If It Bleeds, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Any reader familiar with Stephen King will understand how versatile he can be. King’s ideas seem endless and he is able to spin them into pieces of varying lengths. In this collection of four short stories (I’d almost call them novellas), King shows not only how he can chill the reader to the core, but that his ideas are vast and yet usually tied to current social trends.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (four stars)

Craig has been working for his elderly neighbour for a few years, reading to Mr. Harrigan and learning a little more about life. When Craig comes into some money, he decides to take a leap and purchases Mr. Harrigan an iPhone, as they are the new ‘thing’ on the market. While Mr. Harrigan is not sure he’d use it, Craig converts the Luddite and soon the elderly man is hooked. After the old man’s passing, Craig honours his friend with a final act. What follows leaves Craig wondering just how strong the tie was that connected him to Mr. Harrigan, as well as what role smart phones have in our ever-changing and impacted world!

The Life of Chuck (three ‘weak’ stars)

The piece is told in three parts, though this is perhaps the most straightforward aspect of the entire reading experience. Each part is in reverse chronological order, beginning with an apocalyptic event where many of the people lose everything, but billboards and online advertisements hail Charles ‘Chuck’ Krantz as having served well over the last 39 years. As the story progresses (regresses?), the reader learns a little more about the earlier Chuck and the life he lived, but adds an ending that will likely leave the reader scratching their heads. Not the stellar King of which I am used to praising!

If It Bleeds (four and a half ‘strong’ stars)

The story that holds the collection’s name is also, in my mind, the best of them all. Tied into King’s recent full-length novel, the reader revisits Holly Gibney and the Finders Keepers Investigation Agency, both of which are doing quite well. When Holly sees a news report about a bombing at a middle school, she becomes fixated, not only with the story, but those who are recounting it. Might there be another Outsider who is responsible for the carnage? Holly goes to look into things, soon pulled into a long-developing theory by an elderly gentleman who has much to share. Where this story will go might baffle the reader!

Rat (four stars)

In King’s final tale, the reader meets Drew Larson, a college English teacher who is hoping to write his ‘great novel’ during a sabbatical. Unable to do so at home, Larson decides to travel up to the family cabin, much to his wife’s chagrin. When Larson arrives, hoping to get the writing bug, he discovers that he’s just beaten a major storm. While the winds gust, Larson tries to put something onto paper. Still struggling and finding himself falling ill, Larson finds himself visited by a rat who seems to be trying to escape the weather. They come to an agreement about how to ensure this new book will prove to be successful, though the sacrifice might be more than Drew Larson can handle to find fame.

Anytime a reader chooses something by Stephen King, they can expect something exciting and unique. King did not disappoint in that regard, though some of his ideas could leave the reader less than impressed. The fact that King leaves that unsettled feeling proves his abilities, as his ideas appear all over the spectrum. These four stories could not be more different from one another, which gives more readers a chance to find something they will enjoy. While King always makes some social commentary, it is up the the reader to decide what they wish to take from the pieces. With his usual random references to past novels and locales, King keeps his fans on their toes as they push through these pieces, forcing those who are keen on details to see how the pieces all fit together. Not to be missed for those who love a little chill alongside their reading experience. I cannot wait to see what else the King of Horror has in store in the years to come!

Kudos, Mr. King, for another wonderful collection. I’ll not soon tire of your variety of writing ideas and the means by which you deliver them.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons