How fitting that a post about a Stephen King book is being posted on Halloween! This fourth anthology released by Stephen King is different again from the previous three. Night shift had a series of short pieces, and older stories that tied into his earliest published works like ‘Salem’s Lot. Different Season contained some of his most classic writing: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Body, Apt Pupil. Skeleton Crew had a good many of stories, the most memorable of which to me is Survivor Type, mainly because of the self-cannibalism. Four Past Midnight contains only four stories, as its title implies. The stories are closer to classical horror or suspense than many in the previous collections, and they are significantly longer than the previous tales. The second and fourth were the most enjoyable, in my opinion, whatever that counts for.
The Langoliers focuses on a cross-country flight that ends up messing with time. On the East Coast they saw the destruction of the world by the Langoliers (why does this seem strangely prescient now that there’s a potential presidential candidate who lives on the East Coast?) On the west coast they saw the birth of the world. And here we see another of King’s standy methods, when time traveling or teleporting, one can only do so asleep. Anyone who was awake on this flight disappeared. The emptying of the world is always a scary thing, and the approach of the Langoliers is scary in its suspense, but in the end their appearance doesn’t live up to the hype. To see the world disappearing before our eyes would be a sanity breaker, but I admit I was underwhelmed with it in the literary form. It might be time to find and watch the movie.
Secret Window, Secret Garden
John Shooter is Walter White to me. I think it’s the hat that did it. Secret Window, Secret Garden was another version of The Dark Half, but written more in a mystery style than a horror style. The most horrific thing about it is the panic in Mort’s mind when he thinks that Shooter has been in his house, and when the two bodies are discovered. If reading it for the plot twist at the end, you might be sadly disappointed, for it can be seen a mile away. As a short study of the human psyche, however, it is more interesting. Guilt over his former plagiarism, anger over his failed marriage and not acting when he found his wife with her boyfriend, eventually festers in Mort’s brain and makes him crack up. We may not all turn into murderers when suffering under the weight of guilt, but some do.
The Library Policeman
A shape-shifting ghoul makes another appearance in one of King’s books. This one is most related to Pennywise, who haunts Derry, Maine. She disguises herself as a librarian, but is really an insect-like creature. She can take whatever form best suits her purposes. In the case of the local drunk, she became a beautiful woman. In the case of Sam, our protagonist, she becomes the man who raped him when he was a boy. Here, too, the past plays a large part in the present. Sam doesn’t remember what happened to him until the end of the story, and then he is able to use that information to overcome his past. It was not until he did this that he was able to move forward with his life.
Fifteen year old Kevin receives a Polaroid camera for his birthday. Instead of taking its usual photos, it takes pictures of only a white picket fence on which a dog’s shadow is moving closer and closer with each successive picture. It is a vicious dog, they see, and is trying to escape from the photographic world into the real world. Kevin assumes responsibility for the thing, and would have destroyed it but for the crooked ways of old Ace Merrill, the local loan shark and dealer of interesting things. Merrill tries to sell the thing for profit and in the process he fails, and loses several contacts who he has sold fraudulent things in the past. In the end, Kevin discovers that he destroyed a replacement camera, not the dangerous one, and is able to act in time to prevent the dog doing any damage, but Merrill has died, proving again that you should not mess with powers you don’t understand.