Friday, 23 April 2010

Emo Horror [Review: Just After Sunset]

"Just After Sunset" is a new collection of short stories by Stephen King. While they are undeniably still horror stories, they strike more of a melancholy note than King's earlier writings: more emo than gothic horror. The tone is struck in the opening novella "Willa" when a woman running to escape a serial killer still manages to take in the solemn beauty of a sunset. Many of the stories focus on horrors that have already happened and deal with the grief and denial that follows. A common theme for many of the stories is a magical portal connecting places, times or universes.

"N." is a particularly interesting story: the descriptions of Ackerman's Field, a location dripping with evil, the conjunction of pan-dimensional horror and mental illness, and the multi-layered narrative of journal entries and unearthed letters, even the name of the horror point to H.P. Lovecraft as the inspiration - but in his footnotes King credits the earlier, Welsh horror writer Arthur Machen, also an alchemist and contemporary of Aleister Crowley, as well as the inspiration for many of Lovecraft's tales.

Not all the stories are as gripping as "N." - this is a readable collection but by no means King's strongest writing. Other highlights for me were the surreal and colourful "Stationary Bike" and the finale "A Very Tight Place" - a hilarious and nightmarish non-paranormal horror which could have been written by Gordie LaChance, the narrator of "The Body/Stand By Me."


Bill the Butcher said...

This has all the hallmarks of King's work: overwritten, though admittedly less so than some of his longer work, melodramatic in all the wrong places, and trying overtime to push the disgust button where he can't manage to horrify (if he ever could). I'd give it one star out of five, but then of all King's work I'd probably only rate Christine higher, and I'd give that a star and a half, if that.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Thanks for posting your review. Fair to say that, if you haven't enjoyed King's work at all in the past, I think this collection is unlikely to change your mind. What would? Personally I'd probably go back to Firestarter or the original Bachman books - you may well disagree.