Title: Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Author: Stephen King
Length: 816 pages (including an introduction and notes)
My star rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
At the beginning of this particular anthology, Stephen King briefly discusses his childhood beliefs, and invites readers to join him while they peruse stories that will be “a little frightening.” He assures them that “we’ll be alright if we go together.” And he leaves them with a “catechism” to start them on the right track:
I believe that there really is a Santa Claus, and that all those red-suited guys you see at Christmastime really are his helpers.
I believe there is an unseen world all around us. …
Most of all, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks.
Okay? Ready? Fine. Here’s my hand. We’re going now. I know the way. All you have to do is hold on tight…and believe.
“Believe” is my favorite word in the English language, and I still thought Santa Claus was real at the ripe old age of twelve. So between the stirring introduction and the fact that King is one of my favorite authors anyway, I had a pretty good feeling about this collection, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Okay, okay, between the Twilight thing and this, I guess I might as well flush my credibility as a reviewer down the drain. My taste is obviously crap!
Only, I think Stephen King gets a bad wrap. Being popular and being a horror writer do not equate to being bad or untalented. He might not always be literary, but he is highly entertaining. Maybe that’s because his writing feels so real to me (which is, at times, pretty terrifying)–the characters seem to live and breathe. I can touch and smell and taste his settings. And the man loves baseball! How can I help but be a fan?
I’m also across the border from Maine for the summer, and I mean, how can you not read a Stephen King book while in or around Maine…?!
The stories in Nightmares & Dreamscapes range from passable to excellent, as might be expected from any author, and there are a lot of stories in this collection. Some are chilling–“Suffer the Little Children,” “The Ten O’Clock People,” and “Crouch End,” for instance; some, like “My Pretty Pony,” are thought-provoking; and some are just weird (“The Moving Finger,” “It Grows on You”).
Only one of them really “got me,” and that was “Crouch End,” King’s addition to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. If you’ve ever read any Lovecraft, you might understand why that one was the one that had me glancing over my shoulder for a few nights after reading it and saying “what the hell?!”
The other creature-features (so to speak) were also very good: “Home Delivery,” a serious combination of Zombieland and The Andromeda Strain with a nautical atmosphere, was possibly my favorite in the whole collection. “The Night Flier” is just a good old-fashioned vampire story.
Every classic rock fan should definitely read “You Know They’ve Got a Hell of a Band”…though it might give you pause the next time you listen to Janis Joplin.
The nonfiction piece about Little League at the end made me cry. Thanks for that, sir.
And lastly, if you’re in need of a laugh, you might get one out of this (from the Notes):
It is possible to spoil a story which hasn’t been read yet, however, and so if you’re one of those people (one of those awful people) who feel a compulsion to read the last thing in a book first, like a willful child who is determined to eat his or her chocolate pudding before touching the meatloaf, I’m going to invite you to get the hell out of here, lest you suffer what may be the worst of all curses: disenchantment.
Reviewing anthologies is always a little difficult, so I’ll just sum it up by saying that Nightmares & Dreamscapes is definitely worth a read even for people who don’t like horror. I tip my hat to you, Mr. King. Damn, if only I could write like that!