Quick thoughts upon finishing: As a rule, I’m generally a fan of every Stephen King book I read. He is, after all, my favorite author. But sometimes, you come across one of his weaker books. The story (or stories) just don’t “getcha” like his other books. You don’t feel for the characters. Things seem to drag on.
Night Shift is not one of those books. For being King’s first collection of short stories, I have to say this is a very solid book of spook stories, with just the right balance of heartbreaking realism with spine-tingling ghoulishness. Some of the stories are “out there,” others hit quite close to home (several aren’t “scary” at all). In Night Shift, you’ll find the original “Children of the Corn” — a seriously creepy story that lives up to its name as a horror classic. There are at least two ‘Salem’s Lot-related stories, including my favorite story of the collection, “Jerusalem’s Lot.” There’s one The Stand-related tale. There are aliens, and there are boogeymen. All of them are different; all of them are awesome.
Seriously folks, if you want to enjoy some quality horror, it’s all here. I thought that perhaps the writing would seem premature but King’s brilliance shines through. I particularly love how King can drop the reader into a story and with very little exposition, you know everything you need to know about where you are, who the characters are, how they’re feeling, etc. I’ve always thought King’s writing has a textural feel to it; when you a read a Stephen King story, you can hear the corn rustling, smell the fertilizer, feel your stomach sinking as the dark creature pursues you soundlessly through the rows. King may not tell you exactly what his characters look like, but the important bits are there: the whites of his knuckles as he grips the steering wheel, the aroma of nervous sweat, the cheap shirt. When you read a story written like this, you become consumed with it. My only complaint is that, being short stories, they ended too quickly.
For a long time, I’ve believed that King is a master storyteller. Sure, he’s not writing “high literature,” but you don’t have to try writing the next great American novel to be as good as Jonathan Franzen (and King is way less full of himself, thank you very much). I just wish more people would realize it.