Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just After Sunset

I am an avid Stephen King fan and have read almost everything he's ever written, and will get rid of the word almost from this sentence one day. In keeping with tradition, I have just finished his newest collection of short stories entitled Just After Sunset. Some of these stories were good, some not. Here is my review:

1) Willa - I read this 25 page story and then did not pick up the book again for almost a week, and not for the good reasons. This was the most typical "ghost story" I've ever read. The 'twist' was obvious from page one and I was very nervous that Little Stevie had let me down by publishing some seriously horrible stories.

2) The Gingerbread Girl - I quickly gained confidence after reading this story. It was 55 pages of a good build-up of understanding the main character, followed by a great piece of action/horror. This was one of my favorite stories in the book, and it reminded me of one of my favorite Stephen King gorefests - Gerald's Game. I dare anyone to read that book in one sitting like I did. It's a feat of strength.

3) Harvey's Dream - A fun, classic horror 10-page story. Nothing to write home about, but definitely worth a read.

4) Rest Stop - Another short 20 pager that had a sold beginning, middle and end. King is one demented man, and I love how he takes everyday situations, and makes them extraordinary.

5) Stationary Bike - A very different, interesting 30 page story. This was different than all the others, and many of the stories in this collection shared a theme of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This manifests itself in the most different and interesting ways: Painting, and riding a stationary bike. The more this story marinated, the more I liked it.

6) The Things They Left Behind - This was the only one in my review that I had to go back and reread some quick passages. I really liked the story and how it was tied to New York City, but something didn't Gel for me in this story. I think it was written with too much style with Stephen King trying to write like a New Yorker speaks and it didn't work that well.

7) Graduation Afternoon - A perfect 8 pager. This is obviously written after September 11th, but it's a perfect apocalyptic story written in 8 pages. I dare anyone to read this story and then say King is a hack.

8) N. - I had watched an comic book adaptation of this that I bought for $3 on itunes so was already familiar with the story. I think it read better in story than comic book form, but that could be the voice actor they hired was horrible. But this is a very typical Stephen King story about a rip in reality and how regular people that stumble upon it deal with it. This is another of the longer stories in this collection, but again it's a good one.

9) The Cat From Hell - If anyone ever saw the old Tales from the Darkside movie from around 1990, this is the same story from that movie. It wasn't good on film, and it's not very good in print. This is skipable.

10) The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates - a 10 page story that is again not that original. It's better than Willa, but this is a story that we all have read before. Someone dies, then you get a phone call from them and they warn you about the future. It's OK, but kind of a throwaway.

11) Mute - This was one of the better stories in this book again. It reminded me a lot of an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents... story but it is quite good. A story about how good deeds sometimes come back and effect you in interesting ways.

12) Ayana - I'd like to think that this story is very closely related to the Green Mile. Maybe Ayana's last name is Coffey. We never do learn, but I'm going to go with that until I learn different. It's a short tale, but King seems to be lightening up in his old age.

13) A Very Tight Place - Ahh, Stephen King at his gross-out best. A man gets trapped in a tipped over Port-O-Potty. Simple and effective and a fun, fast read in 60 pages.

14) Sunset Notes - At the end of the book, Stephen King includes a little anecdote about each of the stories above. I liked reading each of these just after finishing the story themselves. He only writes a paragraph or two for each, but he explains a little bit his inspiration or where the idea came from. It gives the reader a glimpse into how these are written and it's a nice touch. He's done it before in his short stories and it's always welcome.

Over all Just After Sunset is a fun list of stories that can easily be enjoyed one at a time before bed, in the subway (where I do 90% of my reading) or when secluded up in Vermont waiting for the darkness to engulf you. A definite for King fans, and I'd even recommend it for those that normally don't like him, but want something that will get their heart racing a little.

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