Does the King still rule?
I always relish getting my hands on a new Stephen King book, although I feel the Maestro has lost his edge these days. No longer can he thrill me with suspense, or horrify me, the way he once could. This is inevitable I suppose, as Father Time gradually takes away his powers, as he does with us all.
So I wasn’t expecting too much from this collection of short stories, “Bazaar of Bad Dreams”. I wasn’t expecting, for example, nail-biters like The Long Walk, or King’s short-form classics of sheer nastiness such as The Mist or The Raft. My expectations were fairly low.
But I’m happy to say I was very pleasantly surprised by this latest collection. It doesn’t match King’s work of yesteryear, but the Old Man still has his marvelous narrative gifts. This collection may not cause spinal shivers, or little roils of nausea, but it’s well worth the effort.
The stories are practically all new, Blockade Billy being a notable exception, and all of them are absorbing. Many are compulsively so, in fact King’s hand can still reach out of the pages and take hold of the reader. The hand is no longer the stinky, gore-stained paw of the past, it’s now a far more gentle, avuncular hand, but it’s still there. Some of these stories do contain nasty propositions and language intended to shock. There are some familiar elements – an evil car that eats people ; the end of the world ; an enchanted typewriter that automatically writes masterpieces becomes a magical Kindle that can summon up the works of great authors from an alternate universe. A hack internet journalist writes obituaries that…well, I won’t spoil it for you. At least one of the stories, Drunken Fireworks, demonstrates King’s terrific comedic gifts and turn of phrase.
Above all, Bazaar Of Bad Dreams is Entertaining…note the capital E…and you can’t really ask more from a book, can you?
Reviewed by Keith Smith