Categories
Book Reviews

Book Review: Nightmares and Dreamscapes

Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Nightmares and Dreamscapes is a collection of short stories by Stephen King, first published as a volume in 1993. I have had this book in my library for well over ten years, and finally got around to finishing it after a false start several years ago.

For me, the best story in the book is Dolan’s Cadillac. This is classic King, and a thoroughly researched piece as he explains in the notes at the end of the book. It deserves its place as the opener in the collection.

A few of the other stories jumped out at me as being special too, including My Pretty Pony, which was quite beautiful, written in a similar style to that of John Steinbeck. Another diamond was Umney’s Last Case, a detective story with a difference, and one with an interesting twist and PoV switch towards the end.

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King begs writers not to use steroid-filled dialogue attribution verbs such as grated, gasped, barked, etc., and goes on to say he has never fallen so low as to use ‘he grated’ or ‘Bill jerked out’ in any of his own dialogue attribution. Well, actually … I was surprised to find Umney grating at someone on page 750 of my copy of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I found this hilarious, and don’t hold it against Mr. King at all. I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first person to pull him up on it anyway.

There were some stories I didn’t like so much. One was Head Down, the only piece of non-fiction in the book, so not a story as such. If you’re into baseball, this one might be of interest. However, if you have never seen a baseball game in your life, you probably won’t make it to the end.

Would I recommend Nightmares and Dreamscapes? Absolutely. The majority of the stories are enjoyable, and the introduction and notes are full of insights into King’s writing process. The collection is well worth picking up and dipping into if you have a spare hour or two.

View all my reviews.

Categories
Book Reviews

Book Review: Dolores Claiborne

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Dolores Claiborne tells the story of a sixty-six-year-old woman who has lived on Little Tall Island all her life. She may not have seen much of the world beyond the island, but she has certainly lived through some experiences.

The novel is narrated by Dolores herself, and takes the form of a confession monologue. The work is unusual in the way it is one continuous outpouring from Dolores, with no section or chapter breaks. When I first discovered this, I hesitated because I wasn’t sure I would be able to get through it.

However, the way King shapes the characters, especially those of Dolores, Vera (her employer), and Joe (her husband) is astonishing. The way he builds suspense and holds the reader in its grasp is equally masterful.

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this novel. It’s very different to King’s usual work, but it still contains all the classic hallmarks of one of his works.

I’m glad I ignored my initial doubts and decided to read Dolores Claiborne, as I think it’s one of the best King books I’ve read to-date. Highly recommended!

View all my reviews.

Categories
Book Reviews

Book Review: Skeleton Crew

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

There’s no doubt that Stephen King is a master of his craft. Skeleton Crew is a collection of short stories written over seventeen years of his life, from just before he started college, aged eighteen, through to 1983, when he was in his mid thirties.

One of the things I most look forward to reading in King’s story collections is the introduction. Skeleton Crew contains a short but good one, written in his usual style. The tale of his conversation with a friend he refers to as ‘Wyatt’ is hilarious.

Four of the stories leapt out at me as being outstanding. The Mist, Mrs Todd’s Shortcut, Nona, and The Reach. These contain all my favourite ingredients from a classic King recipe: a strong sense of place, wonderful scene-setting, nostalgia, great characters, and a swimmy, dreamy narrative.

There were a few stories I didn’t like so much, but I read them all through to the end and they usually came good in some way. One of these was The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet, which I struggled with. This one had a slow start, and I couldn’t place when it was supposed to be set, due to what seemed to be a historic narrative voice. I was very near the end when I began to realise it was actually contemporary.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Anyone who enjoys a good short story with a horror twist should read this. It’s quite an old book (although not as old as me), published in 1985, but the stories themselves feel timeless.

View all my reviews.