BOOK REVIEW: SKELETON CREW BY STEPHEN KING

SKELTON

GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: SKELETON CREW

AUTHOR: STEPHEN KING

PAGES: 605

PUBLISHER: WARNER BOOKS

YEAR: 1985

GENRE: SHORT FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeleton_Crew

www.stephenking.com

The Raft was adapted as a segment of the 1987 New World Pictures anthology film Creepshow 2, with a script by George A. Romero, and directed by Michael Gornic.

Word Processor of the Gods (1984 Laurel TV, directed by Michael Gornic) was a 22-minute episode of Tales from the Darkside.

Gramma (1986 CBS/MGM-UA, directed by Bradford May) was a 21-minute episode of The New Twilight Zone written by Harlan Ellison.

The Mist (2007 The Weinstein Company, written/directed by Frank Darabont) was adapted into the film The Mist, which was released on November 21, 2007.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

The Master at his scarifying best! From heart-pounding terror to the eeriest of whimsy–tales from the outer limits of one of the greatest imaginations of our time!

Evil that breathes and walks and shrieks, brave new worlds and horror shows, human desperation bursting into deadly menace–such are the themes of these astounding works of fiction. In the tradition of Poe and Stevenson, of Lovecraft and The Twilight Zone, Stephen King has fused images of fear as old as time with the iconography of contemporary American life to create his own special brand of horror–one that has kept millions of readers turning the pages even as they gasp.

In the book-length story “The Mist,” a supermarket becomes the last bastion of humanity as a peril beyond dimension invades the earth. . .

Touch “The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands,” and say your prayers . . .

There are some things in attics which are better left alone, things like “The Monkey” . . .

The most sublime woman driver on earth offers a man “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” to paradise . . .

A boy’s sanity is pushed to the edge when he’s left alone with the odious corpse of “Gramma” . . .

If you were stunned by Gremlins, the Fornits of “The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet” will knock your socks off . . .

Trucks that punish and beautiful teen demons who seduce a young man to massacre; curses whose malevolence grows through the years; obscene presences and angels of grace–here, indeed, is a night-blooming bouquet of chills and thrills….

EXTRACT

This is what happened. One the night that the worst heat wave in northern New England history finally broke – the night of July 19 – the entire western Maine region was lashed with the most vicious thunderstorms I have ever seen (THE MIST)

 

REVIEW

 

THE MIST: A terrible storm unleashes a strange mist that plays host to an array of weird and wonderful monsters including prehistoric birds and giant spiders. The main focus of the story is a group of survivors holed up in a shopping centre.

The Mist is a great story. King does sci-fi and pulls off a strange, disturbing tale. I found bits of this story pretty scary especially near the end when David and the people he leaves the supermarket with see a monster hundreds of feet high. I loved the scenes in the supermarket with crazy old Mrs Carmody persuading other survivors to offer David’s son as a blood sacrifice. The 2007 movie is shit.

HERE THERE BE TYGERS: A boy leaves his classroom to take a leak and sees a tiger spread out on the windowsill at the opposite end of the bathroom. He’s afraid to take a pee and is gone so long his mean old teacher comes to look for him. He lures her to the tiger and lets it eat her.

This is a fun, quite light-hearted story. Charles’s plight is one a lot of people could relate to. Who hasn’t had to deal with a teacher in their life that wasn’t very nice? Who hasn’t dreamt of luring the enemy into the tiger’s den and letting them be devoured?

THE MONKEY: A man is clearing out some old junk in his attic when he finds a brass monkey that can clang its symbols. This toy plagued his childhood and caused the death of several of his friends and family. He thought it was buried long ago and the sinister toy’s appearance startles him. His son starts to play with it and the man finds history repeating. He takes the toy with his younger sister and hurls it deep into the ocean. The next day the local paper reports hundreds of fish dying in the ocean.

I think The Monkey is a great story. It’s a great old-fashioned horror story.

CAIN ROSE UP: A university student locks himself in his room on campus with a gun and starts shooting passer’s by through his window.

I think Cain Rose Up is a good story, quite sinister. I also found it painfully realistic given how many similar shootings have been in the news over the years.

MRS TODD’S SHORTCUT: A man recalls his best friend running off with another man’s wife. Ophelia Todd was obsessed with finding shortcuts in her little car. Her obsession leads her to travel to another dimension which gradually makes her younger. She returns from one her trips and takes Homer, the caretaker of her summer home, with her.

I really like Mrs Todd’s Shortcut. It’s creepy but very well written. The story is set in Castle Rock, Maine; the fictional town that features in several King’s works.

THE JAUNT: In the future, time travel is possible via a method called the jaunt. People need to be asleep when they are strapped into a machine that can transport them anywhere. A man tells his son the story of how this was made possible as his family wait for their first jaunt. The man’s son pretends to be asleep and comes through the trip as an ancient, dying creature the man is forced to watch die in agony.

The Jaunt is okay for a sci-fi story but I don’t think it’s very good. Sci-fi is not King’s strong point. Ray Bradbury is much better.

THE WEDDING GIG: A band is hired to play at the wedding of a mobster’s morbidly obese sister and a skinny man. The mobster knows everyone is laughing at him because they think he bought the groom for his fat sister because she got an itch in her pants. The wedding turns into chaos when the mobster’s rival sends someone to the wedding to slag his sister off. The mobster and his rival go to war and the mobster is killed. His sister takes over his empire and becomes one of the most feared mobsters ever.

I thought The Wedding Gig was a well written, engaging story. I just don’t think it fit well in this collection. It’s too different than the other stories.

PARANOID – A CHANT: This is a poem about someone who is paranoid and thinks there are spies watching him and waiting outside his door. It’s sort of shit.

THE RAFT: A group of college friends swim out to a wooden raft in the centre of a lake to celebrate the end of summer. They are menaced by a creature that looks like a slick of oil but has a taste for human flesh.

I like The Raft. It’s sort of gross but fun.

WORD PROCESSOR OF THE GODS: A man is given a gift his genius nephew made him before he died in a car accident – a word processor he made that can make things appear in the world and vanish from it.

I think Word Processor of the Gods is a great story. Who wouldn’t want that sort of power? I like how the man uses the power get the life he deserves. A great little story.

THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT SHAKE HANDS: A man has a voodoo curse placed on him in a foreign country after a young boy is accidentally killed while messing with his car. The curses states anyone who shakes his hand will die. He refuses to let anyone shake his hand when he returns to the states with tragic consequences.

I really like this story. King sets The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands in the same gentleman’s club as his novella The Breathing Method in Different Seasons. It’s well written and a bit mysterious.

BEACHWORLD: A spaceship crashes on a planet made entirely of sand. There are no other inhabitants. The sand seems to be alive. One of the men looks forward to being rescued. The other man becomes oddly hypnotised by the sand and starts to waste away.

Beachworld is a pretty decent sci-fi story. I liked the closing scene when the man, now gone made starts to eat the sand as his comrade is rescued and heads off into the sunset.

THE REAPER’S IMAGE: A man goes to view a mirror created by a famous designer that is supposed to be worth a fortune. The mirror is rumoured to be cursed as several people claimed to have seen a reflection of death in the corner of the mirror before they disappeared. The man seems what appears to be a piece of black tape covering one corner of the mirror. The mirror’s owner claims this was death’s reflection. The man goes downstairs to get something and the mirror’s owner waits and wonders if he will come back.

This is an okay story but I felt the premise was quite thin and there was something missing. I just didn’t think much of it.

NONA: A man falls in love with a beautiful woman he meets at a rest stop. The man kills someone for harassing her, setting in motion a chain of murders that leads to him being sent to prison.

I thought this was a great story. Well written, powerful and very sad. Did Nona really exist and if so was she a demon or a human? Did the narrator make her up to try and excuse his actions?

FOR OWEN: Another poem, this time dedicated to his youngest son. This is pretty well written but has no place in a collection of short stories.

SURVIVOR TYPE: A man is marooned on a desert island. He starts to cannibalise himself when his food supplies start to dwindle, starting with his injured food. By the end of the story he is a torso, two arms and a head crawling about the sand.

I thought this was a good story, if a little gross. I have cannibal issues. I like the narrator’s gradual descent into insanity and the fact the story is written in the format of a diary.

UNCLE OTTO’S TRUCK: A young man suspects his mad, senile Uncle Otto murdered his business partner years before for money and the guilt has made him imagine the dead man’s truck is alive and seeking revenge. He starts to wonder if the old man is telling the truth when he’s found dead with the truck’s carburettor jammed into his throat.

I enjoyed this story. I wonder if Otto was mad or completely sane. What would be worse? King returns to Castle Rock, my favourite fictional place.

MORNING DELIVERIES (MILKMAN #1): A milkman leaves rather nasty things in place of some of his usual customer’s orders including poisonous gas and a tarantula.

I thought this story was interesting. Was the milkman mad or what? I like the way he appeared to be calm and collect through the whole thing as if it was any normal morning.

BIG WHEELS: A TALE OF THE LAUNDRY GAME (MILKMAN #2): A man is seeking revenge when he finds out his son cheated on him with the milkman and his son is actually her lover’s. He drives his laundry truck drunk and gets into a confrontation with him that ends in tragedy.

This is a companion piece of Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1). I like the story but thought it was a bit odd that the milkman had gotten away with the psychotic shit he pulled in the first story.

GRAMMA: A young boy is left alone with his ailing grandmother when his mother needs to go to the hospital. He recalls memories and rumours that his grandmother was into voodoo or some kind of witch. The old woman dies as he realises she is a witch. The woman comes back to life and wants a hug. He calls a relative who gets him to chant something and she stops. The story later implies the old woman has possessed the boy.

I really like this story. It offers a decent scare.

THE BALLAD OF THE FLEXIBLE BULLET: A man who is an editor of a struggling magazine receives an unsolicited short story that he believes is a masterpiece. He corresponds with the author and learns he is delusional. He believes creatures called Fornits (tiny elves) live in his typewriter. The editor starts to believe this as well. The elves bring creativity and luck. The editor descends into the author’s madness.

I think this novella is great. A highlight of Skeleton Crew.

THE REACH: An old woman facing death realises she has never cross the body of water that separates the island where she has lived her whole life from the mainland. She has cancer and starts to see the deceased residents of the island. She sets out to walk across the frozen reach to the mainland and is welcomed into the arms of death by the spirits of old friends and her husband.

I love this story. It’s sad, beautiful and moving. Hankies all round.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Skeleton Crew is a mixed bag of stories. There are some great stories like The Mist, Word Processor of the Gods, The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands and The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet. There are some not so great stories like The Jaunt, The Raft and Survivor Type. There are also two poems which should never have made it in here in the first place.

RATING

 

4 STAR RATING

Up next: The Bachman Books   

kingbachmannel87

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