Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stephen King - Just After Sunset: Stories

41. Just After Sunset: Stories by Stephen King (2008)
Length: 528 pages
Genre: Short Story
Started: 10 May 2013
Finished: 16 May 2013
Where did it come from? From Paperback Swap
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 8 May 2013
Why do I have it? I like short stories and have read and enjoyed several books by this author in the past.

Just After Sunset: Stories by Stephen King features 13 short stories which were written in fairly quick succession over a two year period, according to the author's note in the back of the book. This book is not the typical Stephen King fare - there are a couple of horror stories here, but for the most part, Stephen King focuses on themes of the post-9/11 world, grief, loss and the afterlife in this collection. 

In 'Willa', the first story in this book, David and Willa, a young couple traveling to San Francisco, are waiting at a train depot after their train derails. They become separated from each other while waiting for another train to arrive, but there is just something eerie and unexplained about the situation in which they find themselves. To be completely honest, I needed to give myself a slight refresher course in this particular story as I had momentarily forgot the plot.

'The Gingerbread Girl' focuses on Emily, a young woman who takes up running after her baby daughter, Amy dies. What initially begins as Emily's best way of escaping her grief, becomes the motive behind Emily's worst nightmare. This was actually a very good story - very suspenseful for me to read.

'Harvey's Dream' is about Harvey - a man on the brink of retirement - telling his wife about a terribly disturbing dream that he's had the night before. This was also quite a good story - very enjoyable. According to the author's note in the back of the book, this story was entirely based on a dream that Stephen King himself had.

In 'Rest Stop', a late night drive through the area causes a mild-mannered mystery writer to question his most appropriate course of action, when he overhears an argument between an obviously angry couple. In my opinion, this story was just okay.

'Stationary Bike' focuses on a man who receives the results of his most recent physical - not so good results. Forced by his doctor to go on a strict exercise regimen, he creates more than he thinks when he paints himself a picture to help him pass the time on his stationary bike. This was also a very good story for me to read - in my opinion, this story was incredibly eerie.

'The Things They Left Behind' is about Scott Staley, a man who should have died along with his co-workers on September 11, 2001, but curiously did not. Scott is not necessarily the 'Good Samaritan' type, but in August of 2002, while returning to his apartment after fixing his neighbor's air conditioner, Scott begins to find objects in his apartment that he had always associated with his now deceased co-workers. Scott does everything he can to get rid of each object, but no matter what he does, the objects always return to him. This was another very good story that I really enjoyed.

In Graduation Afternoon, the unthinkable strikes New York City. In my opinion, this particular story was just alright. Definitely not my favorite of this collection, but then, I don't really enjoy reading stories with 'end-of-the-world', apocalyptic themes.

In 'N.', a psychiatrist leaves behind notes on his delusional patient. N. is a troubled man who becomes increasingly suicidal throughout his sessions. When a mysterious key that once belonged to N. comes into the psychiatrist's possession, events are set in motion that can't be stopped. I really enjoyed this particular story. In my opinion, this one was perhaps the best one of the collection.

'The Cat From Hell' is about Halston, a hitman paid to perform a peculiar task - one that ultimately isn't part of his job description. This story was well-written, but if you didn't actually like cats, 'The Cat From Hell' might scare you off owning one for life.

'The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates' focuses on Annie - a recent widow who receives a phone call from her husband...on the day of his funeral. I have to say that I couldn't really understand the ending of this story very well.

'Mute' is about a man whose life has just fallen apart around him. He is driving along one night and picks up a deaf/mute hitchhiker to whom he feels safe confessing all his troubles. In my opinion, this particular story was sort of middle of the road for me. Not really my cup of tea, I suppose, but just alright.

'Ayana' is about a terminally ill little girl who can heal others with a kiss. Her miraculous abilities are then passed on to those whom she has cured. This story was really very good - I enjoyed it.

'A Very Tight Place' features two feuding neighbors locked in a bitter, continuous battle over a piece of land in the Florida Keys. One of them decides to finish the feud once and for all. I have to say that in my opinion, this final story was really rather disgusting - quite the note to end on, I suppose. :)

Overall, Just After Sunset: Stories by Stephen King was really quite good. In general, I give this book an A+! Stephen King is an author who has an incredibly fertile imagination. The plot of each story was entirely different, but I do believe that his short stories tend to be stronger than many of his novels. I will certainly be keeping Just After Sunset: Stories on my bookshelf for the time being.

A+! - (96-100%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

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