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Stephen King

Stephen King(1947- )
Stephen King has won America’s prestigious National Book Award and was voted Grand Master in the 2007 Edgar Allen Poe awards. He lives with his wife, novelist Tabitha King, in Maine, USA.There are synopses and audiobook excerpts of The Dark Tower novels at Stephen King’s website.


Salem’s Lot: Old school vampires, King-style

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Starting in 2012/2013 I started obsessing on Stephen King. I'm slowly working my way through his catalog, which means I should have a pretty full life of King left to me, right? I'm a huge fan of It, The Stand, The Shining, and I actually really enjoyed Under the Dome. I wanted more, and so I’ve gone old school with Salem's Lot.

I'm over the whole vampire thing, trust me, but I've found that King is so much more than monsters and things that go bump in the night. He is at his artistic best when turning the mundane into the profane, or peeling back the layers of what's public and private, and then igniting even the smallest evil into the ... Read More

The Shining: An amazing character study

The Shining by Stephen King

Stephen King’s The Shining is an amazing character study that drives mood-heavy, emotionally deep, and unrelenting literary horror. The story centers on Danny Torrance, a young boy with a unique ability, termed the 'shine.' Danny can sense the future, and communicate mentally and emotionally with his inner self and other people, alive, and sometimes less so.

Stephen King writes ‘childhood’ masterfully. He's able to tap into the emotions of youth, and create evocative realism in their thoughts, dialogue and action. Also found in his magnum opus It, King places children in extraordinary circumstances; yet still creates very realistic, thoughtful and down-to-earth reactions and behavior.

Also like It, King uses The Read More

Doctor Sleep: A sequel to The Shining

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I’ve avoided some of Stephen King’s more recent works, like Cell and Under the Dome, because they didn’t look like they would be my thing. Doctor Sleep was a different matter. I didn’t think it was perfect, but it had a lot of the things I look for in a King novel.

In 1977, King published The Shining, a book about an evil hotel in Colorado, and the family it victimized during a hard winter. The father in that family died in the hotel – or, one might say, with the hotel. His wife and son, Danny, escaped alive, in part because of Danny’s gift, or “shining.”

Danny is grown up now, trying to make his way in the world. His gift or “shine” is nearly dormant. It still s... Read More

The Stand: The biggest, baddest tale of the apocalypse

The Stand by Stephen King

Stephen King's The Stand is an awesomely epic creation. It's good versus evil writ large across the American landscape. It's heavy, detailed, and extremely rich in the characterizations of its people and themes. The story is familiar — an apocalyptic virus is accidentally (and inevitably) released from a government lab. Over 99% of all human life is wiped out by what becomes known as Captain Trips. This story is about those who survived.

The survivors are polarized around two god-like characters that magnetize individuals through their dreams. Mother Abigail Freemantle, a 108-year-old woman from Hemingford, Nebraska draws those with inherent goodness. Randall Flagg, from nowhere and everywhere, draws those with a slightly more dubious nature.

The story of T... Read More

The Long Walk: A novel about exhaustion

The Long Walk by Stephen King

Ray Garraty, Maine’s own, lives in a near-future dystopian America where boys enter an annual game, the Long Walk, in which the winner is given anything he wants. The winning boy must walk at four miles per hour longer than any other boy in the competition. Boys whose pace drops below four miles per hour are given a warning, which they can lose after an hour of at-pace walking. Boys that collect three warnings, however, receive their “ticket,” a bullet.

The Long Walk was originally published under Stephen King’s pseudonym, Richard Bachman, in 1979. Bachman’s true identity was exposed in 1985, and King has since rereleased the novel with an introductory essay “The Importance of Being Bachman.” King explains that Bachman was a voice that he hoped could articulate the “place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and th... Read More

The Running Man: Don’t read the introduction!

The Running Man by Stephen King

Ben Richards hates America’s dystopian future. Because he quit his job cleaning up atomic waste before it could sterilize him, Ben finds himself blacklisted and unemployable. He and his wife, Sheila, did manage to conceive, but their daughter now suffers from pneumonia in polluted Co-Op City. Sheila makes ends meet by turning tricks, which bothers Ben.

Ben looks at the people around him and is sickened by their devotion to the Network, a corporation that organizes and televises gladiator games for the masses. Ben knows the games are rigged — no one ever wins — but, his back against the wall, he decides to apply for the most dangerous game: “The Running Man.” If he’s smart and lucky, he will make enough before his inevitable death that Sheila will be able to afford medical care for their... Read More

The Gunslinger: The world has moved on

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Stephen King’s The Gunslinger is a post-apocalyptic Western-fantasy hybrid about the gunslinger Roland Deschain and his pursuit of the man in black across a desert.

At first glance, the Western plays the largest role in The Gunslinger. Roland carries two heavy six shooters with sandalwood handles, and he can fire them both with deadly accuracy. He wears a duster, leads a pack mule when we first meet him, and is chasing his quarry across a seemingly endless desert. So it is not surprising that King cites The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as an influence in his introductory essay “On Being Nineteen (and a Few Other Things).”

The Western may be the more prominent inspiration for Roland, but his quest would make any author of epic fantasy jealous. It is not Read More

The Drawing of the Three: A Posse of New Yorkers

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

There is a lot to be said in praise of Stephen King, but one of his most admirable talents is his ability to vest his heroes with such unlikely and frustrating vulnerabilities. King certainly wastes no time castrating the recently victorious Roland Deschain in The Drawing of the Three, the second of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels.

We barely have time to blink at the mountains and the ocean before we find Roland, the last gunslinger in Mid-World, under attack from “lobstrosities.” Though he survives, Roland loses an index and middle finger to these sea monsters, a significant loss for our pistol-bearing hero. The wounds fester as Roland doggedly continues his journey, and he eventually finds three doors that carry him to New York.

On the other side of these t... Read More

The Waste Lands: What Kind of Knights Are These?

The Waste Lands by Stephen King

The Gunslinger introduces us to Roland Deschain, the last cowboy-knight of a world that has moved on. In The Drawing of the Three, King gives Roland partners. The Waste Lands, the third novel of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels, focuses on fleshing out the details of Roland’s quest.

But not too many details.

It turns out that a Crimson King is doing everything in his power to destroy the universe from atop the Dark Tower. After centuries of searching, Roland has begun to make real progress in his quest to find the Dark Tower because he and his heroes have come across one of the beams that control the world. Like most of King’s creations, it reads better in the book than in summary.

King forces ... Read More

The Wizard and the Glass: Tight plot, western setting, fantastic villains

The Wizard and the Glass by Stephen King

The Wizard and the Glass, the fourth of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels, returns to the Mid-World of Roland’s youth. Having recently bested his teacher in combat, Roland is now a gunslinger, one of the cowboy-knights of Gilead. However, Roland is young, and his father sends him away from his court — and away from the villainous sorcerer Marten Broadcloak. With his two companions — clever Cuthbert and the steady, cerebral Alain — by his side, what’s the worst that can happen?

Unfortunately, there are no safe places for Roland in Mid-World. “Good Man” John Farson’s rebellion against Gilead has reached the distant Barony of Mejis. Worse, Marten Broadcloak has charged The Big Coffin Hunters, exiled gunslingers that failed their final test, to hunt down and kill Rola... Read More

Wolves of the Calla: Less than the sum of its parts

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

In Wolves of the Calla, the fifth novel in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, Roland and his posse defend a village from monsters. King borrows the great ideas of a variety of favorite stories, yet his final product is ultimately less than the sum of its parts.

Calla is a farming village preyed upon by the Wolves of the Thunderclap. The Wolves come once per generation, take children, and return them “roont,” mentally handicapped and destined to grow gigantic before dying young. Should the village continue to live with this curse, or should they stand and fight? Enter Roland and his band of gunslingers, the last of Mid-World’s heroes.

King’s focus is divided between the primary Calla storyline and advancing the overall quest to reach the Dark Tower. It turns out ... Read More

Song of Susannah: Maybe the weakest of King’s Dark Tower novels

Song of Susannah by Stephen King

In his famous series, The Dark Tower, Stephen King has so far divided his time between assembling a posse of unlikely gunslingers and paying homage to his literary heroes like Tolkien and Sergio Leone. In Song of Susannah, King shifts gears and instead begins to wrap up Roland’s quest to find the Dark Tower.

Susannah is pregnant. Her child’s, or “chap’s,” father is at once Roland and a demon. Both the Crimson King and the Man in Black have made plans — and deals — regarding the possession of the chap after it’s born. Unfortunately, Susannah is largely unaware of these arrangements because Mia, a new personality, has taken over their mind. Mia takes both Susannah’s body and their chap to another dimension,... Read More

The Dark Tower: Does the destination justify the journey?

The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Stephen King’s concluding volume of The Dark Tower series, The Dark Tower, is nothing if not surprising. Since its release, fans have squabbled over whether King hits a homerun or hits the ditch in the final volume of what has been described as his masterwork.

Without giving away the ending, I think the resolution of The Dark Tower is fantastic.

When The Dark Tower opens, Roland and his posse of gunslingers have divided their forces. Susannah/ Mia is about to give birth to a chap, an entity somehow fathered by both Roland and The Crimson King. Randall Flagg is lurking in the shadows and character/ author Stephen King is about to be run down by a van. Both a rose and the Dark Tower itself need to be saved,... Read More

The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Gunslinger’s Fairytale

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

Stephen King’s latest, The Wind Through the Keyhole, is a DARK TOWER novel. The cover assures readers that they can read this novel even if they have not read the rest of the series, which is probably true, but the already converted will be interested to know that The Wind Through the Keyhole is something like the 4.5th book in the series. While King may not (cannot?) offer any revelations here that will significantly alter the course of the series, he does offer readers another chance to join Roland and his posse of gunslingers as they make their way toward the Dark Tower.

Mid-World has “moved on.” Although the world is desolate, its language continues to thrive and evolve since King clearly revels in adding to both its formality and its callous slang. The storm that waylays the gunslingers is a... Read More

It: Stephen King’s best

It by Stephen King

Stephen King's It is a wonderfully sweeping tale of what it means to be a child and what it means to leave your childhood behind, inevitably and mostly forgotten, when transforming into an adult. This very evocative tale of childhood orbits and surrounds a tale of exquisite horror, and is my favorite of the 25 or so King books I’ve read.

It story takes place in King’s old fictional haunt of Derry, Maine, and focuses on two time periods — 1957 and 1984 — where a group of friends, as children and then as adults, form a magnificent bond to battle foes both natural and supernatural. One member of this group frames the story well:

My whole pleasant life has been nothing but the eye of some storm I don't understand.

An eye of ... Read More

Misery: Imprisoned in Nurse Ratched’s guest bedroom

Misery by Stephen King

If you've read one Stephen King novel, you've read nearly all of them. And yet people keep coming back for more. Published in 1987, Misery explores King's relationship with his most obsessive readers while also wrestling with his own addictions.

Misery's plot is pretty straightforward: Paul Sheldon is an author of best-selling novels who one night drunkenly drives into a blizzard and crashes. When he wakes up, he has been (not rescued, but) kidnapped by Nurse Ratched, here named Annie Wilkes.

Annie is a nurse who has access to painkillers and although she helps Paul to heal, she is obsessed with his novels. She insists that he write for her.

... Read More

Needful Things: Pay the salesperson cash in full

Needful Things by Stephen King

For the most part, being sheriff of Castle Rock, Maine is a peaceful job — that’s what Sheriff Alan Pangborn tells himself on difficult days. And for the most part, Alan’s right. Castle Rock is indeed a peaceful little town. Sure, there are frictions. The Catholics are planning to have a Casino Nite, which angers the Baptists. Wilma Jerzyck thinks she knows best, and she isn’t afraid to bully anyone in the town until they accept her way. And everyone knows that Buster Keeton abuses his authority as the town’s selectman. Still, one day in Castle Rock mostly leads into the next without incident.

So everyone’s abuzz when a new shop, Needful Things, opens. Needful Things is an unusual shop: it’s run by an urbane newcomer, Leland Gaunt; there are no prices on any of his stock; and although no one knows precisely what Needful Things sells, the townspeople will soon learn that Gaunt has someth... Read More

Desperation: In these silences something may rise

Desperation by Stephen King

My only disappointment in Stephen King’s Desperation is that it isn't longer. This book contains all that makes King so enjoyable to read: strong and believable character development; intuitive and subtle understanding of the childhood psyche; horror as defined by what's creepy, intense, psychological and sometimes gothic; mythological back-story that superbly connects past and present; and the believably supernatural.

Several travelers, mostly strangers to each other, are abducted by a seemingly deranged Sherriff and taken to the dusty Nevada town of Desperation. Mayhem ensues as King delves into the perverse and dark heart of humanity.

Desperation is not generally considered one of King’s stronger works, but I’d like to dig beneath the surfac... Read More

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is not just for aspiring writers or Stephen King fans. I'm neither, but I was completely entertained by On Writing. The first half of the book is Stephen King's autobiography of his first 50 years of life. He talks about his family, his childhood adventures with his brother, his relationship with his wife, some of the inspiration and research for his stories, how his alcohol and drug abuse affected his writing, and his accident with the van in 1999. This was interesting, informative, and very funny in parts. I listened to On Writing in audio format and it was read by Stephen King himself, which added poignancy to the narration.

The second part of On Writing contains some short lessons about what makes good writing and a look into some of King's p... Read More

From a Buick 8: Equal parts horror, science fiction and Lovecraftian ode

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King

Stephen King tends to get hammered in the press and by literati. He’s pulp, they say. He’s popular, they say. Nobody can be as productive (he publishes an average of two books per year) and still write quality, they say. I remember starting college in Boston in 1988, shortly after U2 released their huge Joshua Tree album. The established U2 fans rejected it outright as a ’sell out'. They couldn’t believe that their heroes sold out to ‘the man’ and became... popular. I think King gets painted with a similar brush.

But the truth is, much of his writing resonates quite deeply. His work can be touching. It’s relatable, and has as much symbolism and depth as one chooses to see. Is everything he touches great? No. But as a rule, is it schlock? Absolutely not.

I only discovered St... Read More

Cell: Cell phones turn users into zombies

Cell by Stephen King

In The Stand, Stephen King basically wrote the book on contemporary post-apocalyptic settings. However, one of the few things that 1000+ page novel missed was zombies. King corrects that omission in Cell, a novel in which cell phones turn users into zombies.

Unlike in The Stand, King wastes no time assembling his heroes. Clayton Riddell, who is, of course, from Maine, writes graphic novels. Clay barely has a moment to enjoy his first big break in publishing before the world is ending after the “pulse.” Amidst the ruin, Clay meets Tom McCourt and Alice Maxwell, and they flee Boston together.

Their quest is to survive and to save Clay’s wife and child. It takes them north until they finally reach a prep school — a way station where Clay and his companions will regroup and figure out how to procee... Read More

Under the Dome: An incredibly gripping read

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Stephen King’s Under the Dome is long. I mean, long. The manuscript weighs in at 8.6 kg and Time magazine quoted King himself saying he’d be “killing a lot of trees” with his next novel. But when you read the book’s premise, and begin to understand what King had set out to do, it begins to make sense…

Under the Dome opens in Chester’s Mill, a small Maine town which is suddenly and inexplicably cut off from the rest of the world by a dome. It’s kind of like a humongous semi-permeable upside-down petri dish, which is fitting, because Under the Dome plays out like a kind of human experiment: what happens when a small town of people is completely cut off from the rest of society and left to their own devices?

This is where the length comes in. King follows the stories of various... Read More

Full Dark, No Stars: Something twisted is lurking

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

In Full Dark, No Stars, the latest short story collection from Stephen King, our heroes explore the boundaries between victim and predator, often exchanging roles as they navigate their way through the twisted passages of King’s mind. These characters are often out for no one but themselves, and they will use every resource — even burlap sacks and GPS — in their quest to get what they want.

Of the four stories, “Big Driver” stands out as Tess, a mystery novelist, is brutally raped and sets out for revenge. Tess fears that she will make headlines, becoming forever the writer that was raped, and she worries that people will see her pretty face and say she was asking for it. Just as she decides not to go public, Tess begins to take comfort in her pistol. And of course King knows exactly where to take a story from there.

Read More

Mile 81: One frightening novella

Mile 81 by Stephen King

One of the best things about e-books is that many more novella-length works get stand-alone publication. You don’t have to search them out in magazines, or wait for the author to write several of them and combine them in a collection, or spend a large chunk of change for a special printing from a small press. As I’ve always thought that the novella was the form best suited for short science fiction, I’m pleased with this advance; it almost makes up for not being able to hold a real book in my hands, turning real pages.

One of the worst things about e-books, though, is that they disappear on one’s Kindle (or Nook, or tablet; whatever). You can’t really search through them the way you can scan a bookshelf. When you’re an inveterate collector of books, those e-book deals fill up your reader until you’ve forgotten you bought that cool novella by one of your favorite writers that you couldn’t wai... Read More

Joyland: One of King’s finer efforts

Joyland by Stephen King

Devin Jones is nearing the end of his sophomore year of college when he signs on for a summer job at Joyland in Heaven’s Bay, North Carolina in 1973. Joyland is an old-fashioned amusement park, not anything near as big as a Six Flags and definitely not anything like a Disney park. It’s staffed by a changing cast of college kids every summer, but has a backbone of old carnie folk, including Lane Hardy, who runs the Carolina Spin, that is, the ferris wheel, and Rosalind Gold, who acts the part of Madame Fortuna and thinks she might have the gift of the sight in real life. The park’s mascot is Howie the Happy Hound, modeled after a dog the owner of the park had as a boy, and his visage graces everyone’s sun visor and the bags in which visitors receive the trinkets they buy. And “the wearing of the fur” is a tradition for the college kids. You probably know what that means if you’ve ever been to an amusement par... Read More

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Vol 2: More disturbing than Vol 1

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2 edited by Gordon Van Gelder

I read the first volume (The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology, published 2009) before I tackled this one, published in 2014. It's only been five years, but I detected a darkening of the tone. Maybe I'm imagining it, maybe it's just me, but it seemed to me that the earlier volume contained stories that set out to go to strange places and, as a consequence, were sometimes disturbing, while this one contained stories that set out to be disturbing.

Consequently, given that "dark and disturbing" isn't my preference, I very nearly gave this one three stars instead of four — reflecting my reduced enjoyment, not reduced quality. These are still fine stories from multiple decades of F&S... Read More

Revival: King channels Lovecraft

Revival by Stephen King

Revival is a very modern Stephen King novel that channels H.P. Lovecraft at his cyclopean best. His key characters are bold, if not as colorful as some of his best work, and his themes are of familiar and well-trodden King territory. Often hammered by critics (professional and amateur alike) for his weak endings, King builds up to a conclusion that is strong and memorable. It’s monstrous, dark and creepy as hell. It’s pure Lovecraft and beautiful in its austerity.

Revival is a story about religion and anti-religion; a story about belief and the loss of belief … and an inability to believe. Jamie Morton and Pastor Charles Jacobs orbit around each other their entire lives. Jacobs opens Morton... Read More

Dark Screams, Volume One: A short horror anthology

Dark Screams: Volume One edited by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar

Dark Screams: Volume One is the first of at least four volumes of short horror anthologies that are projected for publication through August 2015. The books are being published as ebooks only through Random House’s digital-only genre imprint, Hydra, for a bargain price of $2.99.

Volume One starts out with one of the most popular horror writers ever: Stephen King. “Weeds” was originally published in Cavalier, a “men’s magazine,” in 1976, and has never been reprinted until now — though it did become a part of the movie “Creepshow,” with King himself playing the role of Jordy Verrill.  Jordy is the protagonist of “Weeds,” a not particularly intelligent man who farms a spread situated on ... Read More

Mr. Mercedes: King crafts a superbly natural crime thriller

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Stephen King stays away from the supernatural and explores a more Earth-bound and human-centric kind of horror in Mr. Mercedes, the first in a trilogy, which will conclude with the spring 2016 release of End of Watch. The story hits upon a type of tragedy that’s made real-world headlines in the last few years: an out of control car (naturally, a Mercedes) mows down pedestrians standing in a group, caught by surprise, and without any chance of escape. While many of these real-life incidents appear accidental, the deaths in King’s story are quite intentional and murderous.

A year after the crime, the lead Detective on the case, Bill Hodges, has retired without capturing the notorious Mr. Mercedes. Hodges receives a letter, supposedly from the killer, taunting hi... Read More

The Outsider: Fighting monsters, King’s characters remind us what it is to be human

The Outsider by Stephen King

The Outsider (2018) by Stephen King is a big book with a big, layered story. With great effort I’m going to hold my review to one or two aspects of it. First things first; it’s horror, with its roots in King’s classic horror works but with a sensibility influenced by the modern world. It’s good. Horror readers will love it and be creeped out by it, but non-horror readers will find plenty that is thought-provoking (and they’ll be creeped out by it). Of course I’m recommending it.

Terry Maitland is a big man in the town of Flint City, Oklahoma. He is an English teacher at the high school, and he coaches both football and baseball. Nearly everyone knows him because he’s coached nearly every boy in town in some sport. He has a loving wife and two lively daughters. The town is roc... Read More

The Institute: A horror story of the human heart

The Institute by Stephen King

Stephen King takes over 550 pages to relate the story of the mysterious Institute and its merciless dealings with kidnapped children. Given that page count, it shouldn’t be too surprising that King spends the first forty pages setting up his tale with a seemingly unrelated story of a man adrift in his life. Tim Jamieson, an out-of-work cop, takes a hefty payout to give up his seat on an overfull flight, and ends up making his rambling way from Tampa, Florida to the small town of DuPray, South Carolina, where the local sheriff gives him a job as a night knocker, an unarmed beat cop who patrols DuPray during the night. But — as King informs us not once, but twice — great events turn on small hinges.

That same summer, Luke Ellis, a twelve-year-old Minneapolis boy with genius-level intelligence, loving parents, ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Granta 117, Horror

Granta strikes me as an unusual place to find horror fiction; it normally is home to the toniest of literary fiction. But Issue 117 is entitled “Horror,” so I thought I’d see what a literary magazine’s vision of this genre is.

As it turns out, the issue is a lot more about horror in real life than it is about the type of horror that is more safely tucked away in my imagination. Tom Bamforth’s nonfiction essay about war in Sudan, “The Mission,” presents a picture one wishes were only imagined, of children starving, women used as shields, soldiers with orders to shoot on sight. How easily we go about our days without ever thinking of these people: children too ill to even brush the flies away from their eyes, fourteen-year-olds wielding rocket launchers, the complete absence of men from home life, living hours away from the nearest fresh water, elderly family members abandoned at their own request so that there would... Read More

Magazine Monday: Cemetery Dance, Issue 66

No, it's not a horrible magazine; it's a horror magazine, and a fine one at that.  It's only the Monday that's horrible.

Cemetery Dance is published irregularly, usually three to four issues per year, and covers the entire field of horror, from film to comics to novels. It is heavy on the nonfiction, with excellent reviews and multiple interviews. There are six stories in this issue, all of them excellent. Issue 66 impressed me so much that I’ve already ordered the next, and am likely to subscribe.

The first story, “Lines” by Bill Pronzini, is a surreal tale of Hood, who is looking for the woman who left him for another man, taking $2000 of Hood’s money with her. He has tracked her easily, and catches up with her in Line, Nevada. He intends to kill her and her lover, and he does. It’s what happens after that that makes this story Weird.

I’m becoming a big fan of Steve R... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beware the Dark, Issue 1

Beware the Dark is a new horror and dark art magazine currently scheduled to be published three times per year. A new horror magazine is always good news, as there seems to be much more horror being written than there are outlets in which to publish it (which explains why Beware the Dark is presently closed to submissions). This magazine suggests, however, that the reason there are so few outlets is that there is little good horror being written. I’m hoping that further editions of the magazine improve on the first, which was disappointing.

Issue 1 begins with “Potential” by Ramsey Campbell. Scoring a story by Campbell to open a new magazine would normally be a triumph, except that this story, a reprint, is very minor Campbell indeed. First published in 1973, this tale of a be-in has not aged well. The protagonist, Charles, misses out on the plastic bells, but snags one of the last paper flowers t... Read More

SHORTS: Kehrli, Flynn, King, Hirschberg, Resnick, Buckell, Clitheroe

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. In honor of the U.S. Independence Day today, several of our stories deal with the theme of freedom — though not always in the sense one might expect.

“And Never Mind the Watching Ones” by Keffy R.M. Kehrli (Dec. 2015, free in Uncanny, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

This strange and gorgeous story sets out as a somewhat mundane tale. It begins with a post-sex break-up; Aaron’s high-school boyfriend, Christian, tells him that he’s moving away f... Read More

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams assembles a wide variety of apocalypse-related fiction in Wastelands. some of which are older than I am, while others are more recent. What you end up with is a diverse anthology covering topics such as religion, war, and exploration while containing horror, comedy, and a sense of wonder.

The majority of the stories are easy to get into. Some stories are more subtle than others. Overall, Wastelands is an enjoyable read and the selection seems balanced. Having said that, here are my top three stories:

"Bread and Bombs" by M. Rickert is one of the more horrifying stories in this anthology, and this is achieved through her characterization and commentary on society. It's easy to jump into Rickert's text and there is a foreboding established early on w... Read More

The Living Dead: Zombies aren’t the point

The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams

I never knew there were so many ways to tell a zombie story. I pretty much thought that the George Romero version was it — dead people wandering around holding their arms out in front of them and calling out “braaaaaaains,” looking to munch on the living. I never did know why they had to hold their arms that way, but they all did — I thought.

John Joseph Adams has chosen his material wisely in The Living Dead, a collection of short stories about zombies by some of the biggest and best names in the horror business, as well as the newest and hottest. I resisted this book for a long time because I’ve never been fond of zombies, but upon diving in, I discovered that the zombies aren’t really the point; the point is to tell a good story. And these authors do that, with a vengeance.

My favorite story is “Almost the Last St... Read More

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology by Gordon Van Gelder (ed.)

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology is an excellent collection of 23 stories picked from the treasure trove of short fiction that's been published in the eponymous magazine over the past 60 years. Editor Gordon Van Gelder — also the editor of the magazine since 1997 — has done an admirable job, picking stories that illustrate the diversity of both the genre and the magazine. As such, this is a great anthology for SF&F fans as well as newcomers looking for a taste.

The line-up of authors in this collection looks like a veritable Who's Who of speculative fiction: Ray Bradbury, Read More

Sympathy for the Devil: A collection of bedtime stories

Sympathy for the Devil edited by Tim Pratt

Please allow me to introduce Sympathy for the Devil, a fine new anthology filled entirely with short stories about the devil... who is, as we all know, a man of style and taste. However, you won’t just find the smooth-talking stealer of souls here. In addition to that famous version of His Grand Infernal Majesty, you’ll also find funny devils, monstrous devils, abstract devils and strangely realistic ones. Devils scary and not-so-scary, devils who are after children’s souls and others going after old men. Devils with a surprising amount of business acumen, and devils who try to get what they want, no matter the cost. There’s even one who engages in a competitive eating contest — the prize is, of course, someone’s soul.

Sympathy for the Devil, edited by Tim Pratt, offers up 35 very diverse short stories (and o... Read More

The Secret History of Fantasy: Stories that redefine the genre

The Secret History of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle

The basic premise of the SECRET HISTORY anthologies (there's also a science fiction one, The Secret History of Science Fiction, which I haven't read) is that there's a type of writing that got missed or buried because other things were more popular, more commercial, or dodged the spec-fic labeling. Certainly that's the thrust of Peter S. Beagle's introduction, and the two other non-fiction pieces by Ursula K. Le Guin and editor David G. Hartwell.

In the case of fantasy, this type of wri... Read More

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:

A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern readers but whose weird fiction caused them to be ma... Read More

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four edited by Ellen Datlow

Anything Ellen Datlow edits automatically finds a place on my list of books to read. For many years, this included the excellent anthology series The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, which Datlow coedited with Terri Windling. When that series disappeared, much to the dismay of fans of short fiction everywhere, Datlow undertook to publish The Year’s Best Horror, which has been published by the terrific smaller press, Night Shade Books, for the past four years. This year’s volume, the fourth, is chock full of memorable stories certain to keep you up at night.
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Haunted Heart: A biography of Stephen King

Haunted Heart by Lisa Rogak

It must be difficult to write a biography of someone who is still living, who has not donated his papers to a library where one can get access to them, who is still active in his career, and who has a healthy sense of privacy. Even when the subject agrees to an interview, a biographer has to be aware that the subject is telling what he wants to tell and leaving out that which he does not care to discuss. If the interviewee is sufficiently charming, or is completely forthright on a particular subject that casts him in a poor light, the interviewer can easily lose sight of questions not asked. And when the subject has himself written a book or two about his past, you have to wonder just what you can come up with that’s new and interesting.

Lisa Rogak’s Haunted Heart, a biography of Stephen King, is interesting and entertaining, but does not p... Read More