By Stephen King
Scribner, 459 pp, 2002
Thank goodness Stephen
King still believes in the short story, since it seems to be a dying
form these days, especially in the horror field. Horror magazines are
going belly-up left and right, just as writers such as myself try to break
into them. It's a sad situation, and let's hope the trend reverses itself,
and short horror fiction makes a comeback.
Perhaps this fine collection of short
stories will help. King has written several short story collections, such
Crew, Night Shift, and Nightmares and Dreamscapes,
including a few collections of short novels. Everything's Eventual
shows that King has not lost the touch when writing the short horror
I won't comment on every story, just most
The first story, Autopsy Room Four, gets
the book off on the right track. It's a fun jaunt through one man's
adventure as doctors are about to perform an autopsy on what they think is
a dead man. But is Howard Cottrell of Derry (one of my favorite fictional
towns) really dead? He doesn't thinks so, but he can't move or speak to
let the doctors know. Will they find out before they crack open his
This story is also fun because King uses
irony very effectively. I usually do not try to get too deep into the
literary analysis thing, because it's impossible to glean an author's
intentions from the story alone. Did King intend to use irony in this
story? Who knows? Regardless, it's still ironic. I can't give too much
away, but let's say that a certain orderly who has some fun with what he
thinks is a dead body informs the doctors that Howard is alive... or
The next story, The Man in the Black Suit,
is King's "homage" to Hawthorne's classic Young Goodman Brown.
The protagonist writes of an encounter he had with the Devil in the woods
of his boyhood home. It's very exciting and suspenseful, maybe the best
story in the book.
In The Deathroom is one American's struggle
against a totalitarian foreign government, as captured in an interrogation
scene deep in the bowels of some government building. I found this
exciting because I love stories of oppressed people rising up against
their oppressors (that sentence sounds left wing, but it's not). The
protagonist shows an American ingenuity in his attempts to escape the
interrogation. King also shows that sometimes, it's okay to hate something
that's deserving of it, another lesson we've seem to forgotten in these
politically correct times.
The Road Virus Heads North is pure
supernatural terror at its best. So many times, writers feel they need to
explain why an otherworldly or supernatural event occurs. In my mind, this
often taints the story and makes it less scary - why does there have to be
a reason? A danger that threatens for no reason with no obvious escape is scary.
That's what King does with this story, involving a macabre painting our
protagonist purchases on a whim at a garage sale. It's taut, it's weird,
it's terrifying, and best of all, it's unexplainable. Vies with The Man in
the Black Suit for best story.
A few other highlights include 1408, the
haunted hotel room yarn taken up a notch (as Emeril might say - my wife
watches him, okay!), and for us Dark Tower fans, a treat with Roland the
Gunslinger taking on vampire nurses. Riding the Bullet, originally
published on the Internet, is also included for those readers with no
access to cyberspace (are there any?). Lunch at the Gotham Cafe is
probably the bloodiest story but effective because it shares the same
charming trait with The Road Virus Heads North - there's no reason for a
maitre d' in a posh New York restaurant to scream about imaginary barking
dogs while slicing up diners with a butcher knife. But that's what
happens. And it's great fun.
So buy the book. The link's at the top.