Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Night Shift- Stephen King

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters

Published: 1979
Pages: 326
ISBN: 9780451170118
Genre: Short Stories, Horror/Fantasy

Start Date: May 22, 2011
Finished Date: May 29, 2011

Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: It's no secret that I love Stephen King's books!

Read For: Stephen King Challenge (3/6)

I've split up my reviews into short segments, one for each of the 20 stories in the collection, then give an overall impression at the very bottom.

Jerusalem's Lot
Summary: A series of letters and diary entries from 1850 tells the story of a rich heir moving into a house with a sordid past and how he & his servant investigate the house's mysteries and noises.
Review: King gets the ball rolling (and starts a rat motif that occurs in a few stories) with this spooky period horror/mystery. The epistolary structure adds to the eerie atmosphere. A solid beginning.
Rank:  (A)- Excellent

Graveyard Shift
Summary: A group of mill workers are assigned the task of cleaning up the basement when an enormous army of rats begins attacking.
Review: A chilling story with a potential hero and a nasty boss who cuts corners one too many times. When the rats attack, things get ugly. If you have a phobia, you might feel like skipping this one. It's nasty but King enthusiasts won't be able to resist.
Rank:  (A)- Excellent

Night Surf
Summary: A group of teenagers come to terms with their dwindling existence on a post-apocalyptic Earth.
Review: I was a bit disappointed in this one. I found the characters too shallow and they showed some pretty disturbing behaviour. The plot falls flat and the only envitable thing that comes out of the story is the obvious fact that these people are doomed.
Rank:  (C)- Average

I Am the Doorway
Summary: A wheelchair-bound astronaut reflects to a friend on his failed mission to Venus and some ill-gotten effects from this trip.
Review: First of all, it's an awesome, intriguing title. The story builds up from the instigating incident to an amazing end. It wasn't as terrifying as the first two stories were but it really hit home at the end.
Rank:  (A)- Excellent

The Mangler
Summary: A cop investigates a series of brutal attacks at a laundromat by a maniacal, possessed ironing machine.
Review: If the summary doesn't sound cheesy to you, think again. It really is. It was farfetched, even for a fantasy/horror story. And despite pushing all that aside, it still didn't sit well with me. And the ending seemed like a cheap cop-out. Oh well.
Rank:  (C)- Average

The Boogeyman
Summary: A man receiving therapy after the deaths of his three children confides in his psychiatrist that they died from a Boogeyman hiding in their bedroom closets.
Review: This story had a great turn of events on the classic "Boogeyman" figure of childhood terrors. The circumstances of the children's deaths are frightening and leave you guessing right up to the twist ending.
Rank:  (B)- Very Good

Gray Matter
Summary: The young son of an alcoholic who becomes housebound and vegetative seeks help at the local tavern when he finds his father has transformed into a spider.
Review: A slimey creepfest. The description of the spider's ooze alone is enough to make your skin crawl. Fans will enjoy it. Any arachnophobics may want to stay clear ;)
Rank:  (A)- Excellent

Summary: A mild-mannered hitman fights for his life from a Vietnam-era footlocker full of toy soldiers with live ammo.
Review: Awesome! This was my favourite story of the anthology. It was quick-paced, fun, exciting, and has all the qualities of a great, smart action movie. Turns out it was adapted into an episode of a fascinating TV mini-series based on Stephen King short stories, Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
Rank:  (A+)- Fantastic

Summary: A group of strangers at a deserted truck stop diner fend off attacking trucks that demand refuelling or every vehicle on Earth will take over.
Review: This reminded me of Legion, an awful horror/action movie I saw a while back that took place at a diner in the middle of nowhere when things attack. This story was much better. The idea that technology is taking over humans in the chain of existence on Earth is tested in an action setting. It blends a little fun with a lot of scares.
Rank:  (A)- Excellent

Sometimes They Come Back
Summary: A high school teacher is haunted by three new students replacing three dead ones who remind him of childhood bullies who killed his brother.
Review: A strong plot with a sympathetic protagonist (not really a hero but close) and what appears to be paranoia and hallucination becomes something much more terrifying. A solid story.
Rank:  (A)- Excellent

Strawberry Spring
Summary: A serial killer at a college campus during a foggy "Strawberry Spring" season is recurring in the present.
Review:  Predictable ending and not a lot of detail to this story. Somewhat of a bummer.
Rank:  (C)- Average

The Ledge
Summary: A man having an affair with a crime boss's wife partakes in a bet that involves him navigating the perimeter of a building's upper floor along a 5-inch wide ledge.
Review: Fascinating idea for a story though it's a bit limited on details. I would have loved to see this extended into a novel with more backstory on the characters and the circumstances they have gotten into in
The Ledge. Nevertheless, as short a story as it is, it's enjoyable and has bite.
Rank:  (B)- Very Good

The Lawnmower Man
Summary:  A man hires a mowing company to cut his grass but is shocked to find out just how the job is done.
Review:  The title character is just revolting but the story works very well in just a few short pages. It was better than The Mangler, which was longer and less effective, though it had more detail. I guess it depends on what you prefer from a short story. It was even funny in parts. The only thing that bothered me was the ending which had no hints about what became of the Lawnmower Man or gave any backstory. But still, it's a good addition to the freakshows of Night Shift.
Rank:  (B)- Very Good

Quitters, Inc.
Summary: After a recommendation from an old friend, a man goes to an agency to quit smoking, only to learn that their methods of curing his addiction are quite disturbing.
Review: A deliciously dark tale with many twists and quite a take on stop-smoking aids. It sure packs a wallop. Next to Battleground, it was the best story in the bunch.
Rank:  (A+)- Terrific

I Know What You Need
Summary: A college girl reluctantly falls for an unusual young man with a highly acute photographic memory.
Review: Great buildup with an end that I didn't see coming. I didn't have much sympathy for the girl as she didn't come across as very likeable to me, but the story wouldn't have worked otherwise. The story's structure was pitch perfect with every detail in place.
Rank:  (B)- Good

Children of the Corn
Summary: A couple who accidentally run over a child in a seemingly deserted corn farming town are soon haunted by a number of evangelical otherwordly children.
Review: Of all the titles in Night Shift, I bet this one is the most familiar to you. It was to me too, though I wouldn't categorize it as the best story. It felt a bit incomplete as I was really hoping to see a more extensive ending. As it is, the story is tres creepy as King tends to be when dealing with crude evangelist characters in a middle-of-nowhere setting. This story alone would keep me out of a cornfield.
Rank:  (A)- Excellent

The Last Rung on the Ladder
Summary: A man struggling to communicate with his father reflects on the summer his sister nearly died from falling off a broken ladder on a hayloft.
Review: This was the most heartrending story in Night Shift. It felt so innocent, then startling, then distressing and finally solemn. You definitely come to care about all the characters involved. It reminded me of King's stories that don't feature an obvious villain but have eerie undertones from the actions good characters get involved in, such as Stand By Me.
Rank:  (A)- Excellent

The Man Who Loved Flowers
Summary: A man who buys a bouquet of flowers catches everyone's eye as he wanders the streets alone amid the various goings-on in the neighbourhood.
Review: Short, sharp, and unexpected. I can't say much more than that without spoiling it. It's like a photo or painting with one abstract part to it that you're not too sure fits with the rest.
Rank:  (B)- Good

One For the Road
Summary: A stranger wanders into a tavern during a blizzard, seeking help to save his wife and daughter who are trapped in the area surrounding haunted Jerusalem's Lot.
Review:  After reading "Jerusalem's Lot," you get a better perspective on exactly what haunts the area in this follow-up story (though with completely different characters).  It had a taste of old-fashioned storytelling to it, though it took place in the recognizable present.  It doesn't disappoint but it doesn't stand out either.
Rank:  (B)- Good

The Woman in the Room
Summary:  A man contemplates assisting his mother, who is dying of cancer, to die.
Review:  The story concept was terrific and the characters are interesting, but I found what bogged it down was the description, which tended to drag on and slowed the pace down.  All in all, not very much happens in this story but the one event that occurs is powerful enough to make it memorable.
Rank:  (B)- Good

To wrap it up, Night Shift is worth reading for two amazing stories, Battleground and Quitters, Inc., a few excellent tales, such as Trucks, Sometimes They Come Back, Children of the Corn, Jerusalem's Lot, and The Last Rung on the Ladder, and even some decent stories, such as The Boogeyman and The Ledge.  While far from perfect and, in my opinion, not as powerful or well-crafted as his collection of novellas, Different Seasons, King does as much as he can with as little space as he can, creating terrrifying snippets of fantastical horror in a few short pages at a time.

It's hard to read some stories back-to-back as they are very different from each other.  I found it effective to read a story, then put the book down, even for just 10 minutes, to reflect on the story, then open yourself to a new one.  It was much too difficult to digest them by reading many in quick succession like you would with another of Stephen King's pageturners.

Overall:  (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend


  1. Thanks for the memories! Quitters Inc! Lawnmower man! Children of the Corn.... OOOOohhhh. I usually don't care for short stories -- unless King is writing them....

  2. Ohh, this sounds like a fun read. Thanks for your rankings. Now I know which ones to read first. And yes, I agree, it's better to read it in small doses.

  3. I'm not really much of a reader of short stories, but maybe if I feel like reading some, I will pick this up. I enjoy Stephen King's works too, mostly his horror stuff.