind for most of the eighties. He warns the reader in this book's introduction that the act of writing short stories hadn't gotten easier for him over the years — instead, it had gotten harder. Novel deadlines made it difficult to carve out time for shorter tales, and everything the man put into his Word Processor of the Gods wanted to be six hundred pages in length. If this reviewer is being honest, that's painfully apparent with this collection. A handful of the tales presented here should've never made it off the cutting room floor and several others could have been trimmed a bit. Most of what the reader is presented with is great (hence the four stars), but King overwrites like crazy here. That's my problem with a lot of his output from this decade — excess verbosity.
After the reliably folksy, mood-setting introduction to this collection from Sai King himself, things get rolling with "The Mist," the first (but not last) story in Skeleton Crew about ordinary people stranded and facing likely death, due to out-of-this-world circumstances. "The Mist" is a novella, and I always enjoy every word of it. Yeah, King overwrites in several places in this book . . . but this story ain't one of 'em. I have quite the fear of mist, thanks to this story. Other favorites of mine include "The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet," a delightfully paranoid story King could have never written before or after cocaine; "The Raft," which was my very favorite in this collection for a long time; The Monkey," a story that doesn't get as much love as it deserves; "The Reach," the previously mentioned story that moved me to tears; "The Jaunt," which, for my money, contains King's most haunting story ending yet; and "Cain Rose Up," a story that other reviewers like to rag on but I can't help but dig.
All that said, there are several stories here that should have gotten canned. "Here There Be Tygers" makes no sense and is downright gimmicky; the two "Milkman" stories also don't make much sense and go nowhere. "Uncle Otto's Truck," a story about (you guessed it) a haunted truck, feels worn out and old — King has touched on this theme so many times in his career. I also don't like "For Owen" at all, and "Paranoid: A Chant" should have been folded into "The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet" where it belongs. It's a shame this collection is somewhat weighed down by so many DOA entries, because there are several genuine classics here. This one just isn't very consistent, and if that's what you're looking for might I recommend Night Shift or Just After Sunset?
All in all, this is very much a collection worth checking out. It was released during King's "classic" period, so of course it's worth a purchase. The theme of external isolation and humanity's will to save itself is done really well in "The Mist," "Beachworld," "Survivor Type," and "The Raft." I also like this book's "Do you love?" motif — it makes this collection hang together much better than it probably should. This is definitely a strong read, and I will come back to my favorites for years to come.
(I tried to take actual notes for this one, as I knew there are connections to the King universe all over the place. I know I missed some, but here's what I caught while reading. Sorry my notes are a little scattered.)
P. 94 - David Clayton, our main character, thinks of a character as "looking like a crazy gunslinger in an existential comedy." It is theorized that The Shop is at least partially responsible for the mist. I could totally see that. I'm not sure if this is a connection or not, but when David and a few others make the courageous trek to the pharmacy next door, they encounter an "otherworldly" presence that takes the shape of a spider . . . though they know it's something more. Any relation to IT? Totally possible, as that book was published the following year.
"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut"
It takes place in Castle Rock, home of several King novels and short stories. P. 182 - Joe Camber of Cujo is mentioned. P. 186 - Haven gets a shout out!
"The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands"
This one could be could be seen as a spiritual successor to "The Breathing Method," even going so far as to reference that earlier novella. It revoles around the same, strange story-telling club that we first met in Different Seasons.
It takes place in Castle Rock, firmly placing it in the same universe as "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" as well as several other King stories. The narrator of "Nona" mentions once getting "messed up" by Ace Merrill, the local baddie — an antagonist in "The Body" and Needful Things. The narrator lets the reader know he grew up in Harlow, Maine — the setting of "N." and Revival. P. 347 — Vern Tessio of "The Body" gets a brief mention. Cool!
"Uncle Otto's Truck"
Both Derry and Castle Rock play an important role in this one.
P. 421 - Cora Simard and Henrietta Dodd are mentioned. George, the protagonist in "Gramma," listens to one of the ladies' phone conversations on a party line. Cora's daughter, Rhonda, was a student of Ewen High School and was among Carrie White's tormentors. Henrietta Dodd was the mother of Frank Dodd, as seen in The Dead Zone and mentioned in various other Castle Rock stories. Joe Camber gets another mention! This story takes place near Castle Rock in 1977-ish (I think), so before the major events of Carrie and Cujo. Hmm.
"The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet"
Least favorite story:
"Big Wheels: A Tale Of The Laundry Game (Milkman #2)"
“I sit on the bench in front of Bell's Market and think about Homer Buckland and about the beautiful girl who leaned over to open his door when he come down that path with the full red gasoline can in his right hand - she looked like a girl of no more than sixteen, a girl on her learner's permit, and her beauty was terrible, but I believe it would no longer kill the man it turned itself on; for a moment her eyes lit on me, I was not killed, although a part of me died at her feet." (from "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut")
It's everything you ever were afraid of. It's . . . IT.
Revisiting Skeleton Crew, Stephen King's collection of twenty-two short stories published in 1985, for the first time since I was in 7th grade -- a time when I was trying to dress like Don Johnson and get Madonna's "Into the Groove" out of my head -- was a wonderful experience. The horror stories I loved as a 12-year-old were each better than I remember. A couple I didn't have the patience for back then became new discoveries. A lot of the stories I never cottoned to are still terrible.
The Mist. This novella of apocalyptic doom and ravenous monsters at the threshold may be the most terrifying thing I've ever read. Imaginative and horrible, The Alamo meets H.P. Lovecraft, I've reread certain passages to make sure I read what I imagined I did. King's depiction of how quickly good folk descend into a mob when confronted by their own mortality is one of his finest pieces ever. I've never looked at supermarkets the same way again.
Mrs. Todd's Shortcut. One of the stories I skipped at age 12. No monsters, no boogeymen, but love stuff? Gross! King's creativity bloomed for me this time around, as did his unabashed romance for Ophelia Todd, one of the more compelling characters in what usually amounts to a rogue's gallery for him.
The Jaunt. Spellbinding science fiction tale that documents the invention of teleportation (in 1987!) and how a family preparing for a jaunt to Mars hundreds of years later comes out the other end with a valuable lesson about space-time travel. This one still blows my mind.
The Raft. Another one of King's most primal and terrifying tales. In a lot of King's stories, I can imagine myself getting out of the predicament with logic and abundant knowledge of horror movie cliches, but this is one story I want no participation in whatsoever.
Uncle Otto's Truck. This was another story I skipped over when I was younger. Since, I've come to appreciate a great yarn. Everyone has a story to tell and I can hardly resist a first-person account by a character who seems to be whispering to the reader that they have something they really want to get off their chest, something we might not believe, but really happened.
The Monkey. Not quite as scary as I remember it, but still wonderfully written. A windup monkey with crashing cymbals doesn't quite scare me, but the journey the protagonist takes from orphaned boy to adult and his battle with this evil thing is compelling.
Nona. Bumpy at the beginning, this is another terrific yarn, a jailhouse confessional by a convicted killer whose account of his raven haired, irresistible accomplice cannot be verified by any witness. It's quite creepy. The tie-in to The Body was an unexpected treat.
Survivor Type. Not terribly suspenseful, more of a gross-out story, but the lengths King goes to describe how a rogue doctor ended up marooned with surgical equipment and heroin is imaginative as hell.
The other stories range from decent (The Reaper's Image, Word Processor of the Gods) to godawful messes (I can't even begin to unravel what the hell is going on in Milkman #1 or Milkman #2. I now remember why after The Raft, why Skeleton Crew becomes something of a chore to power through and finish. There's junk mixed amid the treasures, but part of the fun was dumpster diving here and discovering that for myself.
Skeleton Crew. What a great name for this book of short stories. Many pack a scare. Some not so much. I thought I’d just highlight a few of my favorites:
The Mist - It’s by far the longest “short story” in the collection. Really, it could be called a novella. I’m glad it was included here instead of a novella collection (something that SK has become famous for doing). The Mist starts things off with a bang, or should I say a storm. After the storm comes the mist, and within that mist is the stuff of children’s nightmares. A crowd of people end up in turmoil together against that stuff, and at first there’s only a feeling that something terrible is hidden in the mist. Call it the calm before the shit hits the fan. At this point SK explores some of the characters involved. It’s just what I love to see, and here I am pleasantly reminded of a few of SK’s other full length novels. The Mist is just long enough to glimpse some personalities. Enough to get me invested even a second time around. The Monkey - Holy shit did this toy monkey ever sell from the store’s shelf again after this story? And for those who already owned one think about it lying inside a box in the upstairs attic, eyes wide open, cymbals poised? This scary good story may be the reason I never owned one myself. The Raft - The title alone sets your mind to wondering. A raft. Water. Isolation. King’s imagination takes you beyond the norm. Give me a shark to contend with. I want off this raft. And what could be the most terrifying part of this story, is that fact that I felt like the fifth person on that raft, just trying to figure a way to shore. Word Processor of the Gods - This is so good because it is the reimagining of the genie in the bottle, or “The Monkey’s Paw” by WW Jacobs. Again, it became the question of “What would I do?”, while at the same time telling its main character to STOP, or at least SLOW DOWN because I need time to think first. Fun and thrilling. The Reaper’s Image - An antique mirror, or looking-glass as it was called, is locked away in the attic for a good reason. Some people cannot help themselves. Maybe that’s because it’s priceless, or maybe something else. The story is short, and seems to have been purposely written with little crisis, but then end gets me all the same. Survivor Type - This one proved that it’s possible to hate the protagonist yet still love the story. For me, that is a rarity. Maybe that’s what King set out to do. Provide a desperate situation that keeps the reader riveted and place a dirtball in the center of it. I don’t know. The shock value counts for a lot here, and I wonder, “Would I like the story even more with a character I cared for, or less?” The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet - Again, what a great title. It’s the Crew’s second longest story. Not it’s best. Much of the first three-fourths succumb to a slow pace. All I can say is you got to make it through to the end because that’s where the payoff occurs. Saved by a great finale.
King includes a nice afterward, at least in the 1985 HC edition, in what he calls such things that might interest the casual reader. He includes a few notes for a few of the stories describing how each came about. I love a peak into his mind. Even SK is stumped for an idea at times, but then a most mundane experience occurs, and a story is born from real life.
I thoroughly enjoyed this short story collection. I made a few notes about some of the stories:
- The Mist Brilliant. Really want to see the movie version, and check out the audio version that Scott mentions in the comments!
- The Monkey Particularly creepy. I found this uncomfortably believable! Anything with ominous toys/dolls tends to get under my skin.
- Mrs Todd's Shortcut Quite beautiful -- loved it with an unexpected intensity.
- The Raft I hate LaVerne so much. She's that female character that's so often present in books/movies especially horror. The kind of character where, terrible as it may sound, I feel pleased when someone finally hits her (if it was a real life situation I would NOT feel that way, but this is fictional, and in the realms of fiction my moral compass is different). I've been thinking about my intense dislike of her, and those of her ilk, the vapid airheads who do nothing but scream hysterically or swoon pathetically, and I have concluded that some of it stems from a worry that if I found myself in such a situation, I might react the same. No stoicism or being calm and collected, just a blubbering mess! I dislike that possibility, so I intensely dislike the characters that represent that. Also, they tend to be excruciatingly annoying. In 'The Mist' when the (less annoying) Amanda, 'screamed ceaselessly, like a firebell', Mrs. Reppler says, "Woman, shut your head" --- and I loved her in that moment! I hope I would be a Mrs. Reppler, rather than an Amanda or, returning to this story, a LaVerne. I do feel sorry for her though, considering the situation she found herself in.
- Word Processor of the Gods Loved this one! I admit Googling a picture of a word processor, so I had a better image of the technology. I've never seen one before. A little before my time I suppose. I really liked the outcome of this one too -- unexpected.
- Survivor Type I winced constantly while I read this. It's stuck in my head and I'd prefer that it wasn't!
- Gramma This one scared me! Something I really find interesting is coming across as story that scares you more you'd have thought. This one just got to me, and from the blurb it didn't sound that bad -- but it was!
- The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet 'Madness is a flexible bullet.' Probably my favourite in this collection.
Whew! I started the new year with this collection of novellas and short stories by Stephen King. It’s taken me all year to read it. That seems to sum up my 2020 nicely.
This is a good collection of weird and unnerving stories. I loved The Mist, Gramma and The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet - some of the longer pieces. They are all upsetting in different ways. They have that creepy feel from the long burn of King’s suspenseful description. Like you’re walking around a twisted haunted house and you know something is going to happen but you just can’t tell which way it’s going to go for you. Such a great feeling if you love psychological horror. King really plays with different genres but he always finds the scary and horrific in them. Such a talent!
The Monkey, Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut, The Jaunt, Paranoid: A Chant, Word Processor of the Gods, The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands, Beachworld, The Reaper’s Image, For Owen, and Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1) are the other stories I loved out of this selection. Interesting characters doing crazy or unspeakable things. The nondescript character who does something horrible to his neighbors. The lady who drives like a bat out of hell or maybe actually in hell itself. The men who land on the unforgiving land of a barren planet. Objects that are manipulated by other forces become characters as well. The stories about children who are victims of the terrible things in life are the hardest (as a mother) to read.
I wish short stories were still a normal part of magazines and the publishing world. It’s more difficult to write a coherent and rousing short story than it is a novel. A writer has less time to make an impression. King does a magnificent job with most of these. There are a few that miss the mark for me but they are few and far between. Overall, this is a great collection that will stay with a reader long after the lights go out.
Out of all the stories in this collection, it’s The Mist that’s not only the longest but strongest and well known - it also possibly overshadowed the others for me.
The novella length tale easily makes this collection worth reading, whilst some of the other stories that have also been adapted were the pick of the rest. ‘The Raft’ (from Creepshow 2) was my next favourite along with ‘Gramma’ being creepily good.
Out of the stories that I’d had no prior knowledge, the diary entries by Richard Pine in ‘Survivor Type’ really stood out. It was also great to see King try Sci-Fi as ‘The Jaunt’ was pretty memorable too.
If you're looking for a book that will make you laugh, cry, scream, and shiver, look no further than Skeleton Crew by Stephen King.
“There are things of such darkness and horror—just, I suppose, as there are things of such great beauty—that they will not fit through the puny human doors of perception.”
This exceptional collection of short stories and novellas showcases King's mastery of horror, fantasy, and humour. You'll meet a grandmother with a deadly hug, a raft with a hungry mouth, a monkey with a cursed toy, and many more unforgettable characters and situations. It's a book that will keep you up all night, reading just one more story...or maybe two...or three...
"..even the most well-adjusted person is holding on to his or her sanity by a greased rope."
While Skeleton Crew overall doesn’t reach the heights of Stephen King’s previous collection for me, it still contains some fantastically brilliant stories. I found when I was reading Skeleton Crew that the stories within it could be split into three different categories. The first category is something I thought of as pedal-to-the-floor King were the story has no fat or tangents and is all go, go, GO!. The second category I thought of as being for folksy tales that tend to go off on tangents, and the third category I thought of when encountering stories that held weirdness and had an overall surreal feel. With these in mind let the rating begin.
The Mist - 5 Stars - The Mist is really a novella and its the first incidence of pedal-to-the-floor King. Even though this story is the longest in the collection it does not feel long at all when reading it, which is a clear indicator of how good it is. I always think the best stories are ones that make you want to swallow them whole on the first read and leave you wanting to reread instantly. That's exactly what The Mist did for me. It's a simple story about a father, his son and their obnoxious neighbour as they drive to the local supermarket after a storm in rural Maine and become trapped inside by a mysterious mist. There's something in the mist, in fact, we learn that there are multiple things in the mist, but we only get glimpses of some of them. Its all left to our imaginations in the same way the creation of this mist is. There are references to a secret government project close to this community where the characters live, but nothing is ever confirmed, instead, the characters just have to react. And it's those reactions, which pass by at breakneck speed, that keep the reader invested as each character has their own way of dealing with this disaster.
Here There Be Typers - 3 Stars - This story falls into the third category. A young boy is given permission to use the restroom at school by his cruel teacher only to discover a tiger in the bathroom. Weird.
The Monkey - 3.5 Stars - This uses a narrative device that King would later perfect in writing It. The reader gets two stories, one from the perspective of a child and another after that child has entered into middle age.
Cain Rose Up - 2 Stars - With so many school shootings it makes this story a difficult read.
Mrs. Todd Shortcut - 3 Stars - A lot of people seem to really like this story and I can understand why. It falls into the folksy category and for a lot of people these types of stories rely on you falling for the characters within them. I didn't. I still found the premise interesting, about a woman who discovers short cuts that allow her to travel to places quickly even when it verges on the physically impossible. Plus, the hinted explanation is linked to themes King has explored in other stories such as a multiverse is a nice side story but it didn't not me over.
The Jaunt - 4 Stars - The possibilities within this short story are endless. Plus, it features one of the creepiest lines of dialogue in any King story.
The Wedding Gig - 1 Stars - A didn't really see the point of this story, plus its depiction of people that are overweight and race makes me uncomfortable.
The Raft - 5 Stars - Like The Mist this one has its foot to the floor. It's a simple tale about four teens that head to a lake only to fall victim to a monster. What more could you want? The body horror here is some of King's best.
Word Processor of the Gods - 4 Stars - A trashy story due to certain characters but it holds plenty of charm.
The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands - 3 Stars - An interesting tale from King as it’s a return to a location from another story, The Breathing Method. In it men tell stories to one another, stories of horror and magic. It’s an enjoyable read as it provides King the chance to write in a different style similarly to Victorian mysterious.
Beachworld- 4 Stars - A story about two astronauts who crash land on a desert planet. Chilling and atmospheric, this one of the collection most memorable tales.
The Reaper’s Image - 4 Stars - This one had a very Night Shift vibe for me.
Nona - 4.5 Stars - Reminded me of Strawberry Spring from Night Shift.
Survivor Type - 5 Stars - I haven’t read this story in years and I remember it having a real lasting affect on me as a teenager. I’m happy to say it still lives up to my memory of this horrifying, gruesome tale. It’s one of King’s finest and like the best ones in this collection has very little fat in it. It also reminds me of a section in the early Resident Evil games were the gamer finds a diary with a similar story in it.
Uncle Otto’s Truck - 3 Stars - Another folksy tale told in first person.
Morning Deliveries (Milkman#1) - 4 Stars - A story that has an interesting premise but is too short. I wanted more!
Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman#2) - 2 Stars - This story has little to do with the previous one and is as long and rambling as the drunken stories it’s characters tell. It’s my least favourite story in the collection.
Gramma - 4.5 Stars - This one creepy, chilling and hair raising tale about a young boy having to be alone in his house with his sick Gramma. That ending!! Damn did it deliver.
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet - 4 Stars - This is an interesting story that reflects on how certain people develop habits and mental tics while contemplating the idea of what happens when a person’s mind becomes self-destructive. It’s lengthy and it is a story that is told by someone about someone else and while that didn’t necessarily work for in me with Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut, it worked me here. I found myself being pulled into the story by the narrators' voice.
The Reach - 3 Stars
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
While this definitely isn’t my favourite collection of King short stories, it does have some gems that I really loved. My favourite by far were Nona, The Mist and The Monkey. Something about each of those three stories really got to me and sunk their claws deep into me. The rest of the stories were quite enjoyable as well but they just didn’t leave me with the same delicious feeling of unease as the three stories I mentioned above.
Some stories were awesome and some not so much but none were terrible.
I reread some of these and finished the book. I bumped my rating up from 3 stars to 4. I really enjoyed this collection. my favorite 2 were the mist and GRAMMA. OMG that one was so good and unexpected. the only one I didn't care for was the jaunt. I didn't listen to the whole story so it may have been great but spacey stuff just isn't my thing. Dylan Baker reading the milkman stories was FANTASTIC!! Because of his stellar performance, I'm putting them in #2 spot for favorite audio..story. Kate Mulgrew reading NOS4A2 is #1. I think everyone should pick this book up if only to read The Mist and Gramma and the audiobook for Dylan Baker's reading. (Mr. Wilkins from Trick R Treat <3 )
I'm really surprised this collection doesn't have a higher overall rating here on GR. There are some real gems in this book. Probably the fifth time I've read it since it's release, and it certainly won't be the last.
This volume went over much better with me than it did the first time around. Maybe it's because each story is narrated by a different celeb: Will Patton, Paul Giamatti, David Morse, etc.. I especially loved Patton performing The Mist. I bumped my rating to 4 stars.
I’ve had this battered copy of Skeleton Crew on my bookcase for a REALLY long time. I vaguely remember getting this tattered paperback at a used bookstore decades ago, now. From a place in my hometown. The ink stamp inside has the address and phone number with a 206 area code – so from before the time they separated all the western Washington area codes from the communities around the Seattle area code and putting them into 253, 360, and 425. It’s been on a myriad of bookshelves since. It’s held together with packing tape and my affection for Stephen King’s writing. I’m overdue on reading it, but, oh well. Here it goes with my rating for each story. I’ve skipped over the poems since I just sort of skimmed those and candidly didn’t pay much attention to them.
The Mist: This is the first story of this collection. Probably a good choice to get us warmed up. This is a novella about a bunch of people trapped by fog and what hides it. At first I was not sure how I feel about the starting offering. It’s good. But dang, Uncle Stevie and his endings... (4/5)
Here There Be Tygers: A kid goes into a bathroom and there’s a tiger. Didn't quite appeal to me and I candidly found it confusing. (2/5)
And this year’s award (well, I suppose 1985’s) for really creepy damn toy goes to … The Monkey. The toy that keeps going and going and going… is and featured as this edition's cover icon. Classic King. Loved it. (5/5)
Cain Rose Up: Oof. A story about a guy shooting people. Didn’t really care for it. It was just sort of there. Hard to get into now, but even in 1985 when this was published in this anthology kind of lacked depth or meaning. (1.5/5)
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut: For a tale about a shortcut, this one slowly meandered a bit. It got intriguing toward the end. Then it ended. And not a particularly satisfying one at that. So, 3/5 for this one.
The Jaunt: Science fiction and horror with technology gone wrong. This one kept me thinking and guessing and it was a complete story. That's all I can legitimately ask for in a short story. So, yay! An upturn! (5/5)
The Wedding Gig: This one had an interesting twist near the end but it wasn't really scary or disturbing or anything. (3/5)
The Raft: All righty then! Back to floating on top with this one. The Raft is classic Uncle Stevie! A welcome story. Especially after trying to decipher a poem immediately before that. What the what is the dude doing writing a poem anyway? Anyway … a raft in a lake, four college kids, a weird black oily slick on the lake. Lots of distance between the anchored raft and the shore where their car and safety is. What could possibly go wrong with that. Well, turns out quite a bit. This one was awesome. Ending left a bit to be desired, but that's cool. (5/5)
Word Processor of the Gods: This was another really good one. Who wouldn't change a few things around their life with a few keystrokes? (5/5)
The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands: A creative curse forces a major character in this one make some difficult decisions in this interesting story. (4/5)
Beachworld: Here, we have a sci-fi tale of a ship stranded on a different planet, where the sand isn't everything one would expect. It’s got madness, creatures, people acting dumb. All good stuff. (4/5)
The Reaper’s Image: I’m not really sure what The Reaper's Image was about but it didn't really work for me or move me. (2/5)
But Nona " offered a weird tale of a different kind of Bonnie and Clyde with rats. Interesting. (4/5)
Survivor Type: This one was worth the price of admission all by itself. Drugs, isolation, the will to live, and making "sacrifices." The best story of the bunch by a very wide margin. Now THIS ONE is classic King. (5+/5)
Uncle Otto’s Truck: again some pretty classic Uncle Stevie. They were pretty good but nothing like "Survivor Type." (3.75/5)
Morning Deliveries: (Milkman #1): Same feelings as Uncle Otto’s Truck. (3.75/5)
Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2): Same as above, but upon reflection this one wasn’t as moving as the prior two. (3.5/5)
Gramma: What to say? Hmmm… A kid is freaked out over his dying grandmother. He slowly comes to realize her power, not only over him, but others. It meander a LOT for a while but then got interesting. Problem was I sort of saw some of it coming. Oh well. (3.5/5)
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet: Okay, well, I take some of that back. NOW what to say? Good grief, I personally found this one really quite awful. It meandered and could not for the life of me hold my attention. If this had been at the start of the compilation it might have colored my entire perception of this anthology. I still can’t quite work out the point. A writer and an editor are talking. And then talking more. And the writer’s spouse is there and kind of neglected from the narrative. They’re talking about some dude going crazy or researching insanity. Or something. I don’t know. (1/5)
The Reach: This poor story suffered having bringing up the rear of such a bad story right before it. I redoubled my concentration and got through it. It was pretty touching and dealt with loss and community, which I can relate to. (4/5)
Collectively, then I am putting this as a 4 for rounding up on the scores. This anthology was a damn site better than Nightmares and Dreamscapes. That one felt like a chore. This one felt like a collection. Not all good. Some pretty good. Some that’re gonna stick with me. That’s what an anthology should do.
Stephen King seems to be a bit hit and miss with me. Sometimes there can be a Joyland and sometimes there can be a Under the Dome. But they have never been bad or unreadable, just seemingly poor, rushed and formulaic. I am noticing that I like his more modern tales greater than his 80s and 90s huge output.
So here is a short story collection from that time. The time where it seems like he was writing a book every couple of months. And it was just how I find myself feeling about all of his works. There were some hits, but there were also some misses.
The great tales here were:-
'The Mist' as post-apocalyptic Cthulhu tale that is very suspenseful, but a little dated now. But still a good deal of fun.
'The Monkey' which I am sure has kind of entered into horror as a classic. A toy monkey that taunts and sticks around more than it's welcome.
'Mrs Todd's Shortcut' should delight any map nerd or even mathematicians. Very clever.
'Uncle Otto's Truck' mirrors 'The Monkey' and even "Christine' which I have not read yet.
'Gramma' is great and haunting. What do you do with your dead Gramma?
But while these stand out others were just OK. But there was one or two ones that did annoy me. Especially 'The Jaunt' which seems to be Stephen's attempt at traditional SF short story writing. It was terrible. It brings back memories of the last section of 11 23 63. He cannot do SF. But still I'm hoping that this statement is wrong.
So a great read for fans and a recommendation to casual readers. You might not love everything here, but there is a good chunk of it to love.
Skeleton Crew is a short story anthology collection by Stephen King published in 1985, when he had already become an iconic figure. By that time most of his early books had been transformed into movies, and the author himself had become what many consider (as do I) a Modern Master. I remember reading these stories for the first time and marveling (as I still do) at the imaginative ways ordinary things are transformed into macabre, eerie horrors. Take “The Monkey” as a for instance. I had a wind-up monkey toy with cymbals growing up and remembering it as an adult, I recall its nappy fur and capricious clapping of cymbals at all hours of the night. Nostalgia is always that familiar feeling of home, coupled with the pain of loss. That is what I experienced here: talking with an old friend that has drifted away from me. In an anthology, the stories are always uneven, so I have opted for 4 stars instead of 5. I am sure King will not be crushed by my review. Still, I practically love them all.
"Poi la vide di nuovo. Era più vicina. Un'oscura chiazza rotonda, come un enorme neo, fluttuante sulle dolci onde del lago. La prima volta che l'aveva scorta era a circa una quarantina di metri distante dalla zattera. Adesso era già a metà percorso. Com'era possibile? Come..."
"Era una spiaggia che non aveva bisogno di un oceano perché era un oceano in se stessa, un mare di sabbia, l'istantanea in bianco e nero di un mare immortalato per sempre in avvallamenti e creste. Dune. Alcune basse, altre scoscese, alcune lisce, alcune corrugate. Cime affilate, cime piatte, cime frastagliate che sembravano dune impilate su altre dune, come tasselli di un domino. Dune, Ma niente oceano."
La terza raccolta di King mostra un'eterogeneità già ravvisata con eccellenti risultati in A volte ritornano (Stagioni diverse, seconda in ordine cronologico, è una raccolta di quattro racconti lunghi che sacrifica l'ecletticità dell'autore per donare ampio respiro alle poche storie proposte: non è propriamente paragonabile alle due citate). Dall'orrore alla fantascienza, senza precludersi discese nel surreale o i classici racconti di formazione, la penna di King partorisce piccoli universi che continuano a esistere persino quando il lettore indugia sull'ultima riga. Uno sparuto manipolo di turbo-trashate trova spazio e, fortunatamente, non va a inficiare la buonissima resa finale della raccolta.
La nebbia 4★ Gruppo di persone si ritrova asserragliato nel centro commerciale della zona, in seguito alla discesa di una misteriosa nebbia. Se le radici della storia sono tipicamente lovecraftiane, lo sguardo disilluso del microcosmo americano di provincia appartiene a King, senza ombra di dubbio. Da segnalare la buona trasposizione del 2006 di Darabont.
Tigri! 4★ Bambino vessato dalle frecciatine della maestra, esposto a pubblico ludibrio di fronte alla classe per il semplice bisogno del bagno, diventa protagonista di una scoperta surreale. Racconto weird secco e spiazzante, capace di delineare con precisione i moti psicologici del protagonista.
La scimmia 3.5★ Le paure irrazionali della sfera infantile vengono sublimate in una scimmietta giocattolo dal ghigno mefistofelico e i piatti in ottone: jang-jang-jang, il prossimo morto chi sarà? Storia ben narrata, con alternanze passato-presente a ricamare sull’elemento maligno ed esacerbarne il senso d’inquietudine. Qualche svaccata soprannaturale in chiusura pregiudica la resa finale.
Caino scatenato 3.5★ In un generico college, di sera, uno studente attende l’esito di un esame e sale nella sua stanza a esorcizzare la paura. Soggetto a suo modo spaventoso nonché reiterato nella cronaca nera americana. Forse serviva un contesto più rilevante e approfondito per far risaltare quanto narrato.
La scorciatoia della signora Todd 4.5★ Homer Buckland ha la possibilità di raccontare della signora Toad e i viaggi in macchina che hanno costellato la sua esistenza. Una storia che del surreale fa il tratto distintivo per tratteggiare l'amore verso il mistero e l'inesplorato. Storia intensa e romantica, senza scadere nello stucchevole.
Il viaggio 5★ Una famigliola americana deve sostenere il teletrasporto per spostarsi in una cittadina su Marte: siamo in un ipotetico futuro ove tale tecnologia è diventata il principale mezzo di locomozione. Il dialogo tra padre e figlio fa luce sulla nascita della tecnologia, compresi gli aspetti più oscuri. Storia di fantascienza che sconfina nell’orrore lovecraftiano: difficile trovare un racconto così equilibrato e, soprattutto, ispirato.
Marcia nuziale 3.5★ Al protagonista, musicista di una banda musicale, viene richiesta la sua arte per il matrimonio della sorella - grassa e sgraziata - di un gangster di second’ordine. Soggetto simpatico al servizio di un racconto ben scritto.
Ode del paranoide S.V. Poesia in prima persona di un individuo paranoico. Ingiudicabile poiché l’adattamento di qualunque componimento poetico pregiudica la forma (e di riflesso il contenuto).
La zattera 4.5★ Quattro ragazzi decidono di fare un’ultima nuotata al lago. Ma, al raggiungimento della zattera attraccata al centro del lago, una misteriosa macchia d’olio incomincia a muoversi attorno al gruppetto. Classica storia survival confezionata con tutti i crismi del caso, ben supportata da un’entità piuttosto atipica nella sua manifestazione.
Il Word Processor degli dei 4★ Cosa succederebbe se, un giorno, venisse recapitato a casa un particolare Word processor, ultimo regalo del tuo nipote preferito? Variante riuscita della lampada dei desideri, qui concretizzatasi in un computer per riscrivere la realtà. Corretto il decorso introspettivo del protagonista, generoso ed egoista al contempo di fronte alle decisioni topiche.
L’uomo che non voleva stringere la mano 3★ Nel misterioso club proposto all’interno de il metodo di respirazione, racconto di Stagioni diverse, questa volta viene narrata la storia di un misterioso individuo con la fobia di non voler stringere la mano a nessuno: qual è il suo segreto? Racconto dall’atmosfera quasi gotica, con una narrazione sorniona che poco smaschera del contesto - il club - e si limita a esporre una storiella bizzarra.
Sabbiature 4.5★ Ottomila anni dopo la morte dei Beach Boys, due piloti aerospaziali precipitano con la loro nave in una sterminata landa sabbiosa: incomincia una terribile lotta per la sopravvivenza, tra la siccità e la minaccia strisciante sottesa alle dune di sabbia. Un racconto secco e feroce sulla sopravvivenza in ambienti inospitali; quasi un ibrido tra La stagione delle piogge di Bradbury e Solaris di Lem. Qualche cazzata di King, sul termine, con somma fortuna del lettore, non ha spazio fisiologico per compromettere la bella storia.
L’immagine della Falciatrice 4.5★ Due individui portano nel solaio uno specchio d’antiquariato, sul quale gravano inquietanti dicerie: i proprietari del passato hanno visto la Falciatrice nel riflesso, poco prima di fare una brutta fine. King, al contrario dei suoi orrori concreti e molte volte posticci, dosa sapientemente l’aspettativa del lettore con la percezione distorta che chiunque subisce di fronte allo specchio.
Nona 3.5★ Individuo di Castle Rock cerca l’autostop; ma, a una tavola calda sulla strada, troverà qualcos’altro ad attenderlo. Difficile inquadrare questo racconto: da una parte si entra nella mente deviata e normale, al contempo, di un folle; dall’altra parte la classica cornice kinghiana di focus preadolescenziali (e bulli con il coltellino portatile). Ben scritto, ma non lascia il segno come altri racconti.
Per Owen S.V. Niente, le poesie di King rendono davvero male in italiano. Pure qua è meglio fare i democristiani e non esporsi.
L’arte di sopravvivere 5★ Chirurgo dalla dubbia moralità naufraga su di un’isoletta deserta. Come sopravvivere quando la fauna scarseggia e tutto quello che rimane, oltre a un paio di chili d’eroina, è il tuo corpo? Poco credibile dal punto di vista scientifico; anche la narrazione tramite diario lascia il tempo che trova: chi mai prenderebbe appunti, in quella situazione e in quelle condizioni? Eppure la storia viola letteralmente i limiti imposti dall’uomo nella dignità per la sopravvivenza: famiglia, amici, animali e l’etica vengono meno di fronte alla necessità. Racconto iconico nella produzione dell’autore.
Il camion dello zio Otto 2.5★ Zio squinternato dalla Germania decide di prendersi una piccola casa di fronte al camion - uscito fuori strada anni fa, per un incidente - del socio d'affari, successivamente morto in circostanze misteriose. Reminiscenze di Duel al servizio di un racconto insipido: non un grande soggetto il camion né lo stesso zio Otto, stereotipato e anonimo.
Consegne mattutine (Lattaio n.1) 1★ Il rituale della consegna del latte è necessario per incorniciare le mattine americane, con il prato verde da innaffiare e gli uccellini cinguettanti. L'idea del lattaio assassino (ragni e cianuro nelle bottiglie) è il non plus ultra del campionario di sciocchezze kinghiane. Una purga di tutto rispetto questo racconto.
Quattroruote: la storia dei bei lavanderini (Lattaio n.2) 3★ Racconto che aggancia la figura del lattaio a una classica storia di tradimento - ai danni del protagonista. La storia in sé si configura come la destrutturazione del sogno americano filtrato dagli occhi di un gruppetto di derelitti: due lavoratori delle lavanderie, ubriachi fradici mentre sono alla guida di una macchina scassata, si rincontrano con un amico di scuola di uno dei due (meccanico della zona). Racconto non memorabile né davvero arricchente per la poetica che attecchisce con più forza in altri lidi; eppure trasuda onestà e tanto basta.
La nonna 5★ George deve rimanere in casa ad accudire la nonna malata, costretta a letto per l’obesità e neanche troppo in sé per la demenza senile. Esercizio di tensione che fa leva sull’indecifrabile paura che l’anziano malato esercita sul bambino; la componente esoterica - innervata da una sottile matrice lovecraftiana - irrobustisce una storia compiuta nella sua inquietudine irrazionale. Lo stesso soggetto lo si ritrova, seppur in un contesto completamente diverso, nella parentesi-flashback di Pet sematary con al centro la figura di Zelda.
La ballata della pallottola flessibile 3★ La storia di uno scrittore tormentato da misteriose presenze annidate nella macchina da scrivere nonché preda dell'inesauribile bacino di complottismi che scatenano la sindrome da accerchiamento. Il suo redattore, tra fiumi d'alcool e improbabili rapporti epistolari, cerca di interagirci: verrà travolto dalla medesima spirale autodistruttiva. King è abituato a costruire controparti fittizie che lo rappresentano; e non è un caso che l'alcool e il tema del doppio - scrittore autonomo e poco ispirato; scrittore dipendente da qualcosa, performante a livello creativo - siano riproposti anche qua. Esageratamente prolisso e dal ritmo narrativo claudicante; si salva comunque in corner per la buona idea di fondo.
Il braccio 3★ Vivere eternamente su di un'isola, senza mai vedere il mondo al di là: questo il sunto del racconto di chiusura, con protagonista un'anziana donna che imbastisce una narrazione corale del paese e i suoi abitanti. Pur narrato con una certa vena poetica, il racconto sembra più la bozza di un romanzo breve; non aiuta nemmeno la fiumana di personaggi elencati, caratteristica che contribuisce a restituire una parvenza di riassunto all'intera storia.
Scheletri è la terza raccolta di racconti pubblicata da Stephen King nel 1985; la raccolta che l’ha preceduta è Stagioni diverse, quella che l’ha succeduta è Quattro dopo mezzanotte.
Scheletri è composto da ventidue racconti, o meglio, diciannove racconti, due componimenti poetici, e un racconto così lungo che potremmo definirlo una novella.
I racconti sono preceduti da un’introduzione, che non manca mai nei libri di Stephen King, in cui l’autore spiega perché continua a scrivere racconti, consapevole del fatto che i lettori in linea di massima preferiscano leggere un romanzo, e si chiudono con delle note in cui King spiega l’origine di alcuni racconti, aspetto che trovo sempre molto interessante.
Credo che sia meglio arare in profondità che in larghezza.
«Questa è casa mia, e io l’amo.»
Di Stephen King ho letto diverse raccolte di racconti: A volte ritornano, Stagioni diverse, Incubi & Deliri e Scheletri. E io ancora non ho capito se con i racconti se la cava oppure no. A volte sforna dei racconti spettacolari, altre volte produce racconti davvero bruttini. Ho amato A volte ritornano, ho amato ancora di più Stagioni diverse, Incubi & Deliri l’ho trovato molto brutto, e Scheletri è un grande ni.
In generale comunque trovo che King se la cavi molto bene con i racconti lunghi. Non credo sia un caso se in Scheletri ho amato La nebbia, il racconto che apre la raccolta, che è proprio quello più lungo, la novella insomma. Quanta ansia, quanta, quanta ansia. La scimmia rientra tra i migliori della raccolta, assieme a Il word processor degli dei. Immaginatevi, nel primo caso, una scimmia pupazzo che uccide qualcuno ogni volta che sbatte i piatti che ha tra le mani, o nel secondo caso, un computer che può cancellare cose, o far apparire cose, a seconda del tasto premuto. Originale, diabolico, affascinante, estremamente pericoloso.
Mi è piaciuto parecchio anche Il camion di zio Otto e La nonna, quest’ultimo racconto sembra far riferimento a una vicenda personale di King, decisamente macabra.
Tra i racconti che ho apprezzato di meno ci sono Tigri!, che non mi ha detto assolutamente nulla, a questo punto non so nemmeno se l’ho capito, sempre che ci fosse qualcosa da capire; Ode del paranoide, altro racconto che penso di non aver compreso e Per Owen, un componimento scritto per il figlio e bo, davvero, non lo so, forse è troppo personale per essere apprezzato fino in fondo da una lettrice qualsiasi?
In generale ci sono diversi racconti che risiedono nel limbo del “carino, ma niente di che” e molti altri che risiedono nel limbo del “bello! Ma non un capolavoro, sorry”.
C’è Caino scatenato, che parla delle stragi a scuola per mano di studenti; credo che dopo Ossessione mi serva ben altro per apprezzare un racconto di questo tipo.
C’è L’uomo che non voleva stringere la mano che fa riferimento all’ultimo racconto di Stagioni diverse visto che la narrazione si svolge nello stesso luogo in cui è ambientato Il metodo di respirazione, un semplice “posto” non meglio identificato in cui delle persone si ritrovano per raccontarsi delle storie.
C’è L’arte di sopravvivere che è davvero un bel racconto, a cui però non sono riuscita a dare il massimo dei voti solo perché è davvero troppo raccapricciante, talmente tanto che non ce la posso fare ad apprezzare appieno un racconto del genere. Per farvi capire quanto sia raccapricciante, vi dico che lo stesso King ha detto che questo racconto va oltre anche per lui. Ecco.
E infine, c’è La ballata della pallottola flessibile, dove il nostro caro vecchio King nomina La lotteria di Shirley Jackson, spoilerando il finale tra l’altro! Ma ti perdono Stephen, mi hai sconvolta così tanto con questo spoiler che me lo sono pure già dimenticato.
Insomma, per una raccolta di racconti perfetta io vi suggerirei Stagioni diverse, o anche A volte ritornano; ma Scheletri contiene dei racconti che sono delle opere d’arte in miniatura che meritano di essere lette e amate, quindi una sbirciatina a questo libro gliela darei!
overall, a good collection. I rated every story individually on my youtube channel and the average was about 4 stars. I found some new all time favorite short stories in this collection and then of course some fell flat. I think The Mist, The Monkey, The Raft, The Jaunt and Word Processor of the Gods were maybe my top 5. There were a few other 5 star stories though too.
When I rate a (short) story collection I don’t necessarily go with my average rating of the individual stories. But three stars seems about right for this one.
Truth be told, this was always going to have a hard time getting a higher rating from me, because I don’t particularly like this kind of books. Now, if you follow my reviews you may wonder why that is. I read a lot of short fiction, right? True. But what I like about short fiction is that whenever I’m in the mood for something particular I can just pick up a short story or novelette that fits that mood and read it in one sitting. With novels it is something different that appeals to me. That feeling of spending a bit of time in the same world, with the same characters, getting to know them and feel more comfortable in this world with each day. A book like Skeleton Crew provides neither of those experiences.
That being said, it is a good one. But as with pretty much all of these books there are some highlights and some duds, and some stories that fall somewhere in between and for which I might just not have been in the mood at that particular moment. It’s rare that an author manages to compile only stories that I like. King did so in Different Seasons. But those were all novellas, which makes it something different again.
Anyways, let’s get to the individual stories. Starting with one that is not exactly short fiction. Probably not even a novella anymore.
Der Nebel / OT: The Mist (1980 / horror / 201 pages) Ominous start. Then turns into a creature feature with people being trapped in a supermarket while the outside has become rather deadly. The ending was a bit of a letdown at first. But after letting it sink in for a moment, I think I actually quite like it. 3.5 - 4 stars
Hier seyen Tiger / OT: Here There Be Tygers (1968 / horror / 8 pages) Well, the good thing is that it was short. 1 star
Der Affe / OT: The Monkey (1980 / horror / 58 pages) Cymbal smashing toy-monkey announces the death of people. And its owner can't seem to get rid of the thing. Jang-jang-jang! Creepy. I was hoping for a different ending. 3.5 - 4 stars
Kains Aufbegehren / OT: Cain Rose Up (1968 / crime / 11 pages) A college student starts shooting people from the window of his dorm room. Grim. Lots of anger. No reason(s). Not bad. But not a fully realized story. 2 - 2.5 stars
Mrs. Toods Abkürzung / OT: Mrs. Todd's Shortcut (1984 / fantasy / 42 pages) Mrs. Todd keeps finding ways to shorten the route from Castle Rock to Bangor until it gets shorter than should be possible and she and her car go missing. Whimsical. Stimulates the imagination. 4 stars Full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Der Jaunt / OT: The Jaunt (1981 / SF-horror / 40 pages) A 24th century teleportation story, that I enjoyed for both its goofy 1950s SF nature and its horror twist. This has actually been a reread for me. The only story from this collection that I already knew. The implications of its ending still send a shiver down my spine. 4 – 4.5 stars Full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Der Hochzeitsempfang / OT: The Wedding Gig (1980 / crime / 26 pages) A Jazz Band gets hired to play at a wedding during the prohibition era. Gangsters, people being killed. Not sure what the point of the whole thing was. 1.5 stars
Paranoid: Ein Gesang / OT: Paranoid: A Chant (1985 / poetry / 5 pages) I read a German translation of this book, which is something that I think doesn't really work for poetry. And anyways, I zoned out midway through. No rating
Das Floß / OT: The Raft (1982 / horror / 44 pages) Simple premise - four college students swim to a raft on a remote lake and then can't get back, because there's something in the water. Grisly results - the something in the water isn't something nice. Classic horror that is gory and fun. 3.5 – 4 stars There’s an interesting story about this one in the afterword. King wrote this a lot earlier actually and sold it under a different title (The Float) to a magazine called Adam in 1969. A year later he received a check for it, which came at the perfect time, as it saved him a 30-day prison sentence (though that is a different and quite funny story which can also be found in the afterword). You see, back then you usually got paid after publication. So, he went to look for the magazine but couldn’t find the issue in which his story had been published. And he also had lost his own copy of it. More than a decade later he rewrote the story, and the result can be found in this book. To own a copy of whatever magazine The Float had been published in must be one of the coolest things for any Stephen King fan I imagine.
Textcomputer der Götter / OT: Word Processor of the Gods (1983 / fantasy / 31 pages) The main protagonist inherits a word processor from his dead nephew. He quickly discovers that this is no ordinary machine. Deleting text on the screen also deletes the corresponding objects/people in the real world, while inserting text has the opposite effect. This is a fun idea and it looked like it was going to be a great story when it became clear that people don’t just disappear but everything else changes in such a way as they had never existed in the first place. There was this feeling that everything could happen here. Unfortunately, the ending didn’t deliver on that promise. 3.5 - 4 stars
Der Mann, der niemand die Hand geben wollte / OT: The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands (1982 / fantasy / 31 pages) Another story told one evening at the gentlemen's club that we know from Different Seasons. The story itself was decent enough. But I'm more intrigued now by the club itself. Clearly, something isn't quite right with it. 3.5 stars
Dünenwelt / OT: Beachworld (1985 / SF-horror / 28 pages) In the distant future a spacecraft crash-lands on a planet that seems to be made up entirely of sand dunes. One of the two surviving crew members becomes hypnotized by the dunes while the other tries to find a way for them to survive and call for help. Another SF story with a horror twist. But this one was lacking both the charm and the chills of The Jaunt. 1.5 - 2 stars
Das Bildnis des Sensenmanns / OT: The Reaper's Image (1969 / horror / 13 pages) A haunted mirror story that is devoid of any surprises. I liked its ending, though. 2 stars
Nona (1978 / crime / horror / 53 pages) The story of a college dropout hitchhiking on a snowy winter's night in Maine. He recounts that night's events, while he's in prison. So, from the outset it is clear that some sort of crime is going to happen that night. And it was a delight to see everything unfold. Also, a nice surprise to see some characters from The Body here. 4.5 stars Perhaps I should have made this a part of my Castle Rock project.
Für Owen / OT: For Owen (1985 / poetry / 3 pages) More poetry. Didn't get through to me at all. But again, it might be a matter of me reading the book in German. No rating
Überlebenstyp / OT: Survivor Type (1982 / horror / 32 pages) A former surgeon gets shipwrecked while he tries to smuggle heroin from Saigon to the US. Alone on a very small island and with no supplies the question is what would he be willing to do to survive. Turns out quite a lot. My reading buddy Justine said it was like bad Mark Watney gets shipwrecked. Well, I too had to think of The Martian. 4 stars
Onkel Ottos Lastwagen / OT: Uncle Otto's Truck (1983 / horror / 29 pages) Two Castle Rock businessmen are getting very wealthy in the post-depression era, buying a huge piece of land. One of them dies when he gets crushed beneath his derelict truck. The other becomes obsessed with the truck and thinks that it is out to kill him. Or has Uncle Otto gone crazy and murdered his partner? Had its moments. 3 stars
Morgenlieferungen / OT: Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1) (1985 / horror / 10 pages) The milkman delivers some nasty surprises to his customers. Apparently this was adapted from an unfinished novel, and there's also a second part in this anthology. So it isn't surprising that it doesn't feel like a finished story. But it has some nice imagery, and the milkman seems to enjoy himself quite a bit, which was kind of fun for this reader too. 3 stars
Grosse Räder: Eine Geschichte aus dem Wäschereigeschäft / OT: Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2) (1982 / drinking and farting – is that a genre? / 23 pages) Uhm ... what? 1 star
Omi / OT: Gramma (1984 / horror / 47 pages) A kid is home alone with his bedridden grandma. It's the first time he's alone with her. And there are stories about gramma. Unsettling stories. Not a lot happens here. But a lot does happen, in the kid's head. Creepy. Very effective prose. 4 stars
Die Ballade von der flexiblen Kugel (a.k.a. Der Fornit) / OT: The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet (1984 / fantasy - perhaps / 79 pages) A writer's descent into madness, a mysterious and brilliant short story that never got published, little elves that live in typewriters, paranoia, fear of electronic devices, an unreliable narrator ... Was there really a small hand coming out of the typewriter? Is this fantasy or the story of two men with a psychosis? Whatever this is, it was fun. 4 stars
Die Meerenge / OT: The Reach (1981 / fantasy / 36 pages) This story about community, love, death and the afterlife was kind of sweet but ultimately not for me. 2.5 stars
And that's it. 895 pages of mostly short fiction. Wow! I'd say three stars is a pretty good rating for a book that is so not my thing.
I first read this collection about a thousand years ago while I was a sophomore or junior in high school. That was the mid-late eighties, and my Stephen King fascination was in full bloom. Now, nearly thirty years later, I am rereading all of King's books mostly in chronological order, attempting to recapture the ecstasy I felt upon reading them initially. To my delight, Skeleton Crew has withstood the effects of the passage of time, held up impressively, in fact. This collection of stories, most of which were written when King was becoming a household name, and horror icon, contains some of his most chilling tales he ever put down on paper. The Mist, The Monkey, Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, The Raft, Nona, Survivor Type, Uncle Otto's Truck, Gramma, and The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet are all brilliant examples of the author's masterful execution of the short form. Absolutely loved revisiting all of the stories presented in this collection. Fornit some Fornus. Highly recommended for fans of King, or lovers of short stories in general.