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This was a cool re-read for me. Given the new television take on "The Mist" I thought I would pick up Skeleton Crew again. "The Mist" did not disappoint and it helped me excise much of the first movie treatment from my memory. What struck me is how much King leaves to the imagination making the cloaking mist that much more terrifying.
Consider this passage, “Something in the fog!" he screamed, and Billy shrank against me-whether because of the man's bloody nose or what he was saying, I don't know. "Something in the fog took John Lee! Something-" He staggered back against a display of lawn food stacked by the window and sat down there."Something in the fog took John Lee and I heard him screaming!”
It is not particularly great writing or descriptive but in that paragraph is plenty of tense terror. The next entry is "Here There Be Tygers" and it is a curious piece of childhood imagination. "The Monkey" is classic King as it sports a malevolent spirit in a tangible item. The author has a strong point of view on guns in America and that makes "Cain Rose Up" a more interesting read.
Next up is a bit of a sleeper in the canon of King. "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" is a gem and worthy of movie or television treatment. Though not his strong suit King takes a stab at science fiction in "The Jaunt". It concerns a family in the future and tries to carry off a deeper message that never resonates. Like The Colorado Kid the next entry is more a straightforward mystery. "The Wedding Gig" covers the wildness of prohibition and is highly satisfying.
"Paranoid: A Chant" is a poem and lets just leave it at that. You can make up your own mind about its quality. If you haven't read both "The Raft" and Scott B. Smith's "The Ruins" please do and tell me if you do not see an homage if not outright rip-off. Just know King's story came out twenty years earlier.
The "Word Processor of the Gods" story portrays an amazing re-write of life. It speaks to the power of the pen. Often King covers being cursed and that is premise in "The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands". "Beachworld" is a much better SciFi entry because King makes it his own.
We see awesome early King in "The Reaper's Image" where things are clearly black and white, good and evil. Do sounds in the wall creep you out? Then "Nona" is either your thing or not but you have been warned. "For Owen" is a stoner's poem. Quite out there and seems like filler. King can be vivid but stays away from the gross-out. That is not true in "Survivor Type" so hold on to your lunch if you choose to digest it.
Look out! Its an evil truck. That is all I have to say about "Uncle Otto's Truck". The next two stories reveal a very dark and dangerous milk man driving around town ("Morning Deliveries" and "Big Wheels: A Tale of The Laundry Game"). Is she a sweet old lady or something more? That is the question murkily resolved in "Gramma".
The next title is in reference to the narrator's belief that insanity is a sort of "flexible bullet": In "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" insanity will eventually kill, but how long this process takes, and how much damage the bullet does before the victim finally dies, are impossible to predict. The collection ends with a bittersweet tale in "The Reach" that examines a well-earned life and death.
In summary, there are more hits than misses in Skeleton Crew. It was entertaining to go back after all these years and revisit, so to speak, past haunts.
This collection of short stories was a reread, and there are a couple of tales that realy stood out from the rest, these include The Mist, Surviver type, the Raft and the Reach, these stories where outstanding and well worth the price alone, these are all typical King stories and come highly recommended.
Unusually for genre authors, King has managed to master the short story as well as novel-length fiction. "Skeleton Crew" isn't one of those cash-in collections where the publisher throws together some old crap the author spun out twenty years ago, usually amounting to 300 pages of mediocre stories. Although some of the tales here are as old as King's first novels, the collection is a vast one with well over twenty stories, forming a heavy tome well worth the couple of quid you can get it for now.
It includes some great stories that have earned their fame elsewhere, such as "The Raft", "The Monkey" and "The Mist", the last of which is possibly the best example of rising terror I've ever read, and recently made into a film (which I haven't yet seen - it's probably rubbish anyway). As in most collections of this size there are a few less inspiring stories, but most are short and even if they don't give you the chills you were after, you'll never feel like you wasted your time reading them. King's narrative style and dialogue are as good as ever--
A great collection, dirt cheap now online so pick it up!
The Mist is a great story and one I remember reading ages ago. Glad I bought a new copy. Stephen King is a brilliant mainstream shocker writer. He manages to describe horror in simple and often brutal ways. Some great stories in here.
If you are a fan of Stephen King, you will enjoy this great collection of short stories. If you are not yet a fan, this would be a good introduction to his writing without committing to a full-length novel.
Amazing collection of short stories from the master if the human psyche. The ballad of the flexible bullet was a stand out for me as it pulls you in, burrows into your mind and makes you feel like your going insane along with the characters lol