By Steven King
The prolific King of Horror is back with a new collection of short stories. Fans of King know that several of his most popular movies are adaptations of early short stories, like Stand By Me and Shawshank Redemption, both of which appeared in a collection called Different Seasons, first published in 1982. Other film adaptations based on his short stories are: Children of the Corn, Maximum Overdrive, Graveyard Shift and 1408, just to name a few. I was eager to get my hands on this collection.
Each story starts with an introduction by the author that gives insight on how the story came to be. I love this. One of my favorite King books is actually a non-fiction work titled On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, in which he discusses his process and stories behind many of his works. That kind of personal insight is fascinating to me, thus the reason I enjoyed these introductions so much.
So as not to disappoint, King starts off with a bang. The first story, titled Mile 81, is about a monster car that appears to be broken down on an abandoned-highway, rest-stop off-ramp and, in true King fashion, it eats everyone who stops to help. The moral of the story is, if you have a habit of being a good Samaritan, that’s probably going to be what kills you, so you might want to quit being a Goody Two-Shoes and mind your own business. There is a distinct possibility that I am wrong about this interpretation.
Premium Harmony is a brief tale of a man and wife arguing while on the way to Walmart with their Jack Russell in the car. They stop along the way, so the wife can purchase a gift for her niece. The wife has a heart attack and dies in the store. In the confusion, the husband locks the dog in the car for two hours in the hot summer sun. When he returns, the dog is also dead. I believe the moral of the story is more of a question: What made you feel worse, when the human died or the dog? For me, it was the dog. That may mean that I’m not a good person. I might need to talk to Jesus about that.
The story, Ur, happens to be my favorite, simply because it reminds me of another wonderful short story that has stuck with me since middle school when I first read it, A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury. Ur is about a man who receives a Kindle, that he later finds is meant for another version of himself from a parallel universe. There is a feature on this Kindle that allows him to search multiple universes for information about events that have happened or will happen in the future. One of the events is a bus accident that will kill many students, and it will take place in three days’ time. The similarity to A Sound of Thunder comes when he successfully prevents this tragedy from happening and finds that his interference with the past has consequences.
These 20 short stories, many of which have been previously published, are a fine sampling from the Master of the Macabre. Longtime fans of King will feel right at home with Bazaar of Bad Dreams.
You can find copies of Bazaar of Bad Dreams at The Old Curiosity Book Shop on the square in downtown Columbia, Tennessee, or at your favorite indie bookstore. Remember to support your local indie shops, restaurants and publications. We appreciate each one of you.