It is a well documented fact that I am a huge Stephen King fan. I’ve read all of his books and short stories, and now his comics — some of them more than a few times. I’ve seen him speak in person and enjoyed his talk show appearances. I’ve read and enjoyed works by his sons, his daughter-in-law, and his neighbors. And while I’ve enjoyed most of his writing, I have a soft spot for anything to do with the Dark Tower series as well as his short stories.
Just After Sunset is one of his more recent story collections, and it includes some shorter stories (Harvey’s Dream) along with some that could almost be considered novellas (N). Topics include 9/11, domestic violence, nuclear war, the afterlife, and, just so you never forget this is Stephen King, demonic cats and a porta-potty prison.
This is my second reading of this collection (once in hardcover when it first came out), this time I slowly made my way through it at the pool and the beach, taking in one story at a time and then putting it aside for a few days. Some of the stories were a quick, forgettable read, but a few really stuck with me this time:
Graduation Afternoon, the story of a girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” who spends the afternoon of her boyfriend’s high school graduation at his huge Connecticut estate when something unspeakable and unforgettable happens.
Stationary Bike, a tale of an out of shape guy approaching 40 who decides to take up exercising in order to improve his health and extend his life. He creates an imaginary world through which to ride his stationary bike, and strange things begin to happen to him.
My favorite story (both times through the book) was N. N is the amazing tale of a psychiatrist with a patient who may or may not be losing his mind, and may or may not have OCD, and it may or may not be contagious. It deals with one of King’s favorite topics, other worlds that exist beyond our reality. This has been visited by King again and again (The Mist, The Dark Tower, Rose Madder, etc.) and I never tire of it.
While I didn’t love all of the stories (I really didn’t enjoy A Very Tight Place), I enjoyed the work as a whole and look forward to King’s next collection.