Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just After Sunset (by Stephen King)

Second only to the various fantasy tropes (high, low, urban, modern, etc), the horror genre has featured highly in the many books I've read. A lot of the stories have leant more towards human, psychological or non-supernatural horror rather than classic monster tales containing rivers of blood and gore. Some of them would be classed more as thrillers, especially some of the later books by Dean Koontz, though I've also read one or two darker, gruesome supernatural stories by the likes of Clive Barker and James Herbert.

Stephen King is the favoured writer of many of the horror books I've read - though that may be because he's written so damned many of 'em!

Of his books, I tend to prefer his collections of short stories which tend to leave out some of the superfluous padding. Just After Sunset is one such collection. It contains 13 of King's short stories, many of which have been previously published in various magazines, and they're a mixed bunch. The quality does vary and none really stand out. It's probably one of his weaker efforts, though still darkly entertaining.

Stories such as N. (a paranoid Lovecraftian tale of OCD) and A Very Tight Place (a stomach-churning account of a man stuck in a Portaloo) stand out as a couple of the better ones, whereas The Cat from Hell is just plain silly.

One of the slight niggles with nearly all of these short stories - as well as many of his novel-length books - is that they feature American towns and places known to King. Thus, they all tend to take place in Maine or (as seems to be case with his later books) southern Florida. You can just tell that King and family head down to the Sunshine State when things get cold in the winter months up in Maine. It's this, and other, rampant Americanism in King's books that makes it a little difficult for a Brit like myself to really feel a kinship with his stories.

Just After Sunset
is a quick and entertaining read (one might say 'a real page turner') but not as good as some of his other shorter story collections, like Everything's Eventual and Four Past Midnight. Good enough if you like King, but not a must read.

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