I wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this book and ultimately bumped it up just merely because the writing is really good and the little snippets between each of the stories is well worth the price of admission. Getting a little insight into what went into the creation of these stories and a little peek inside Mr. King’s fascinating imagination is definitely worth an extra little star. I will admit that it’s difficult to review this book as a whole because it is a collection of short stories. They aren’t all show stoppers and some of them were groan worthy, but as a whole, I think they work well together. I will pick out a few of my favorites. But I would recommend this to any fan of Stephen King or anyone who is interested in a good collection of short stories.
In Batman and Robin Have an Altercation you meet Sanderson and his aging father. He is the dutiful son, coming to take his father to dinner every week where he orders the same thing as though it’s the first time he’s ever been there. But there will be times of absolute clarity where his Pop can see through that fog of dementia and have a lucid thought and a crystal clear memory of his past. It was one of these memories that led to the altercation that they have one day at a traffic light. The story was engrossing and the lead-in that Mr. King supplied was perfect. This was one of my favorites.
In The Dune you meet the Judge, a nonagenarian who has a secret. He has his own little island where he has been rowing himself as often as he can for the last 80 years. This island has a special attraction. On this little piece of rock there is a perfect sandy dune. Even after hurricanes and erosion, the beach remains. As pristine as it had been when he was first there as a child of 10. Except from time to time, there are names inscribed on this beach. And whenever there is a name inscribed on this beach, someone dies. The Judge has never told this story to anyone but as he prepares his will, he brings in a lawyer and tells his story. But why now?
In Morality a struggling couple is faced with an appealing offer. It’s an offer that will get the creditors off their backs and allow them breathing room. But is the cost of what they need to do worth the reward? Can they live with their choice or will it destroy them in the process? This one had me wondering what would I do in this situation? Could I do it and would it change me?
I really enjoyed Afterlife and Herman Wouk is Still Alive. I really couldn’t pick a real favorite out of the list, but I can pick out my least favorite. And I think that it’s more because it’s been done before and done better, even by this very author. Mile 81 has the undertones of Christine and Trucks. It was still an okay story, but it wasn’t the strongest one in the bunch and since it was the story that led off the book, it very nearly turned me off from the whole thing. But I am glad that I stuck with it.
Some of the stories really make you stop and think. You are faced with questions of morality in several of the stories and you can easily slide yourself into the hot seat and try to answer the question of what would you do? There is of course death in many of the stories, but not the gory, blood and guts variety. In many of them, it’s the death that we’re all facing every day whether it’s by some crazy person with a nuclear weapon or the guy on the bus with a knife to your neck. There are plenty of questions as to what happens after we’re done with this crazy life that we’re all living, what comes next? You go from enjoying a nice little story to thinking about some really heavy subjects and you sit there going…wait…what?
This one won’t be for everyone, but for any Stephen King or lover of a good short story anthology, give it a try.