Monday, November 24, 2008

"Just After Sunset" by Stephen King

It's been quite a long time since we had a collection of short stories from Steve, and let me tell you, the wait was worth it. This is a very worthy effort from the "king of horror", thirteen tales to tickle your mind (13 being a very bad number - just ask "N." from the story of the same title). There's a little something for everyone, so you're sure to have a favorite by the time you finish.

"Willa" is probably my least favorite story in the bunch, and it's the first one off the block. It's a ghost story of sorts, and it turns out the first one King wrote when he started trying to get back into the short story format. Contrary to popular belief (and King's own belief), writing a short story is not like riding a bike; it takes a while to get back into the swing of things.

"Gingerbread Girl" could be considered a classic girl-in-peril story. Young woman recently separated from her husband escapes to Dad's "conch shack" at the beach, only to find herself in the worst of all possible situations. Very good, had me anxious to find out what happened.

"Harvey's Dream" is perhaps my favorite story here, perhaps because while short, it evokes a very Shirley Jackson-ish kind of horror. Quiet and creepy.

"Rest Stop" presents the story of a mild, meek writer who must call on his pen name's persona to handle a late-night pit stop. Makes you think twice about hitting the road late at night, or at least, going to the bathroom before you get behind the wheel.

"Stationary Bike" was an interesting little tale about taking exercise a bit too far. Loved this one, mostly because I'm not a huge fan of the uber-healthy, no-fat, no-carb, all-organic lifestyle. Yeah, mine may kill me a bit faster, but I bet I have more fun along the way. Like Ben Franklin advised, moderation in all things.

"The Things They Left Behind" is scary and poignant, a good tale about a 9/11 survivor and how he handles some mysterious items of his co-workers.

"Graduation Afternoon" was just weird. Not necessarily a bad story, just weird. Turns out King wrote it based on a dream, and it feels like it.

"N." is King's take on the Lovecraftian tale, but with an OCD twist. Kinda creepy, not really one of his best. Then again, I surprised myself by finally trying some Lovecraft and found out I do NOT like his stuff. Sigh.

"The Cat From Hell" seemed awfully familiar, and after reading his notes, I know why. Anyone remember the old "Tales From the Darkside" movie, the one that had Christian Slater in it? Remember the cat he was trying to get rid of? That would be this cat. The story was obviously adapted a bit for the movie, but damn - it's still a creepy-ass story.

"The New York Times At Special Rates" is another ghost story, but I enjoyed this one more than "Willa". Awww.... who knew that Steve-o was a hopeless romantic?

"Mute" tells of man who unburdens himself of his woes to a hitchhiker he picks up, one who supposedly can't hear or talk. This being a King story, you know it's not exactly what it seems, though...

"Ayana" is a look at miracles and the fact that they can be a burden as well as a blessing. Kind of a nice story.

"A Very Tight Place" would probably be my second favorite entry in this collection. Feuding neighbors have taken things just about as far as they can go. Or have they? One neighbor decides to go to the extreme, but the other neighbor isn't going to go quietly. This one definitely goes for the gross-out; you may never be able to use a Port-a-Potty again.

King is one of the few authors that really enjoys writing in the short story format, and it shows. My husband was thrilled to hear that "Just After Sunset" was a collection, rather than a novel, and with good reason - it's fun to read King's shorter works. Like visiting an old friend.

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