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Book Review: Night Shift by Stephen King

By Pamelascott

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GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: NIGHT SHIFT

AUTHOR: STEPHEN KING

PAGES: 409

PUBLISHER: NEW ENGLISH LIBRARY

YEAR: 1978

GENRE: SHORT FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Shift_(book)

www.stephenking.com

FEATURE FILM ADAPTATIONS: Children of the Corn were adapted for the screen into a series of horror movies (1984+). Quitter’s Inc and The Ledge were adapted for the screen as the movie Cat’s Eye (1985). Trucks were adapted for the screen as the movie Maximum Overdrive (1986). Graveyard Shift was adapted for the screen as a movie with the same name (1990). The Mangler was adapted for the screen as a movie with the same name (1995).

TV ADAPTATIONS: Sometimes They Come Back was adapted as TV movie of the same name (1991). Trucks were adapted for a TV movie with the same name (1997). Battleground was adapted as part of the series Nightmares & Dreamscapes (2006). Children of the Corn were adapted for a TV movie of the same name (2009).

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

A collection of terrifying stories that reveal a shuddering detailed map of the dark places that lie behind our waking, rational world. 

These are tales to invade and paralyse the mind as the safe light of day is infiltrated by the creeping peopled shadows of night. As you read, the clutching fingers of terror brush lightly across the nape of the neck, reach round from behind to clutch and lock themselves, white-knuckled, around the throat. 

This is the horror of ordinary people and everyday objects that become strangely altered; a world where nothing is ever quite what it seems, where the familiar and friendly lure and deceive. A world where madness and blind panic become the only reality.  

EXTRACT  

DEAR BONES, How good it was to step into the cold, draughty hall here at Chapelwaite, every bone in an ache from that abominable coach, in need of instant relief from my distended bladder – and to see a letter addressed in your own imitable scrawl propped on the obscene little cherry-wood table beside the door (JERUSALEM’S LOT) 

REVIEW

JERUSALEM’S LOT: A man moves to the huge estate he has inherited when a distant relative died. He uncovers skeletons in the family closet involving religious fanaticism, the unholy worship of a giant worm and three members of his family are the undead.

Jerusalem’s Lot is written in the form of letters between the young man who inherited Chapelwaite and an old friend. It’s a well written tale and lacks gore despite the gruesome premise. I can’t help wonder if this story developed into the novel Salem’s Lot.

GRAVEYARD SHIFT: A man agrees to be part of a clean-up crew clearing out the basement of the old mill where he works. The crew discover a sub-basement that is home to hordes of mutant rats some as large as a dog. The man forces his cruel foreman deeper into the sub-basement until the rats devour him.

Graveyard Shift is one of the weaker stories in this collection. It’s well written and okay as far as stories go. It’s just not King at his best. He can do much better. The story is not very gory but is still about giant killer rats which are kind of crass. The movie is awful.

NIGHT SURF: A group of survivors of a flu virus that has wiped out most of earth’s population struggles to make a life for themselves in an almost empty, desolate world. They stumble across a man who has the flu and is delirious. They burn the man as a sort of human sacrifice.

Night Surf is one of the best stories in this collection. The flu that has wiped out most humans on earth is nicknamed ‘Captain Tripps’, the name of the virus in The Stand. I assume Night Surf is a spin-off of The Stand.

I AM THE DOORWAY: A man returns from a mission in space and believes his body has been invaded by some sort of alien that breaks through the flesh in the tips of his fingers and uses his body to see our world. They briefly control his body and use him to kill a young boy and his friend. He burns his fingers but the aliens return when a line of eyes appear on his chest.

I Am The Doorway is a well-written, sci-fi story. I thought it was a very original idea. I found the story sort of creepy, in a good way.

THE MANGLER: A woman dies in a freak accident in a laundrette. She is sucked into a speed ironer and folder and crushed to death. This should never have happened because the emergency stop button should have shut the machine down and the safety bar should have prevented her from being pulled all the way in. The police officer investigating this latest bizarre accident featuring this machine discovers it is demonically possessed.

The Mangler is a well-written story. I thought the concept behind it was very original. There are some good moments in the story especially when the woman is killed at the start and the machine comes to life at the end. This is a pretty gory story. The move version stars Robert England (aka Freddy Kreuger).

THE BOOGEYMAN: A man goes to see a psychiatrist and confesses to causing the death of his three children. He claims a creature called the boogeyman came of the closet in the bedroom of the house and killed them. He is responsible because he saw the creature kill his first child but made his other children sleep in the same bed.

The Boogeyman is a gem of a story. I felt King had an interesting take on a well-used theme in horror fiction – the unnameable monster in the closet, the stuff of childhood nightmares. This is a very good story.

GREY MATTER: A group of men who hang out at the off licence of their friend discover that a local man has mutated into a grey blob and has been responsible for a series of recent disappearances in the area. He drank beer that was contaminated by grey goop.

Grey Matter is also a very weak story. It’s sort of crass and gross and has no redeeming features. This is an inferior story. King is capable of much more.

BATTLEGROUND: A hit man receives a parcel in the post from the mother of his latest hit. The box is filled with tiny toy soldiers and weapons that are alive and gunning for his blood. This leads to a war.

Battleground is a great story. King uses a very original idea and comes up with something great. There are moments when the story is almost funny because the soldiers are so small but King hits home with the painful reality of how dangerous they are. This is a great story. The TV adaptation is also great.

TRUCKS: A group of people are trapped at a petrol station when machines including trucks come to life all over the world and attack and kill humans. They are forced to feed the trucks, cars etc petrol to keep them running.

Trucks is one of the best stories in this collection. The story is well-written and original. I find it very unsettling but great. The concept King explores in huge and terrifying. The movie version is known as Maximum Overdrive. It’s a good film if a little over the top. A later adaptation keeps the same name as the story. I’ve never seen it.

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK: A young teacher goes to work in a rough, inner-city school. He finds himself haunted by the ghosts of the young thugs he witnessed murder his brother when he was very young. He resorts to summoning a demon to get rid of them.

Sometimes They Come Back is a great story. There are some sad moments especially when Jim Norman recalls his brother’s murder. This is another very original story.

STRAWBERRY SPRING: A young man recalls a semester at college when several young women were murdered by a serial killer nicknamed ‘Springheel Jack’. The murders were never solved and have started again.

Strawberry Spring is a brilliant story. King gradually reveals that the narrator is actually the murderer. This revelation does not come until the end of the story. There is no lead up to this or hint this is coming up so this moment is a shocking revelation.

THE LEDGE: A man agrees to walk along the narrow ledge that leads all the way around the penthouse apartment of his lover’s wealthy husband. His prize for this bet is a new life with his lover. He is duped though and when he reaches the end he is given his lover’s head in a bag. He forces the husband onto the ledge at gunpoint and makes him walk.

The Ledge is a well-written, interesting story. It’s unusual because it very different from other stories in this collection.

THE LAWNMOWER MAN: A man hires someone to mow his lawn when the usual boy goes off to college. He sees the mower run on its own. A man crawls along behind it and eats the freshly cut grass and a squirrel that gets caught up in the blades.

The Lawnmower Man is an okay story. I think it’s unnecessarily gross. I wasn’t very impressed by it.

QUITTERS INC: A man uses a company a friend recommends to try and stop smoking. They use force to make people quit. They monitor people 24/7. If someone smokes they kidnap their spouse and electrocute them. Continued breaches of the rules will lead to his disabled son being beaten up. The man only breaks the rules once.

I think Quitters Inc. is a great story. King offers another original tale.

I KNOW WHAT YOU NEED: A woman starts to date a gawky young man she went to school with when her fiancé is killed in a tragic accident. Her new boyfriend seems perfect – he always knows what she wants and needs and does everything right. Her happiness is threatened when her room-mate suggests he has more sinister motivations.

I Know What You Need is the best story in this collection. King offers us his interpretation of the creepy stalker story. The new boyfriend has some form of psychic power and uses this to manipulate everyone and everything around him. I love this story.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN: A young couple get lost driving in Nebraska and end up in an eerily abandoned town called Gatlin when someone slits a young boy’s throat and shoves him in front of their car. The town is filled with children who worship a demon who lives in the corn and have killed all of the adults.

Children of the Corn is another great story. This time King tackles religious mania. The series of movies spawned by this story are pretty shit. This is a shame because the story is very good.

THE LAST RUNG ON THE LADDER: A man’s younger sister commits suicide when she jumps from the roof of the apartment building where she lives. He receives her suicide note soon after this and is forced to remember a time when they were very young and he saved her life.

The Last Rung on the Ladder is another brilliant story. I found it very sad and moving.

THE MAN WHO LOVED FLOWERS: A young man buys some roses and walks the streets. Anyone who sees him thinks they are looking at someone in love and happy. He follows a woman down an alley and approaches her. He mistakes her for someone else and beats her to death with a hammer when he realises she’s not the love of his life.

The Man Who Loved Flowers is a great story. The murder of the young woman at the end is unexpected and shocking.

ONE FOR THE ROAD: A group of old man help a young man go looking for his wife and daughter. Their car went off the road near the deserted town of ‘Salem’s Lot. He left them and went to get help. They discover the woman and child have been turned into vampires.

One for the Road is a great story. King makes it clear this story is set after the events of his novel Salem’s Lot.

THE WOMAN IN THE ROOM: A man visits his mother in a nursing home. She has dementia. He feed her dozens of sleeping pills in an attempt to end her suffering.

The Woman in the Room is very sad and made me cry.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Night Shift is King’s first published collection of stories. I think it is his best. Some of the stories such as I Know What You Need are great and most of the rest are very good. There are only a couple of stinkers. This is a very strong collection of stories overall.

RATING

4-star-rating

 


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