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Avg. Rating: 4.07
Every one a chiller
King's first collection of short stories since 1993 ("Nightmares and Dreamscapes") shows the horror master still at the top of his game. There isn't a dud in the bunch. King chose the order of the stories by shuffling all the spades in a deck of cards plus the joker; and the serendipitous result, he says, created a nice balance between "the literary stories and the all-out screamers." But these stories are already a nice balance in themselves: eerie and spare, chilling and vivid, full of strong voices and real characters getting a jolt of terror out of an ordinary day.
Like the horror writer in "The Road Virus Heads North," who stops off at a yard sale on his way home. Or the divorcing couple who get the true measure of one another in a bloody encounter with a maitre d' in "Lunch at the Gotham Café." Or the woman in the acidulous marriage whose sense of déjà vu keeps getting sickeningly stronger on her second honeymoon in "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French."
An O.Henry prize winner (and one of King's least favorite stories), first published in "The New Yorker," reveals the roots of an old man's fear in a boyhood encounter with the devil on an idyllic stretch of trout stream in rural Maine. Another "New Yorker" story, "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away," is a poignant, haunting tale of a lonely traveling salesman whose graffiti collection engenders a life or death dilemma.
The story King says is his favorite, because of its unexpected shift from humor to horror, "L.T.'s Theory of Pets," turns on a gruesome twist at the end, which didn't stick with me half so much as the chilling aftermath of a choice forced on a college kid during his hitchhiking encounter with Death in "Riding the Bullet," first made famous as an e-book.
In a Dark Tower story, "The Little Sisters of Eluria," prequel to King's seven-volume (book five, now completed, is 900 pages) "magnum opus," Roland is attacked by green mutants and wakes in a gleaming hospital tent staffed by "nurses of death instead of life." Teeming with romance, adventure, horror and heroics, this story has a literally creepy ending.
The title story, "Everything's Eventual" features a naïve young high school drop-out with a certain talent but no clear ambition, who discovers his dream job is a nightmare. Though the stories are in a randomly chosen order, "Autopsy Room Four" is the ideal opener, a pitch-perfect blend of black humor and visceral horror told by a golfer who wakes up on an autopsy table. Inspired by a "Twilight Zone" episode, King gives it a thoroughly up-to-date twist. The poignantly low-key "Luckey," about a motel chambermaid who receives a "luckey" quarter as a tip, is an appropriate closer too. Gritty, but plaintive too, the story holds a hopeful note.
Most stories are told in the first person and King's narrators - young, old or middle-aged - seem to speak right into your ear, so immediate and expressive are their voices. They are, mostly, ordinary people whose ordinary lives take a heart-stopping turn. There are also a couple of successful horror writers and a few motel rooms, including the haunted one, room "1408."
King accompanies each story with a short note about its inspiration and development, and sometimes a few words about how the writing went and what he thinks of the story now. An introduction laments the lack of outlets for the short story form and shares a few of his marketing ventures.
Short stories, says King, do not come easy. His are pared down and cut close to plot, character and setting, with each of these elements honed and none of the manic digressions you sometimes find in his novels. A terrific collection, imagination harnessed.
Everything's Comin' Up Roses
Stephen King just gets better and better. His fourteen short stories highlight his mastery of a difficult form of writing. I particularly liked his down home remarks at the beginning or end of each story explaining a little about how he happened to write it and what he was trying to achieve. King has the uncanny ability to talk directly to the reader, one-on-one as if you are the only person in the world.
The stories have been previously published (I had read the four that first appeared in "The New Yorker"), but I was delighted to have them in book form and reread them with great pleasure. For all you Dark Tower fans, there is an excellent addition, "The Little Sisters of Eluria."
Not one of the fourteen stories disappointed me; they were varied: humorous, reflective, and scary. If you think the Old Master might have lost his touch at scaring you sideways, try "The Road Virus Heads North." Some particular favorites: the title piece "Everything's Eventual" told by an oh-so-believable teenaged boy made this sinister tale poignant as well as inevitable. King saw a handsome couple arguing in a fancy New York restaurant and somehow came up with "Lunch at the Gotham Café" (see cover of book for illustration. Be sure to check the back cover as well!). I'll let SK tell you about the whys of "In the Deathroom."
"This is a slightly Kafkaesque story about an interrogation room in the South American version of Hell. In such stories, the fellow being interrogated usually ends up spilling everything and then being killed (or losing his mind). I wanted to write one with a happier ending, however unreal that might be. And here it is."
But we know in our hearts that it isn't going to be that "happy," don't we?
"Everything's Eventual" is an unqualified blue ribbon group of short stories. I predict new King fans on the horizon
Some good, some bad
Some of the stories were good and some were bad:
Good stories:The Man in the Black Suit, Everything's Eventual,Lunch at the Gotham Cafe, 1408, Riding the Bullet.
Bad Stories:The Death of Jack Hamilton,In the Death Room, The Little Sisters of Eluria (all of them awful).
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