Skeleton Crew

Skeleton Crew - Stephen King Reading this so soon after his first anthology, Night Shift, I found Skeleton Crew a disappointment. With his first collection, I only found one story to be really weak and several outstanding. While I wouldn't exactly say this book was the reverse, I only felt about half the stories worth the read. The first story is a short novel of 154 pages that takes up more than a quarter of the book. The Mist deals with a few dozen people trapped in a supermarket by monsters hidden by a mysterious mist. The narrator, David Drayton, himself calls the creatures from a "B-grade film" and that's how the story struck me overall, without the resonance and terror of King's best novels. About two-thirds through, I found myself skimming. There are two poems in the book, neither of which I found impressive--but then I'm no fan of modern poetry. That leaves 18 short stories and a novella, The Flexible Bullet. That novella is almost worth the price of the book by itself. One of the best of King's works in my opinion at any length, written in a masterful omniscient point of view, it's a spooky little tale of the writer's muse, and its closeness to madness. A few of the shorts stand out mostly for how they irked me: "The Jaunt," a rather lame science-fiction effort, is only amusing for its bad stab at prognostication. It has us having almost run out of fossil fuel in 1987, with thousands of people having died in the United States for the lack of heating oil the year before. "The Wedding Gig" comes across as an overextended fat joke, with the wonderful line that, unlike race, one shouldn't feel sorry for those with a weight problem because, "Fat people can always stop eating." (Spoken like a man who never had much of a weight problem. King treated cigarette smoking with a lot more sympathy in the short "Quitters, Inc" in Night Shift. I'd give King the benefit of the doubt, and say this reflects the views only of the narrating character, if he didn't go for this kind of fat joke humor again and again in other stories.) The obese woman's coffin is described as a "meat locker." Three of the shorts were written when King was just a teen--and it shows--none of those are memorable. "The Monkey" "The Raft" and "Gramma" are vintage King, and delivered up a good dose of horror and suspense. "The Word Processor of the Gods," despite touches of horror, was unusual for leaving me with a smile--rather sunny for a King story. "Survivor Type" on the other hand, was gruesome even for a King story--but I can't say it wasn't memorable. "Mrs Todd's Shortcut" was unusually light-hearted and whimsical for a King tale. I quite liked "The Man Who Wouldn't Shake Hands" for the voice telling the tale and atmosphere of 1919 New York City. "Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1)" was truly creepy. As a collection, I don't think this was as strong as Night Shift, but it certainly contained some unforgettable stories equal--or more--to the best in that book.