THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS
Nightmares at half price
Will Stephen King give you nightmares?
released 3 November 484 pages | Hardback/ Ebook
Author Stephen King
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
He’s been a bestselling author since the ’ 70s, there have been endless film and TV adaptations of his work – but if you want real proof of the achievements of Stephen King, simply look at his short stories. In a literary world where one of the few ironclad rules is that short stories don’t make money, King is still able to bring out bestselling collections of demonically gripping tales, and his latest release is another bumper crop of sharp, well- crafted fiction.
The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams collects together 17 works published over the last six years with three previously unpublished pieces, and follows the pattern King has evolved over his career, mixing old- fashioned suspense together with more characterful, literary explorations. Despite his Master of Horror mantle, King has always been happiest when veering from genre to genre, and while the results here are occasionally a little variable, he’s still able to land knockout blows when it counts.
The tales that naturally grab the attention are the old- school, traditional King stories like “The Little Green God Of Agony”, in which a faith healer tries to prove that pain is caused by demons, and “Mile 81”, where a shape- changing creature in the form of a car lurks in wait at an abandoned vehicle rest stop. “Bad Little Kid” plays with the concept of a purely evil child by telling the story of a man hounded by an unstoppable nemesis, while “Obits” explores what happens when an online columnist discovers his meanspirited fictional obituaries have started coming true.
The most satisfying of all of these is “Ur”, the longest story in the collection, the inventive tale of a college professor who accidentally acquires an e- reader that can access books from parallel universes. The finale sees King utilising ideas that would later find their way into his time travel saga 11- 22- 63, and other previous King works are sometimes referenced or echoed across the stories ( such as the moody Western tale “A Death”, which is partially reminiscent of The Green Mile).
It’s in some of the collection’s quieter stories that King really gets to showcase his facility with character, and his writing is often at its most emotionally devastating here. There’s a greater emphasis on mortality and the accumulative effects of ageing across these stories ( many of which are non- genre), but while the effects are often very moving, there’s no danger of King getting sentimental in his old age. His fiction still packs an impressive punch, from the bleak exploration of how amoral behaviour can wreck lives in “Morality”, to the melancholy apocalypse of “Sudden Thunder”.
Admittedly, not all of King’s experiments come off. Unexpected sports drama tangent in “Blockade Billy” is fun but may test the patience of anyone who’s not a baseball fan, while the inclusion of two works of poetry (“The Bone Church” and “Tommy”) feels over- indulgent. King also provides introductions to the stories; these are entertaining, but give away a little too much, losing some of the sense of discovery these collections can often bring.
These few weaknesses aside, the overall standard remains remarkably high, and King’s storytelling instincts are as razor sharp as ever. Despite being in his late sixties he’s showing no signs of slowing down his ferociously prolific output, and The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams is yet more proof that there are few writers out there who can match him. Saxon Bullock
The overall standard is high
“The Little Green God Of Agony” was adapted into a 24- page webcomic for King’s website: http:// bit. ly/ littlegreenweb.