This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

31 January, 2012

REVIEW: JUST AFTER SUNSET

Cover photograph: Getty Images
Cover design: Keenan

JUST AFTER SUNSET
BY
STEPHEN KING 

ISBN: 978-0-340-97716-3
Pages: 353
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 12 November 2008

On the cover:
   "Did you maybe leave the oven on? or forget to turn off the gas under your patio barbecue? What about the lock on your back door? Did you remember to give it a twist? Things like that are so easy to forget, and someone could be slipping in right now..."*

   A blind girl visits a dying man and saves his life...with a kiss. A crime writer is faced with a real crime - and has to draw upon his alter-ego for courage. And a young couple seek the bright lights of a nearby town - and end up playing the jukebox for eternity.

   What would you do if your everyday world were turned upside down?

   *From the author's afterword.


   As usual I'll give a short review of each story in this anthology before I conclude with my overall impression.

WILLA

   It's not east to see what this story is really about in the beginning, and when you do realise it doesn't come as a huge surprise considering who the author is. I found it a very thoughtful story about perceptions and expectations, and it is in my opinion a very good story that has some moments of melancholy beauty. It's a great start to the collection that gets you excited to read on.

THE GINGERBREAD GIRL

   This story about a woman who runs away from her husband suddenly takes a sharp turn. What we then get is a tense suspense-filled tale that is full of action. It's the longest story in the collection, but King really draws the reader in and it is a fast read that may have you cringing at times.

HARVEY'S DREAM

   A chilling story about a man telling his wife of a dream he has had during the night. This may not seem like much to base a horror story on, but in this case it is a good basis. King really manages to accomplish much with few words here, proving that he is as much a master of short stories as he is of masonry-sized novels. -And I just loved the ending.

REST STOP

   An author on his way home hears a man beating his girlfriend/wife at an otherwise empty rest stop. This is a pretty conventional story but it has got the Stephen King twist added to it, there's another layer to it that makes it better than it otherwise could have been. A story that shows King can be good without adding any supernatural elements.

STATIONARY BIKE

   A check-up at the doctor leads an artist to take up training, and sends him down a road that may lead to insanity. While I really enjoyed this story, I I felt it was too short, and I would have liked King to have explored it in a longer format. As it stands it is a very good story that leaves you craving for more to be really satisfied.

THE THINGS THEY LEFT BEHIND

   This is a story about memories and what makes you remember. King himself says it is an idea that came to him soon after 9/11. It's a very good story, respectful without being preachy.

GRADUATION AFTERNOON

   The shortest story in this collection is a pretty strange one by King-standards. There's plenty of information given for such a short story, and we actually get a well developed background for the main character. A very good story that proves you can tell a lot with a few words.

N.

   Can you say "Lovecraftian Horror"? King has managed to create a very good modern version of some of H.P. Lovecraft's tales. If you have read Lovecraft you may not find very original, but king does it very well. And this is one story worth getting hold of for everyone who is into Lovecraft.
Note: King mentions inspiration from an earlier writer than Lovecraft in the notes. While that may be correct, I wouldn't hesitate to call this a Lovecraftian-style tale.

THE CAT FROM HELL

   A story about a hit man and a cat. It's a really good story with a slightly creepy ending. One for those who love cats, but also great for those who find cats to be somewhat creepy. Personally I love cats and thoroughly enjoyed this story.

THE NEW YORK TIMES AT SPECIAL BARGAIN RATES

   This story is about a phone call. It's a pretty standard paranormal story but King does it very well. There is also some interesting ideas in it that elevates it above other stories with similar themes. A good quick read.

MUTE

   It isn't often you get a story about a confessional in church that is this interesting. It is not really horror, in fact it is barely thriller, but as most of King's stories it still has that feel to it. I really liked this one, it's an Tales of the Unexpected-type story, and a good one at that.

AYANA

   This is a man's story about miracles. Not really my kind of story, and I didn't really feel it had much to say either. This is the weakest story in the collection. The craftsmanship is as good as the other stories but this was just not my cup of tea.

A VERY TIGHT PLACE

   The last story in this collection is the tale of a neighbour feud taken to the extreme. King is on great form here, and the story turns suitably disgusting. One of the best stories in this collection.


OVERALL IMPRESSION

   This is a great collection of short stories. For me there was only one real miss here, and if you have read a few short story collections and anthologies you'll know that it is rare that the rate of good stories is so high.
   This is of course essential for anyone who likes King. But it is also a good collection for anyone who enjoys short stories and/or horror in general. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone, and I think it is a good tarting point for anyone who has read little or no short stories too.
    I should also add that King gives us notes about each of the stories at the back. I find that interesting to read, and think that would be an extra value to both readers and anyone who writes themselves.


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