Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams - Stephen King

I went to a Friendsgiving at Alex' two days before Thanksgiving, and someone had left this collection of short stories sitting out. There wasn't any cooking for me to help with, and there was so much noise the attempt to watch original MacGuyver episodes was proving futile, so I picked this up. I only got two-thirds of the way through by the time I left, but had the chance to work through the rest over the weekend.

It's a mixed bag, which isn't unusual with collections. Several of the stories are close to 50 pages, and I'm not sure how many of them needed that many pages."Mile 81" for example. I skipped a couple of the longer ones that didn't seem interesting in the first few pages, "Drunken Fireworks" and "Morality" to name two.

I still breezed through the book. The stories aren't difficult to follow, and while he could stand to shorten things up, King still has a style that is easy to read. Although having read a lot of his work in the past, it felt like I was trodding over familiar ground with a lot of the stories. "Bad Little Boy", with its evil antagonist whose goals are hard to discern and which humans can't do much more than slow or delay. "Mile 81) had that, too, to an extent. "Ur", with the technophobe English professor winding up with a very special tablet as well, but I liked that one more. Fooling around with multiverses is a trope I enjoy. Plus, the way King describes creatures or experiences that don't fit or belong, and how they make the main characters feel, it works really well for me. That ability to leave enough only hinted at so my imagination is doing the rest. I fill in for myself what that feeling would be for me, and the scene is more effective for it.

Besides "Ur", I enjoyed "Cookie Jar" the most. The ones of a slightly more fanciful nature, even with an edge of horror. Looking into another world and seeing the horrors there, not knowing what, if anything, they can do, or should do. In the story, an old man is relating his experience with it to his great-grandson, and I wonder how much he left out. He relates his experiences in World War 2, but leaves out exact descriptions of some of the things he saw there, and even if he told the kid some things about what he saw in that other world, enough to spark the kid's interest, he still probably didn't reveal everything.

There were also, just in the stories I got through, at least three that dealt with either a couple being unable to have a child, or suffering a miscarriage after getting pregnant. Maybe that's been in King's work a lot in the past - I know in It, Beverly's and her husband weren't able to have a child, and I feel like there have been others - but encountering it as part of that many stories in such rapid succession was a little strange.

Even if you're a Stephen King fan, I wouldn't describe The Bazaar of Bad Dreams as a collection you have to rush out and get. But if you find yourself in the mood for some of his short stories,  it could scratch that itch.


Kelvin Green said...

MacGyver is the one-man A-Team with the bloke off of Stargate. Guyver is the Japanese superhero thing with the alien biosuit, sort of a cross between Green Lantern and Venom.

MacGuyver would be amazing.

I've sort of drifted away from King. I read a lot of his stuff as I was waiting for The Dark Tower to finish, and I still have a small stack of his books to read, but I never went back to him after the conclusion of that series.

CalvinPitt said...

Guyver's not an anime I ever got around to watching. I'd probably finding it more entertaining than MacGyver was.

And would that Venom series Rick Remender wrote be MacGuyver? Soldier guy with alien suit thing? Although Flash Thompson liked to shoot things more than MacGyver. . .

I think King was one of the authors I read the most up thru high school, and then I stayed with him thru the end of Dark Tower. Since then, yeah, I've read a few of his books, but they all seem like they could stand to be edited down a bit. I guess at this stage no one is going to tell him to chop out a bunch of unnecessary pages.

Kelvin Green said...

Crikey, I don't know. The last Venom series I remember reading was the one from the mid 2000s that was a rip-off of The Thing.

Yeah, I think King is editor-proof these days, which is a bit of a shame as I agree he needs a bit of direction. I've got one of his son's books on my pile too; I keep forgetting to give that a try.