Thursday, March 14, 2013

Night Shift - Stephen King

For probably six months, my son has been prodding me to read this book.  My son, you should know, is a NON-READER.  Kid cannot sit still, except to play video games of course.  But when it comes to Stephen King, he has a soft spot.  He has plowed through several of his tomes.  

I HAVE read this book before, mind you, in high school.  I had vague recollections of which stories scared me to death, and others I didn't remember at all.  So when my son wanted to discuss them, I really couldn't do so intelligently.  So I figured, why not?  

I'm not going to write up a formal synopsis on this one, because it is a collection of 20 short stories.  Most of these stories went on to become full length novels or movies for film and TV.  Some were previously printed in magazines, and some were seen first in this book.  Some of these stories were written before King wrote his first novel (Carrie), and others came later.  Some are paranormal...vampires, aliens, a possessed laundry machine, possessed trucks, a boogeyman that lives in the closet and eats children.  Some could be plucked out of the news today...a serial killer, a homicidal mob boss with an offer that can't be refused, a bereaved brother wondering if he is to blame for his sister's suicide, or the act of putting a loved one out of their misery.  

That is the beauty of Uncle Stevie.  Fear comes in so many forms.  And he is an expert at finding them all, bringing them to life on the page, and challenging us to face these fears.  

I found my reactions this time around to be curious, compared to my high school self.  I wasn't nearly as creeped out by "Gray Matter" for instance (a story about an alcoholic that drinks bad beer and turns into a gelatinous mass). Nor did I get the chills over "The Mangler" - a laundry machine that eats people.  I found the more realistic stories to be the scariest and thought-provoking.  Maybe that is what happens when you grow up?  

One story that did affect me almost as much now as it did then was "I Am the Doorway".  This is a story about a crippled ex-astronaut who has been exposed to something alien while on a mission, and the invading THING begins to take over the man's body.  Eyes begin to form on his hands, through which the THING can see, and then he begins to commit acts of murder per the will of the THING.  It sounds much more asinine now than it does on paper.  It was pretty creepy when I read it in 1981, and still is.

For fans of King, this is an essential read.  He has progressed since the days of these stories, but they all have that feel that make his works so identifiable and irresistible.

4 out of 5 stars     

9 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Yes, it's pretty amazing, I have found, to reread books from high school or thereabouts and see how your reactions are totally different. I can't decide if it is a sad thing or a good thing!

Zibilee said...

I have the same feeling when I read books from high school. The more realistic the stories, the more they scare me now, and the fantastical stories just amuse or make me think. Is it because some of the magic leaves us as we get older? I don't know, but I do know that I want to check this one out.

Literary Feline said...

I wonder what I'd think of a John Saul novel today . . . I ate his books up in high school, but haven't read him since.

I definitely find more realistic stories scarier. Like Heather, the more fantastical ones amuse me more than anything and I find them a bit ridiculous. I'm not sure I believe it's because some of the magic leaves us though--I love a good fantasy novel and there's usually plenty of magic there. It's just horror I have trouble with.

Ti said...

I read this one ages ago. I enjoy his short stories but I prefer the doorstops that he churns out instead. I like to be fully engulfed and his chunksters do that to me.

bermudaonion said...

I read many books when Vance was in middle school and high school at his insistence. There's just nothing better than discussing a book with your kid, is there?

Kelly TheWellReadRedhead said...

This was my first ever Stephen King read, and part of why I fell in love with his other stuff. He is such an amazing short story writer!!

Julie P. said...

I am embarrassed to say that I never even heard of this. I've read a few King books in my day but this one appeals to me.

Tasha B. said...

Did you and your son like the same stories?

Jenners said...

Gray Matter is the one that freaked me out. I wonder if I read it now if it would lose its power.