Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
First, I'm an avid Stephen King fan. I'm pretty sure I've read all of his books but I don't think I can say I've read every word he's written....but I have to be close. After reading Just After Sunset, I'm convinced that King's true talent lies in the short story/novella sphere. He is a master at developing stories and characters quickly and like a spider can spin his web with perfection. His novels, all of them, are worth reading. You won't be sorry having invested the time with any of them, but his true masterpieces are in his collections of short stories and novellas.
Just after Sunset is comprised of 13 stories, many published previously. For example, The Cat From Hell was originally published in 1977. King displayed, even then, his willingness to experiment with publishing. Originally, only the first 500 words of Cat From Hell were published in Cavalier. Readers were invited to finish the story and the completed work was published later the same year. The story has been published, revised, and then published again. The story was also used in Tales From the Darkside. Others, such as Willa are recent creations and are a treat for the mind.
"N" continues King's willingness to experiment in getting his stories out to the public in innovative ways. The short story "N" was the basis for the animated series of the same name.
Harvey's Dream, originally published in New Yorker in 2003, is a story of fathers, daughters, and dreams and is a read that will keep you interested throughout.
Of all the stories included in Just After Sunset, my favorite is Stationary Bike. Richard Sifkitz has a belated physical and learns that his cholesterol is extremely high; dangerously so.Read more ›
Although I have never been an advocate of the view that Stephen King was losing his touch, this collection seems to offer a version of King with so much energy and creativity that some of his more recent works pale in comparison. It is an intense and generous sampler of short fiction that truly shows King at his best, whether you consider his best to be his horror or his more mainstream work.
"Willa," which provides a quiet, understated opener to the collection, is suspenseful, eerie, and creative. It also, in my opinion, offers a rather unique solution to what I will admit is one of King's problems: crafting realistic modern dialogue for his younger characters. (A problems that he seems to have largely eliminated in this collection, by the way, with the exception of his creative use of it here.) "Harvey's Dream" is also quiet. I found it far more unsettling than "Willa," however, as its depiction of ordinary marital unhappiness--already frightening, given its monotony and barely suppressed hatred--slowly evolves into a sharp, ice-pick intrusion of unfortunate foresight. "Graduation Afternoon" features a similar kind of transition from ordinary unhappiness to the outright horrific.
"The Gingerbread Girl" is one of the best stories in the collection. King shows a deft touch with Emily's characterization while still writing at a white-hot pace and bringing this particular reader to the edge of her seat. He takes enough time to build up Em's past and her attempts to outrun it before starting the clock with the arrival of the zealously psychotic Pickering, one of the best and most frightening villains in all of King's short fiction. Another standout is "N.Read more ›
I'm a bit surprised - disappointed even - in the rather mediocre average review score for Stephen King's anthology, "Just After Sunset." While this collection of short stories is not steeped in the sensational terror and gore of King's earlier works (most of which I thought were terrific), "Sunset" reflects a more mature King - the master of words relying less on horror and more on the subtleties of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. I always found King a keen observer of culture and society - one of the best at capturing the most mundane details of ordinary life, and in King's case, weaving them into a dark fabric of fear that lures one from the familiarity of (a pet, a car, and friendly neighbor...) into unsettled and disturbing worlds, and epic battles of good vs. malevolence. All of which are reflected in this baker's dozen of darkness - twelve new and the "bonus" of "The Cat from Hell" - an early King tale that made it to the big screen in the 1990 movie "Tales from the Darkside". To the point, the contrast in style between the graphic and simple story lines of "Hell Cat", and the cleverly drawn irony of "Mute" could not be more pronounced. Both frightening, engaging, and entertaining reads, but where "Cat" is pretty much gothic horror, "Mute" is a cleverly drawn, sophisticated tale of suspense and murder that would fit well in a collection of Hitchcock.
I didn't find a bad story in the lot, but if I were to pick my favorites, in addition to the fiendish "Mute", I'd place the diabolically gross "A Very Tight Place" near the top of the list. Or the poignant "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates" - an oft-told tale in many respects, but never replayed more beautifully than here.Read more ›