Monday, August 24, 2009

Skeleton Crew

Over the weekend I jumped the gun and decided to read the last short story of Stephen King's collection, Skeleton Crew. Regular readers of this blog will know that I usually read one short story between each of my other books but this time I made an exception.

Since I've already blurbed about each of the stories as I read them, and tucked those blurbs in at the end of the other blog entries, I won't go into much detail about the stories themselves. I will mention that the last story in the collection, The Reach, was absolutely fantastic and an excellent choice to round out the collection. It is about an old woman who has lived on a small island off the coast of Maine. She has never crossed over the reach to set foot on the mainland because she never saw a need to do so. She is plagued by what she is sure is stomach cancer though that hasn't been diagnosed and so she knows her time has come. The story becomes almost poetic as she takes a walk and meets aspiritions of several of her relatives and friends, including her husband, that have already passed on. Life is good after death, she learns, so what could have been a very horrifying story becomes a comforting tale. The prose is beautifully written as she accepts what is happening to her and she crosses a different "reach" and dies. I understand Stephen King himself once said during a Today show interview that The Reach would be the story he would like most to be remembered for because it is "The Maine he grew up in and the people he knows." Truly a different sort of story that has elements of horror but nonetheless leaves the reader with a warm feeling at the end.

The overall collection is simply superb. This is the 40th Stephen King book I've read and I still want more. In this collection we get to see King at his eerie best with such stories as The Monkey, Word Processor of the Gods, Gramma, and The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet. Hard core horror shines through in Survivor Type, Cain Rose Up, and of course we get the masterpiece novella, The Mist included in this overall collection as well. These stories demonstrate King's vast talent for story telling, not just delivering bloody, evil horror but also showing us real characters. I love the way that King can get into the characters so well that I recognize people from my own life who are exactly like that.

Almost all of these stories first appeared elsewhere, having been published in one magazine or another and many of them at a time in King's early career when he really needed a paycheck. Perhaps desperation produces truly quality output because there are lots of gems in this collection. Some of King's later works, after his rise to literary stardom, are not nearly so cutting edge and frequently are in need of more editing. But even in those cases, I enjoy reading it because it just hits home so well.

I think my next short story collection will be another section in Harlan Ellison's Essential Ellison. I've read a few sections already but I like to spread it out so I should be able to get in this next one during this year.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire