As I am discovering with a lot of the stories in Night Shift, The Boogeyman is very straightforward, which I am sure has a lot to do with how young and inexperienced King was when he wrote these. No matter, such literary limitations often makes for a more focused tale, and the narrative here is pretty solid as a result.
The Boogeyman is set entirely in a therapy session with the central character taking the blame for the death of his three children, because he believes that he has allowed the titular boogeyman into their home. What follows is the conversation between doctor and patient as they both try to work through what has actualy happened.
This is a simple story that is possibly a little longer than it needs to be – because there isn’t much meat on the bone – but it’s a fun read, and worth your time if you want to dig in to the collection.
An industrial laundry press is possessed and kills anyone who gets too close to it. Yes, the premise of The Mangler is very silly, which is not to say that silly ideas can’t work, but it does mean the story is already fighting an uphill battle even before we turn the first page.
This would not have been so bad had it been well written, but unfortunately I can see the immaturity and inexperience of the author in the words. Actually, King does name-drop the titular model of laundry press as a Hadley-Watson Model-6 Speed Ironer and Folder, so there is something approaching research in here, and an attempt to ground the story in the real world – as much as such a ridiculous idea can be – but the dialogue is painful in places and some of the narration is equally awkward.
Such is the absurdity of the story, The Mangler would have been much more acceptable as a spoof. If I thought that King was trying to make us laugh, this would at least have some merit, but I don’t think he is in on the joke.
I Am the Doorway is the first science fiction tale in Night Shift, which is usually not a genre that does much for me, and for the first third of this story I wasn’t really into this one. But once I found out the central character has a collection of alien eyes staring at him from his fingers… I started to pay more attention. I mean, it’s a grabber, right?
Although I Am the Doorway is set in an undisclosed year in the future and it uses deep-space exploration as a background, it is all very high level stuff and never feels too distracting to the movement of the story. There are only two characters in play here and their interactions could just as easily be taking place across a dining room table.
The climax of the story is a winner too, so despite a slow beginning I am happy to recommend this as (so far) the most interesting and dynamic piece in Night Shift.
Night Surf is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and centres around a few young characters who have made a life for themselves on a beach. I know, the post-apocalyptic landscape is one of those genre tropes that every horror writer has to go through at some point. Yes, even me.
We find out that most of the global population has been wiped out by a particularly aggressive strain of flu, and we meet a handful of the teenagers who are left behind as a result of their immunity to the virus. And we don’t really get much else, but that’s all right.
This is an easy read, at least partly because it doesn’t try to do anything outside its wheelhouse. As with many of King’s earlier stories, it is very thin on plot and depth, but in a strange way it is refreshing to read something from him that is this… sparse. It’s short, so there is simply no space to get crazy with any extraneous details.
This is another one I can say yes to, and the best story in Night Shift so far.
Although Graveyard Shift certainly feels like an early King story it does have several touchstones that would go on to become hallmarks of his longer and more lauded works – the quick, back and forth dialogue, the grisly descriptions, and the creatures hiding in the darkness.
Not only that, but the style and production of the writing here instantly makes this a more successful excursion than Jerusalem’s Lot, the story that began Night Shift. It’s much shorter as well. Here, King tells the story and gets out… something he does not do as often as he probably should.
Yes, Graveyard Shift is little more than a basic tale of mutated killer rats surviving in the depths of a textile mill – there really isn’t any more to it than that – but when this was originally published King was barely twenty-three years old, so I’ll cut him some slack for the crudity of the writing and the under-developed characters, because I know that he will go on to improve greatly on both of these things.
A much better entry to the collection, and one that I am happy to give the thumbs up to.
Jerusalem’s Lot is the fairly lengthy short story that kicks off Stephen King’s first collection of short stories, Night Shift, and I’ll say it right now – it’s not one of his best.
It’s designed as a prequel to his second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, which I barely remember reading all those years ago, but as such this piece suffers because I can’t help but feel as though I’m not getting the whole story here. It’s like going to a restaurant, having a starter, and then walking out before the main course arrives.
Having said that, if ‘Salem’s Lot was written in the same manner as this (and it isn’t), I’d probably not want the entire meal anyway, because Jerusalem’s Lot is told in an epistolary format (as a series of letters). This certainly can be interesting and suspenseful if done correctly and in the right hands, and if King had more experience under his belt when he wrote it, this would have been a lot better, but as it is, this story drags, making you feel every word written on the page.
If you’re coming to this collection looking for King’s strengths, you best dig a little deeper into the book, because you won’t find it here.