I’ve always enjoyed Stephen King’s novellas and short stories, in some instances, more than his full-length novels. I’m pleased to report that this new collection – containing four novellas – is reminiscent of some of his best (Four Past Midnight, Different Seasons, Full Dark, No Stars).
In the first novella, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, King displays his firm grasp on what has always been his strength – characterization. The story revolves around a young boy (Craig), his relationship with an older gentleman (Mr. Harrigan) and a new-fangled invention (the iPhone). It’s a coming-of-age story with some spooky twists. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is well-plotted with great characters and is, overall, an excellent read.
The second novella, The Life of Chuck, totally blew my mind! The story is divided into different chapters that, at first, don’t seem to relate to each other. Then WHAM! the connection is made and it’s like an epiphany. I’m not going to say more about this story (it was my favorite of the four) – you have to experience it for yourself. All I will say is it made me think and the next day I tweeted Mr. King thanking him for writing it!
The third novella, If It Bleeds, was, in my opinion, the least interesting of the four. For fans of The Outsider, the return of Holly Gibney will be welcomed. I, too, was excited when I discovered that her saga was going to continue here. However, I found the interactions between Holly and her mother somewhat tedious and I have to say I skimmed through most of them. It’s a good story, but I wish King had tightened it up more.
The final novella, Rat, gave me the creeps (in a good way)! I was reading it in what I call “the wee smalls” (2-3am) and when the story’s protagonist (Drew) opens the door during a storm and sees a rat with strange human-looking paws, I got shivers and put the book down for the night! I finished it the next evening. Drew is a writer and, as an author myself, I thoroughly enjoyed King’s description and examination of the thought process that occurs when writing fiction. Rat was a very good story with a bit of a twist reminiscent of Grimm’s fairy tales and, to me, ranks second after The Life of Chuck.
In summary, If It Bleeds provides a stellar reading experience and is highly recommend by this reader who is glad to see King back at the top of his form.