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
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From Publishers Weekly
Eyebrows arched in literary circles when, in 1995, the New Yorker published Stephen King's "The Man in the Black Suit," a scorchingly atmospheric tale of a boy's encounter with the Devil in backwoods Maine. The story went on to win the 1996 O. Henry Award for Best Short Story, confirming what King fans have known for years that the author is not only immensely popular but immensely talented, a modern-day counterpart to Twain, Hawthorne, Dickens. "The Man in the Black Suit" appears in this hefty collection, King's first since Nightmares and Dreamscapes (1993), along with three other extraordinary New Yorker tales: "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away," an intensely moving story of a suicidal traveling salesman who collects graffiti; "The Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French," about a woman caught in a fatal loop of deja vu; and "The Death of Jack Hamilton," a gritty, witty tale of Dillinger's gang on the lam. Together, they make up what King, in one of many author asides, calls his "literary stories," which he contrasts to the "all-out screamers" though most of the stories here seem a mix of the two, with the distinction as real as a line on a map. "Autopsy Room Four," a black-humor horror about a man who wakes up paralyzed in a morgue and about to be autopsied, displays a mastery of craft, and "1408," a haunted hotel-room story that first surfaced on the audio book Blood and Smoke, engenders a sense of profound unease, of dread, as surely as do the elegant work of Blackwood or Machen or, if one prefers, Baudelaire or Sartre. King's talent doesn't always burn at peak, of course, and there are lesser tales here, too, but none that most writers wouldn't be proud to claim, like the slight but affecting "Luckey," about a poor cleaning woman given a "luckey" coin as a tip, or "L.T.'s Theory of Pets," which King cites as his favorite of the collection, but whose shift from humor to horror comes off as arbitrary, at least on the page (the story first appeared in audiobook form).Then there's "Riding the Bullet," the novella that put King on the cover of Time and rattled the publishing community not for its content a suspenseful encounter with the dead but for its mode of delivery, as an e-book, and "The Little Sisters of Eleuria," another resonant entry in King's self-proclaimed "magnus opus" about Roland the Gunslinger (Roland will return, King lets on, in a now-finished 900-page Dark Tower novel, Wolves of the Calla). Fourteen stories, most of them gems, featuring an array of literary approaches, plus an opinionated intro from King about the "(Almost) Lost Art" of the short story: this will be the biggest selling story collection of the year, and why not? No one does it better.
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