Review: Night Shift by Stephen King

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Synopsis:

Never trust your heart to the New York Times bestselling master of suspense, Stephen King. Especially with an anthology that features the classic stories “Children of the Corn,” “The Lawnmower Man,” “Graveyard Shift,” “The Mangler,” and “Sometimes They Come Back”-which were all made into hit horror films.

From the depths of darkness, where hideous rats defend their empire, to dizzying heights, where a beautiful girl hangs by a hair above a hellish fate, this chilling collection of twenty short stories will plunge readers into the subterranean labyrinth of the most spine-tingling, eerie imagination of our time.

Review:

I have been reading Stephen King books since I was in junior high. At that age, his books are huge and daunting. It, The Stand, and The Tommyknockers are such long books that I had trouble starting them, let along getting through them. But I wanted to read Stephen King, so I decided to try his short stories. Night Shift was not the first King book I tried to read, but it was the first King book I finished. 

Now I am reading these stories again, and so many of them have been made into movies and pieces of anthology series, it is remarkable how much of the material has been mined for content. Even as recently as the new Creepshow series on Shudder has made “Gray Matter” into an episode. Some of these stories are just as good as I remembered them being when I was twelve or thirteen reading them, but like a lot of King, some of the language and characters have not age well. I read through these stories, and some of the lesser known stories, like “Night Surf” and “Strawberry Spring,” feel like first stories in a young career, where King’s story telling abilities were still in development. These are overshadowed by some really great stories, and Night Shift is really one of the quintessential, top five must read King books. 

There are only a few stories I remember vividly from reading this collection thirty years ago. Two of them, “The Mangler” and “Graveyard Shift” really stuck with me through the years. (I might have seen the film adaptations of these two stories. I know they exist, and I am sure I wanted to see them). “The Mangler” is about a possessed industrial folding press that kills those who work on it, and “Graveyard Shift” is about rats of unusual size. Both of these are about work and elements that change jobs to make them dangerous. I just remember these two much more than many of the others. Of course I do know some of the other stories because of their movie adaptations. “Sometimes They Come Back” and “Children of the Corn” are ones that I remember as movies more than stories, and “Children of the Corn” is very different from the movie adaptation. The movie is more in the classic consciousness of horror fans than the story (which only mentions Isaac and does not have him as any sort of important character). I will be honest. There are some of these stories that are even better now, thirty years later, than they were when I first read them. “Gray Matter”, “Sometimes They Come Back”, and “One for the Road” are so much better than I ever remember them being. “One for the Road” might be my favorite story in this collection. Something about snowstorms and vampires really go well together.

I have been meaning to revisit this collection for years, and I am glad I finally did. One difference between reading them as a young man and reading them now is that now they are not nearly as hard to read. I remember spending hours reading this book and taking a long time to comprehend what was happening. I fondly remember spending a long time in my room just reading, getting into the stories and being scared. I think the nostalgia of this collection sways me a little bit, but it is still one of King’s best books. Not only is it one of his best books, it is one of the best collections of horror short stories I know. I recommend this to the young reader, who is wanting to get into Stephen King’s books and to any reader of horror fiction.

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