Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just After Sunset: Stories Worth Reading?

King, Stephen. Just After Sunset: Stories. New York: Scribner, 2008.

I always find myself looking forward to a book of short stories that comes out from Stephen King. I have been a fan for almost as long as I have been reading horror. Of course, when Just After Sunset: Stories came out, I was very, very interested in getting a chance to read it and find a new favorite story or two. Truthfully, while I was not really frightened by any of the stories offered, I found them interesting in other ways. Willa, the story of realizing ghost-hood, offers an interesting look into the very stubbornness of the human spirit even once it has left the mortal plane. The Things They Left Behind touches on the tragedy of the destruction of the Twin Towers and those who were killed. A Very Tight Place looks at how hate can seek destruction and how the spirit can find the strength to overcome in spite. All together, thirteen stories are offered, each of them unique and good in their own way.

Did I really find any of the stories scary? Not really. There were some hints of things that might tingle the spine, but for the most part, they are less horror and more thriller. I have nothing against thrillers and think that Stephen King does that almost as well as he does true horror worthy of putting in a night light. I suppose the one that horrified me the most was N. N. is the story of a man who stumbles into the stewardship of a ring of stones meant to keep the dimension of normal human existence separate from a dimension of creatures seeking to consume all that comes before them. The slow breakdown of Dr. Bonsaint is done beautifully through the use of journal entries in a fashion that seems to harken back to Lovecraft, but that is something to be considered at another time. The journal entries and case notes seemed to make the story more real, as if you could look up the mentioned newspaper article and find the discussion of the deaths of the doctor and his sister.

My other scary favorite is The Cat from Hell. It starts out feeling almost ridiculous, with the hitman, Halston, hired to get rid of a house cat. Even after the explanation of why the cat needs to die, it still feels like using a sledgehammer to swat a fly until the cat lives up to the name the Drogan gave him. First causing a car wreck and then crawling down a man’s throat to eviscerate him from the inside, truly frightening. Even though I love cats, I found myself looking at the cats in the neighborhood sideways for a little while, checking to see if they might be up to something.

Though Just After Sunset: Stories does not seem all that scary, it is still a worthwhile read. Maybe not for the exact reason I was looking forward to it, but just for its content. Pick it up on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, or Half.com.

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