Stephen King's collection of bizarre horror stories never fails to stun with gut-wrenching twists and shocking outcomes. The images created in these stories are haunting and sad as King reflects on his past and the ending of life. Many of these stories explore old age and the process of passing away. The stories ranged, not always being technically horror but certainly stirring up disturbing images that will have readers contemplating the darker sides of life. King is great at establishing characters and making readers care for them just to have them experience traumatizing events.
The setting does not much change for a Stephen King thriller as most of the stories take place in the New England area. Some of the stories were new while others had previously been published but I had not encountered any of them before. The reason I purchased this collection was to read the Hugo-nominated short story "Obits" about an obituary columnist for a sleazy celebrity magazine that causes death by writing about it. The power of the pen is certainly a theme that is addressed in many of these stories.
The question of right and wrong also permeates these stories like a couple challenged with money problems who takes on the offer of a wealthy old man who wants to see one last act of cruelty before he passes or characters who appear like decent individuals, Blockade Billy for example, but have dark secrets hidden away in their past.
Tension is something that King has been an expert at building even if his execution doesn't alway end smoothly. Plenty of stories build up to a climax that could have readers sitting on the edge of their seats. As someone wanting to learn what is effective in short fiction, I enjoyed this collection and would recommend it to aspiring horror writers as it is an accomplished author at a new phase of his career. The short passages before each story give readers a peek into what King's writing process was and how he came to these stories through his life experiences.
I've read enough Stephen King to converse with other readers of the horror genre but I had not read much of his short fiction. Every once in a while, I would pick up a story from a recommendation but not an entire collection. I put the book down at intervals and pick it back up when I had the time so reading this book took me nearly four months as it is a lot of fiction packed in here. The prolific nature of King's work is another testament to the greatness of this ubiquitous author.