FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT By Stephen King – Reviewed

The last collection of King’s I read was Different Seasons, it’s also one of my favourite collections, and definitely one of my favourite books by Stephen King. Although this is another collection of four novellas, that’s where the similarities end. Different Seasons was filled with stories that weren’t particularly genre tales, Midnight is most definitely and easily defined as horror. Also, the stories seem longer, each of them being almost novel length.

The best of the stories are the book-ends, “The Langoliers”, and “The Sun Dog”. The last of which is very reminiscent of Needful Things. “The Langoliers” harks back to the Twilight Zone. The other two stories, Secret Window, Secret Garden (a classic writer in trouble story from the master), and The Library Policeman (a strange and overlong ghostly tale of childhood hauntings and alcoholism, is well told, but just too long), really do sit in the middle.

None of the stories contained in this huge book really stand out on their own, which is probably why they’ve been collected. Stephen King writes best about characters, and to allow them to really grow he needs a long novel, that’s why Needful Things and some of his other books work so well. That’s also why “The Langoliers” works, it’s about a small group of characters in a desperate situation. As I think about it, these stories will feel very familiar to a King fan, the group of people in trouble, the writer attacked, the stranger who doesn’t fit in, and the shopkeeper whose greed will drive him to his death.

This book is huge, and because of its size it’s quite hard work. Like most of King’s novels, it’s easy reading, and he manages to evoke fear, even if you know what’s going to happen. Not particularly inventive, King still manages to entertain, but this is a McDonalds of a book, satisfying but ultimately of no lasting substance.

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