Friday, 21 April 2017

Book Review: Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Just After Sunset is the fifth collection of short stories published by Stephen King, containing 13 stories in total. A lot of these stories seem to focus on the aftermath of tragedy, and how people react. Whether this is pertaining to the loss of a child or the events of 9/11, it's a strong theme throughout this collection of short stories.

"Any parting could be forever, and we just don't know."

Usually I will review short stories collectively, but I had gotten a few private messages and comments about people wanting to know what I thought of specific stories, so I thought I'd give a brief review on all the stories included in this collection. I also feel like you should go into short stories blind, therefore I really don't want to say too much in terms of plot.

First up - Willa. I don't want to spoil the "twist" in the story, so I feel like I can't say much, but this short story was just "blah" to me. I feel like it's one that I'll forget pretty quickly - it just didn't leave a lasting impression on me.

The Gingerbread Girl - this was a highlight within this collection. The pace is relentless, almost like the pace of Emily... see what I did there? *insert smug face* This short story was full of tension and had me feeling nervous, it really had some classic King themes in here. It also reminded me a bit of Duma Key given the location!

Harvey's Dream - this one was short and sweet. Quite unsettling - I liked it!

Rest Stop - once again King explores the idea of pseudonyms and how they can have an influence on the person who creates them. It's pretty violent, visceral, raw... it was a good one!

Stationary Bike - I know my pal Abbie isn't a fan of this one, but I actually kinda liked it. I guess too much exercise can be a bad thing? It was an interesting concept and one that was hard to wrap my head around initially, but it wasn't as bad as I was anticipating.

The Things They Left Behind - an interesting look at the topic of survivor guilt following the events of 9/11. Ultimately it evolved into quite an optimistic conclusion, I feel? It's definitely one I won't forget.

Graduation Afternoon - MEH. I actually had to Google the synopsis of this one to remind me what story it was even referring to - already I'm starting to forget about it!! Not a good sign. Pretty boring.

N. - okay, let me tell you about N. This story (or novella, I guess) blew my little mind. I was getting strong Lovecraftian vibes from the get-go - it's reminiscent of short stories focusing on Cthulhu and his ability to drive people insane. An interesting exploration of OCD, with an absolutely outstanding mix of supernatural horror and psychological terror. I went to bed that night feeling generally unsettled and couldn't stop thinking about it - that's what I want from my horror stories! This was really the jewel in the crown.

The Cat from Hell - another awesome story! This one actually left me feeling nauseous by the end... I will no longer be able to trust cats again.

The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates - this was a decent story, also exploring post-9/11 themes, but ultimately I think it'll be one I forget with time.

Mute - ah, this one was great!! Just a fun short story, very enjoyable.

Ayana - this was actually a short story that I think has the potential to become a novel, maybe? Very intriguing and I wanted to know more.

A Very Tight Place - oh geez, literally the most disgusting thing I've ever read! Glad I read this on an empty stomach as otherwise I would have probably been running for the bathroom to be sick. It was just... horrific. I now join in King in having a fear of becoming trapped in a porta-loo! Fun story overall!

So that's it. I think the stories in this collection ranged from awesome to pretty good to forgettable, which is probably true for most of the short story collections I've read (although to be honest, I think all of Night Shift is memorable). Overall then, I'd give this collection of short stories 4 out of 5. A pretty strong collection, but I've read better. N. was the definite highlight for me!


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