Sunday, June 29

"Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales" - Stephen King

"In his introduction to Everything's Eventual, horror author extraordinaire Stephen King describes how he used a deck of playing cards to select the order in which these 14 tales of the macabre would appear. Judging by the impact of these stories, from the first words of the darkly fascinating "Autopsy Room Four" to the haunting final pages of "Luckey Quarter," one can almost believe King truly is guided by forces from beyond.
His first collection of short stories since the release of Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 1993, Everything's Eventual represents King at his most undiluted. The short story format showcases King's ability to spook readers using the most mundane settings (a yard sale) and comfortable memories (a boyhood fishing excursion). The dark tales collected here are some of King's finest, including an O. Henry Prize winner and "Riding the Bullet," published originally as an e-book and at one time expected by some to be the death knell of the physical publishing world. True to form, each of these stories draws the reader into King's slightly off-center world from the first page, developing characters and atmosphere more fully in the span of 50 pages than many authors can in a full novel.
For most rabid King fans, chief among the tales in this volume will be "The Little Sisters of Eluria," a novella that first appeared in the fantasy collection Legends, set in King's ever-expanding Dark Tower universe. In this story, set prior to the first Dark Tower volume, the reader finds Gunslinger Roland of Gilead wounded and under the care of nurses with very dubious intentions. Also included in this collection are "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French," the story of a woman's personal hell; "1408," in which a writer of haunted tour guides finally encounters the real thing; "Everything's Eventual," the title story, about a boy with a dream job that turns out to be more of a nightmare; and "L.T.'s Theory of Pets," a story of divorce with a bloody surprise ending.
King also includes an introductory essay on the lost art of short fiction and brief explanatory notes that give the reader background on his intentions and inspirations for each story. As with any occasion when King directly addresses his dear Constant Readers, his tone is that of a camp counselor who's almost apologetic for the scare his fireside tales are about to throw into his charges, yet unwilling to soften the blow. And any campers gathered around this author's fire would be wise to heed his warnings, for when King goes bump in the night, it's never just a branch on the window. --Benjamin Reese"
I know I reviewed one of the short stories from this book previously, but now that I've finished all of them, I can give an 'overall' review for the entire volume.
I like collections of short stories. When you finish reading them, you get the feeling of satisfaction that comes whenever you finish reading a book, but without the sense of depression and wistfulness that also usually comes with it (because the book's over, there's no more left, goodbye). Also, you can easily digest one short story, and then shelve the book for weeks at a time and not have to remember the plot! A good deal, all in all.
This particular collection, however, wasn't as satisfying as others I've read (I can recall a volume of short stories by Roald Dahl that I read once which were excellent, also a book I found lying randomly on a misplaced shelf in the library containing short stories about cats which was also very entertaining...I'll have to track these down again.) This book was inconsistent: three of the stories were fantastic tales that I thoroughly enjoyed; most others were boring or ended with too many questions still up in the air; still others were just crap. It was also very depressing to read, since almost every story that involved a couple or a marriage involved the breakdown or breakup of the relationship. It's as though King thinks that in the real world no marriage can ever last. Cynical.
My favourite story was definitely "The Road Virus Heads North," a suspenseful read about a painting that keeps changing. I also enjoyed the title story, "Everything's Eventual", despite disliking the narrator. "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" was quite intriguing and interesting in it's own right as well, however, most of the other stories offered much less than those three standouts. My thought upon finishing the book was "For all the hype that goes on about Stephen King, he's good, but nowhere near that good."
If I was rating the individual stories, the ratings would vary. However, for the book as a whole, those three stories I've mentioned in the review manage to save it from being a mundane two stars, lifting my rating to 3 STARS.

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