Tag Archives: skeleton crew

Skeleton Crew #8 – Paranoid: A Chant…

13440Word count – 600

All right, I know – Paranoid is not a short story, but let’s not get too hung up on that. It’s a part of this collection, so I am going to mention it, however briefly. Besides, strictly speaking, The Mist isn’t a short story either, and I talked about that one.

Poetry has always been difficult for me to understand. I generally don’t get it, especially free verse (which this is), where the only rules the author needs to follow are the ones the author makes up along the way. The style can feel a little disingenuous, but such is the nature of the art.

I can give Paranoid: A Chant a pass, primarily because it’s short and has a dark flavour to it. But thankfully, Stephen King does not exercise his poetry muscle very often.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #7 – The Wedding Gig…

13440Word count – 5,900

The Wedding Gig is set in the years after the First World War, and is told from the point of view of a local ragtime band leader. He is hired by a small-time gangster to play at his sister’s wedding, at which he, (the gangster), is killed by some goons he has rubbed up the wrong way.

Sometimes, The Wedding Gig seems to just be an opportunity for King to poke fun at fat women – which is fine, I guess – but there needs to be more of a story than that, and ultimately, there really isn’t.

As such, this short story is the first one in the collection that I have to stop short of giving the green light to. There’s just not enough here to make it worth your time, and penty of other stuff that is better in the pages before you get to it.

Not Recommended ⇓

Skeleton Crew #6 – The Jaunt…

13440Word count – 9, 900

The Jaunt is Stephen King with his sci-fi hat on, a genre which he dabbled in a lot more back in the first half of his career than he has done since, which is fine by me as even the hint of that stuff sometimes makes me groan.

The Jaunt is set hundreds of years in the future, in a world where teleporatation – or jaunting – is a thing. The story has echoes of The Fly in a mad-scientist-in-a-lab kind of way, but ultimately it swerves in a different (but still memorable) direction.

We are six stories in to this anthology and King is yet to deliver something below par. The sci-fi here is limited, and with a family at its core it feels more grounded as well… which helps me get over the potential hurdle that the genre often throws in front of me.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #5 – Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut…

13440Word count – 11,400

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut hangs on the familiar King format of using a minor character to narrate the tale. King is particularly good at this, and he often manages to add a little spice into the story that otherwise would not be possible. This attempt is no different.

Mrs. Todd likes to drive, but more than that she likes to find the quickest route to wherever she is going. It’s fun listening to how she manages to shave miles off each of her journeys by taking different roads, and the fact that it doesn’t really go the way I had expected doesn’t matter.

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut is a good tale, but unfortunately it’s not as well done as I had hoped. The premise is fun and interesting, but the execution is a little long-winded for my liking, and it nearly outstays its welcome. If some of the detail here was trimmed I think King may have had a story that stays with you more.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #4 – Cain Rose Up…

13440Word count – 1,900

Cain Rose Up is a very brief story about a school shooting, written in the late sixties – before school shootings, unfortunately, became far too commonplace in the real world. This would likely be a controversial story in these sensitive times, and King (who has mellowed somewhat in recent years) probably wouldn’t write this in 2020.

Curt is a troubled college student who decides to snipe his way out of his funk from his dorm room… and that’s all there is to it. As short as this piece is, I certainly can’t say that that it outstays its welcome.

Cain Rose Up is very brutal in its stripped-down nature. It doesn’t pull any punches, and it wouldn’t be any better if it did. You don’t get a happy ending here, and that is why it works.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #3 – The Monkey…

13440Word count – 15,000

The Monkey is a fairly chunky short story about one of those old spooky looking mechanical monkeys with the cymbals, and how this particular one has a tendency to reappear in protagonist Hal’s life.

The Monkey is a basic horror story that has been stretched almost to the point where it is in danger of really losing me. I think King could have excised half of the words here and been left with a better story as a result.

Having said that, ultimately there is something worthwhile reading in here. I just wish that there was a little less fat in between all the good stuff. I’m just out of the blocks, but this the weakest entry I have read in Skeleton Crew thus far.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #2 – Here There Be Tygers…

13440Word count – 1,500

Here They Be Tygers is one of the earliest Stephen King stories that is available for the public at large – having been written when King was a teenager – and it’s also one of the shortest.

Charles is a child in class and he needs to go to the toilet. When he arrives at the bathroom, there is a tiger sitting on the foor. Because, of course there is.

There’s not much to this, but at this length that is expected. Here There Be Tygers is about one thing – one jolt – and it is laser focused on delivering that one thing. Maybe this was polished from it’s original state to how it appears in this collection – maybe not – but it’s easy to believe this was written by a teenage King.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #1 – The Mist…

13440Word count – 50,500

All right, let’s get this out of the way up front: The Mist is not a short story. In fact, it strays into novel length, albeit a thin one with a singular thread. But I have included it here because it is the first story in Skeleton Crew.

A dense and strange mist creeps towards a small town and strands a group of people in a supermarket, after which it soon becomes clear that there are creatures in the gloom waiting to strike. For a long time we don’t know why they are there, but towards the end of the story King does throw us a bone. It’s a satisfactory reason, even if it is not really required to enjoy what’s here.

The Mist is a wholly enjoyable tale, and a good ol’ proper horror story from King as well. It’s a very good start for this second collection of stories, and a high bar is set early.

Recommended ⇑

The Short(er) Works of Stephen King…

In an effort to write good short stories I’m going to look towards one of the masters, Stephen King – a guy who has written a fair number of them.

Over the coming months I will be reading and offering my opinion about every short story King has had published in the six collections that are out there: Night Shift (1978), Skeleton Crew (1985), Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993), Everything’s Eventual (2002), Just After Sunset (2008), and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015).

That’s over 100 stories – some of which I have either forgotten since I came across them many years ago, or not read in the first place. I know not all of them will be good, but I’m sure every one will give me something to say.

… and hopefully I can get it done before he comes out with another anthology.