The title really says it all. If you are looking for fuzzy bunnies and ice cream cones, don't come lookin here. However, if you want to sear some horrific images into your brain for the rest of your life this just might be the book for you.
I started this book probably four times before I could get through the first story--1922. Not because it was boring...just too dark for me at the time. I was stressed to the max and getting 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night. Now things are much brighter in my real life, and I sleep 6 to 7 hours, which gives me a much better outlook on life. Where am I going with this? Ah, yes. With real life not looking so bleak, I started to miss the old days...ok, ok that's not true, I just knew that I could at least have the mental fortitude to finish what I started.
I picked up the audio cd of this at the library and started listening to it on my hour long commute to work. When I could, I would read my paper back at night (not a very good idea if you want to get sleep). Craig Wasson does a fine job of narrating "Fair Extension," but his voice for Henry "Hank" James in 1922 was a bit much. I don't know how he could have done it much better, but let's just say the voice in my head would have been better. Jessica Hecht also did a fair job, but, like I said, reading the book myself was a better experience. Enough about the audio book. I'm sure you're not interested in that much anyway.
I'm not a big fan of telling people too much about book plots because I've have many stories and movies ruined by over-eager critics/fans wanting to share their thoughts. "Oops! You didn't know that? Sorry." Jerk!
Let me just say that there is a lot of death in 386 pages. All of them, except the bonus story "Under the Weather," center around the theme of retribution. In a couple of these stories I cheered as people got their "comeuppance." In the other two--no, I'm not going to tell you which ones, so quite asking--I felt more like an accessory to a murder (you know like the ones on TV where the good guy is hanging out with the bad friends and finds himself in the middle of a crime scene holding a guilty conscience). That, my friends, is the power and the horror of Mr. Stephen King. For good or for bad the characters are real, filled with the same emotions and idiosyncrasies as many of us. That makes the horror, when it comes, all the more real.
So, why not five stars? It's hard to even give this book four stars in many ways. Some stories like "1922" and "Big Driver" can be difficult to keep reading--not because they are boring but because they involve rough subject material. On principle of his frequent use of overly crass language I have to deduct a star. King's argument is that writing should reflect life, but I for one have never heard some of the profanities he uses in his writings in the real world. A fly in the ointment, if you will. Still, it was excellent story-telling. Gripping. Disturbing. Memorable.