Night Shift is Stephen King’s first collection of short stories. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I read them when I was a teenager, and couldn’t remember a single one, and I’m glad because it was definitely fun to be surprised by some of these.
Honestly, some of these stories are batshit insane. There’s one where a guy drinks bad beer and turns into a massive grey slug monster that kills people. And another where all the trucks in the world have come to life and are taking over the planet, enslaving humans to pump their gas (This was the inspiration for the movie Maximum Overdrive, which is a delight in itself). These premises sound like really bad horror movies, but King has this way of making things interesting and scary even though they’re ridiculous. The characters are just so real.
There are two that expand on the Salem’s Lot storyline, which is pretty cool. None of the original characters are in them, but I love that King’s stories never really end. There’s always more to tell.
There are also two that floored me because they’re movies and I had no idea that they were King books to begin with. Children of the Corn is one, which was creepy as all hell. The other is The Lawnmower Man. If you’ve seen the movie, forget all about it. It’s absolutely nothing at all like the story. I did some research and found out that King actually stripped his name from the movie because they really only used the name. Which I kind of get, because the story is all kinds of fucked up. I can’t even explain how weird it is.
There are two that are less scary and more emotionally uncomfortable. In the foreword to the book, King talks about fear, and what it is that drives him to write about it. I think these two particular stories really show that there are so many different levels of fear. One is about a guy that loses his sister, and is remembering her near death experience as a child. It’s heavy shit, and may be scary to some because they can relate. The other is about a man who’s mother is dying in the hospital, and he is all fucked up because he hates going there to watch her die. I think you can guess how it ends, which while sad, is also a little unnerving because it makes you wonder if you could have done what he did. There are many different levels of fear, and King definitely hits all of the notes here.
My very favourite in the book is called Quitters, Inc. I don’t know why it’s my favourite, it has just stuck with me, and probably will long after I start to forget all the little details of these stories. If you read one short story from Night Shift, read that one. It’s just… just read it.
For the Dark Tower Fans: Nothing really jumped out at me in any of these. Some of the more demonic monsters could easily somehow tie in to Tower-esque themes but nothing blatant. I got really excited when I saw the title I Am The Doorway, but it’s about aliens. Which was awesome, but not a Dark Tower reference.
Fear Factor: I think fear is really in the eye of the beholder here. These stories are all so diverse, some of them are creepy as shit, and others are more subtle about it. And then come of them just made me squirm inside. But if you’re craving some darkness, this will definitely do the trick.
“God bless the grass.”
-Harold, The Lawnmower Man, Night Shift, Stephen King