Aaannnd . . . continuing with the backlog of Stephen King books that I’ve read: Night Shift is his first anthology, and contains the following short stories:
– Jerusalem’s Lot
Both this story, and One for the Road, were included in my copy of Salem’s Lot, so I did not read them as part of this collection, however I did really enjoy all of the back story to the town. I don’t know if I’m a huge fan of stories that proclaim ‘this town is now evil because of something that happened in the past,’ but in this case the end of the story doesn’t detract from the beginning, and it does tally well with why so many strange things had happened, and why the vampire would want to live there.
I would not consider myself a Stephen King expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I wonder if he didn’t (or doesn’t) have some huge phobia of rats. There were rats in Salem’s Lot, and rats in this story. And not just the normal rats which are pestilential enough, but large, people eating rats. I have no compunction in saying that I was a little squeamish about this story (though nowhere near as much as i was for Gray Matter). I should say, he had me until the rats. At least it wasn’t spiders though.
This story felt like a deleted scene from the Stand (and perhaps that’s what it was). It was neat to see other characters still alive other than those we met in The Stand. Beyond that, I don’t recall anything extraordinary about the story (a downside of waiting a month before commenting on the story).
I Am The Doorway
I love that this story had a Sci-Fi bend to it, in that we meet a man who was a space traveler. Unfortunately he happened to bring back a murderous monster inside of him. I am not well versed enough to compare this story to other similar ones, but I like the quasi-detective nature of it. They’re going to find a dead boy.
I feel about this story much as I do about the Jerusalem’s Lot story: why does something have to be inherently evil. I do like that we receive somewhat of an explanation to how the machine somehow became animate and murderous. And might this story not be one of those ones that best illustrates the ‘write what you know’ concept. I do know that Stephen King worked in a laundry facility for some time in his younger years (pre-publication of Carrie) and so, of course, he would know about The Mangler. And he would be able to turn a relatively harmless (or at least non-malicious) machine into a people eating monster. And at the end we’re left hanging. We don’t know if they get the upper hand on the machine or not. Thanks. Thanks a lot!
Do you think that too many present day parents read this story and that’s why kids are so over-protected today? Relax, people, it’s fiction. There is no such thing as a boogeyman. Now, the black hand reaching out from under the bed – that’s a whole other matter altogether . . .
The title alone had me grossed out. I was imagining something to do with eating brains (too many zombie shows, I suppose), but the truth of the matter was even worse. What charm is there in a giant slug-like people eater? Another reason to never, ever, ever drink beer. You just never know when it’s gone over and will turn you into something grotesque.
This was one of my favorites of the anthology. A man receives a package that contains tiny soldiers, and he has to battle his way out of his apartment. He doesn’t succeed, however. I just loved the creativity of having these tiny soldiers take down a full grown man. And of course, every package has to come with a tactical nuke! Just awesome.
I’ve never seen Maximum Overdrive, but the minute I started reading this, I was like ‘HEY.” It would be freaky should our machines take over. And now with computers who have all of our personal information. things would be even worse. If this computer I’m working on right now happened to rebel, for instance . . . Not that it would, because it’s a lovely computer. Fast and efficient and everything. Nice computer, really. I promise I won’t say anything derogatory about PC vs Mac again.
Sometimes They Come Back
I see shadows of It in this story (or the reverse, I suppose, since this one predates it) with the childhood bullies. Of course there is the supernatural element in that the kids continue to haunt the protagonist later in life. As I write this commentary I realize that this is the psychological made real. Sure some of our childhood experiences haunt us, but we don’t literally see ghosts (or zombies?) coming back.
I can’t really think of anything innovative to say about this story, however I do like twist endings.
This story, like Strawberry Spring, does not really have a supernatural element to it, and is more enjoyable for it. I like the mafia (gangster?) aspect to it. The best part was when the tables got turned and the boss was the one walking the ledge.
The Lawnmower Man
I love anything with reference to Greek Mythology. Pan, it is. And I can understand the man’s freak out about seeing someone eating the grass, but did he really need to call the police? Isn’t this a more environmentally friendly way to deal with grass clippings?
Damn, man. These guys are serious. Again, not really a supernatural aspect to the story itself. Perhaps there might be a more technological focus (how do they know when someone is smoking?) I’m sure there might be some people out there who just don’t care about their spouse and then this plan would not work, but honestly, if you’re serious about quitting, this might be the way to go! (Or not. Depends on your squeamishness, I guess)
I know What You Need
Ever since the Shining, King writes a lot about telepathy, and this is one of such stories, but with a decidedly darker leaning than The Dead Zone or The Shining. This time our psychic is using his powers for control rather than with good intent. I admit the protagonist kind of pissed me off, but from the outside looking in that may have been the design. How could she have really believed that everything would line up so perfectly?
Children of the Corn
A hundred movies on and I still knew nothing about this story other than the fact that it was a horror. Until I looked through Night Shift, I did not even realize that it was a Stephen King story. I enjoyed it. I don’t know if the movies would translate well (perhaps I should watch one to see) but I liked the religious fervor of the story. And again, i wanted to slap the protagonist. Apparently none of them have actually read or watched a horror. When in doubt always listen to your traveling companion. If they’re dead set against stopping, don’t fucking stop. That’s how everyone always ends up dead.
The Last Rung On The Ladder
A slightly incestuous little ditty that pre-dates Sleepwalkers. How on earth could climbing a ladder be dangerous? (What am I saying? Climbing a ladder is always dangerous). As someone who is a tad bit afraid of falling (not necessarily of heights themselves) I admit that I was more on edge with this story. What if these kids had missed the hay and fallen SPLAT onto the floor of the barn? Oh the stupidity of kids. And obviously this experience affected the sister because she eventually did a header off a building.
The man Who Loved Flowers
I loved this story. There was such a build up of everything thinking how good this guy was, and how romantic. I knew something wicked this way comes, and when it did, it was an awesome pay off.
One for the Road
Here’s a question: why haven’t the vampires spread out of Salem’s Lot? Would they not be hungry and ready to consume other towns? Yes, I understand that tourists visit and are obviously turned, but that means the population is growing and wouldn’t that mean more competition for feeding? I love stories like this, that are offshoots of a longer narrative. When I invest so much time into a story, I often wonder what happens after. I’m a huge fan of prequels and stories that talk about what happened after the fact. This one does it beautifully. Everyone knows that Salem’s Lot is trouble, and avoids it like the plague, except for people from out of town.
The Woman in the Room
I think this story might deserve a rereading. As I was writing this little blurb, I realized that I had no idea what this story was about. Even reading the plot summary on Wikipedia, I have forgotten the finer points. Sorry, Mr. King. No disrespect intended.
While I tend to enjoy novels rather than short stories, because of the investment you get in the characters, there is something to be said for the short story. In this collection there were twenty stories, each different and enjoyable. And you don’t have to invest tens of hours to enjoy a complete story. I can’t wait to get to the one with Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.