Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Stephen King is the author of...you know who Stephen King is. I won't bother with the author introduction.


There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.


This is another shorts collection. Some of them were awesome, some great, some okay, some boring. I will go over the stories one by one for a clearer and better view. First out of the gate:

Mile 81: 3 out of 5 stars: A good start to the collection. It centers on a car that eats people. Yup, this is a Stephen King short. I liked the characters, the children. The story has several povs but the kids are the ones who stood out the most, and how they handled their fears. A real life nightmare is happening in front of their eyes, and they might lose their parents. Maybe that's giving away too much. But that's the gist of childhood fears. Losing parents and nightmares coming to life. So that was great. However, it did take a long time to get to the good stuff.

Premium Harmony: 4 out of 5 stars. The narration on this one was awesome and beautifully done. The story was short and to the point. Simple as well. I can't say much without giving it away, but its centered on a man who smokes too much and his overweight wife. The simplicity and honesty in the simple facts of life did it for me. It reminded me of those country noirs I so adore.

Batman and Robin have an Altercation: 2 out of 5 stars: The premise to this one is sad. A son takes his elderly father, who has alzheimer, out to eat as he does every week in the same place. His father tells him the same tales. But the ending is both strong and surprising. It did, however, linger in the middle for too long with backstory. A lot of it good and needed for the conclusion. Some of it was just meh.

The Dune: 2 out of 5 stars: Again, the premise to this one is really strong. And the twist ending as well. But the middle dragged. A retired judge tells his lawyer about a dune and its secrets. I can't say much without spoiling what those secrets are.

Bad Little Kid: 3 out of 5 stars: Long short. It recounts the story about a man on death row and why he's there. His lawyer hears his story about the bad little kid that was the catalyst for the major crime committed. Its a psychological story and intriguing enough. It was a tad longer than it should have been in my opinion, but still interesting.

A Death: 2 out of 5 stars: This was one takes place in the olden times. It's about man who is going to be hanged for his terrible crime. He has not plead guilty, and there aren't any witnesses. There's little doubt and less evidence. But he is guilty by the people's court, and that's why he HAS to die. This short questions how mob mentality can sometimes influence perspective. Innocent people could die because of it, and how maybe we shouldn't question ourselves for thinking differently from the collective whole. But, maybe, just maybe we should.

The Bone Church: 1 out of 5 stars: To be honest, I don't remember this one. It didn't stick with me and it was a bit rambly. I think it was a narrative poem...

Morality: 3 out of 5 stars: Lots to chew on here. It begins with a husband and wife. They are struggling financially. The wife works for a rich man that makes her a questionable proposition. She immediately thinks of the worst, but it turns out that its not as bad as robbery or killing someone. In fact, it doesn't seem that bad at all IN comparison. She talks to her husband about doing it. They will both become rich if she does. And she does. What happens later is the downhill spiral of a flimsy couple questioning everything they've ever known about themselves. Good stuff.

Afterlife: 5 out of 5 stars: My highest rating. One of the shortest in the collection but also one of the more fascinating ones. A man dies and he is confronted by a very office-like afterlife. Because its short, I can't get into the gist of the tale without giving the whole story away. I will say it was quite an interesting little take on life and death and the choices we make and why we keep on making them.

Ur: 3 out of 5 stars: What if you received a pink Kindle in the mail that contained every book ever written--and every book never written? That's the premise. A college teacher orders a kindle to make a point to his ex girlfriend that he doesn't 'need' to just read hard copies, but the kindle he receives is very different. Out of this world even. I liked the multi-universe aspect to this one.

Herman Wouk is Still Alive: 3 our of 5 stars: Two overweight unhappy women with a ton of children go on one last fun trip together. That's one side of the story. The other is about an elderly couple remembering the good old days. What's in store for the future of these four people? A collision. I liked how the narrative showed us how the young and the old can at times feel like they have nothing left to give. It's a depressing story.

Under the Weather: 5 out of 5 stars: I saw the ending coming a mile away. I'm still giving this one five stars because the ending was not the point of the story. It was more about holding on and the lies we tell ourselves to save ourselves from insanity. This one centers around a man who pretty things up for a living--including his own reality.

Blockade Billy: 1 out of 5 stars: A meta short. The narrator is telling King the story of Billy. This one is about baseball. No matter how hard I tried to pay attention, I just couldn't. I don't even remember the ending. It was boring. And not because of all the baseball lingo, but the story itself didn't hold my attention.

Mister Yummy: 3 out of 5 stars: An elderly man in a nursing home is convinced that he will die in the next few days. How does he know? Well, Mister Yummy has come to pay him a few visits. The story explores aspects of ageing, aids, and homosexuality. And mostly, desire. Good story.

Tommy: 3 out of 5 stars: Super short. Tommy was a gay hippy in the sixties who died but remained pure to his lifestyle. "Drink to the motherfucker."

The Little Green God of Agony: 3 out of 5 stars: The title is the gist of the story. A rich man in pain hires a broke preacher to heal him. The preacher tells him about the God of Agony while the narrator, the nurse who has heard it all before, tries not to snap at both the fake preacher and the entitled old man. I like the ending to this one a lot. Sometimes what we think we know is just what we have come to expect from years of routines and complacency. It can make us detached from others and their pain.

The Bus is Another World: 4 out of 5 stars: I tend to love ones with deep introspection. This is why I liked this one. The man in this story is trying really hard to remain calm as he heads to a very important meeting that might change his life and prospects. However, life keeps getting in the way, literally, life. Tough choices have to be made. Sometimes doing the right thing for another is of little benefit to you. Do you still do it?

Obits: 4 out of 5 stars: A fun little read about how an act of spontaneity could in fact be something inherent in you. At least that's my interpretation. A struggling writer settles for writing at a TMZ type of place. He's not proud or happy with it, but he needs money and needs to get out of his parents home. It all started like a fun little joke--so he thinks--making a crude obituary of a dead artist. But what ends up happening is not so funny, and he discovers that it might have always been a part of himself. I liked the straight narrative here. No secrecy or pretty words. Just the facts.

Drunken Fireworks: 1 out of 5 stars: I'm not gonna lie. I didn't finish this story. It bored me. And if I have learned anything from Stephen King is that life is too short to spend it reading boring stuff. The narration didn't help. It's starts out with poor folks who end up with a ton of money and....

Summer Thunder: 4 out of 5 stars: The end of the world is here. A man with his dog. Another man with nothing left but warm beers. It sounds simple enough, but also scary in that it could all really happen. What made this story great to me was the simplicity of strolling around an empty landscape knowing that there isn't much left to live for.

And that's a wrap!