on May 10, 2013
Stephen King's second short-story collection ranges from the beginnings of his published career as a writer in the late 1960's to stories that were not published until the release of this collection. As always with his collections, King rewrites a lot from the originally published versions. Indeed, "The Raft" is entirely recreated: King has never been able to locate the original published story from the late 1960's, a story he was paid for but which he's not entirely certain was actually printed.
The result is a collection with more range than the first collection -- Night Shift -- but a certain drop in intensity and consistency. One negative is the inclusion of two of King's science-fiction horror stories, "The Jaunt" and "Beachworld," neither of which are particularly scary or well-imagined. The science fiction of interplanetary travel and robots and alien planets is not an area in which King is especially good. But by God, he's going to keep trying to write it even if doing so kills either him or us or possibly both.
Thankfully, both the straightforward horror and the darkly fantastic are handled a lot better. "The Reach" is probably King's best tale of non-horrific supernatural doings, a meditation on mortality set off the coast of Maine. "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut", a more Bradburyian effort, is also a lot of fun, while "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" is a solid examination of madness and writing.
On the horror front, we get the Lovecraft-by-way-of-the-drive-in romp "The Mist." "The Monkey" and "The Raft" are the best of the horror stories here, turning the mundane (a wind-up monkey toy, a popular swimming destination just a bit out of season) into the terrible. That wind-up monkey is one of King's best distillations of strange, explanation-resistant horror. I'd like to see it go a few rounds with the more benevolent wind-up Chattery Teeth of the much-later story of the same name.
Other stand-outs include the understated story of supernatural revenge, "Uncle Otto's Truck," and the murderous road-odyssey "Nona." The latter works beautifully as a gender-flipped companion to King's earlier novel Carrie, as it deals with many of the same gender and social issues from a different perspective. Highly recommended.
on June 1, 2004
I guess there's something for everyone in "Skeleton Crew," - or at least for most people. The book contains a few tales where, as King himself puts it in one of his other short-story anthologies, "things happen just because they happen." In other words, impossible (or maybe just improbable) things become possible, and even frequent. Stories like this in "Skeleton Crew" include "The Mist," "Here There Be Tygers" and "The Raft."
Interestingly enough, these are three of my favourites. I was a bit disappointed by the end of "The Mist," with a proper ending and more detail in between, it could've been a standalone novella. As it is, the ending leaves a lot - too much, in my opinion - to the imagination. We want to know what happens in the end, but that's largely unexplained. Still, it's a great story. "The Raft" is simply King at his gruesome, unforgiving best.
Stories like "Here There Be Tygers" and "Cain Rose Up" held my interest, but at the end I found myself thinking "What's he trying to say with this?"
In my opinion, there are no outright stinkers in the bunch, although I would say my least favourite is the sci-fi attempt "Beachworld." Another that I liked less was "The Reach."
On the other hand, my favourite story of all is the other one with a sci-fi feel, called "The Jaunt." Some have called it a cautionary tale, I call it just plain brilliant. In my opinion, it's got some of the funnier moments of the whole book, but these are contrasted with some of the most frightening, which is what makes the story superior. Highly recommend it.
In fact I highly recommend the whole collection.
on September 13, 2003
Before I shifted in literary tastes from mostly science fiction and fantasy to Tom Clancy-style military thrillers, I was a regular reader of Stephen King's macabre masterpieces. I have about two-thirds of his literary output, and if books were not as expensive now I'd still be a regular reader of King's works.
One of my favorite books by Steve-o is Skeleton Crew, his second collection of short stories, including the novella "The Mist." And as in any collection of short fiction, some of the 22 stories stand head and shoulders above the rest.
The creepiest, by far, is "The Mist," which begins with, as in all good King works, with a seemingly normal event (a storm) and a routine occurrence (a trip to the supermarket) and slowly but surely morphs into a situation which becomes scarier as the story progresses. While not wanting to give anything away, I can tell you this much -- I'll never go to the Kash n' Karry and look at it quite the same way again, particularly in the spaghetti sauce section.
"Survivor Type" is King's take on Robinson Crusoe. Its protagonist is Richard Pine, a surgeon who, unfortunately, has also been involved in the narcotics "business." Now, after he is shipwrecked and marooned on a desert isle, Pine is forced to face his inner demons and, by the way, cope with the problem of what to eat in a place where there is no viable food source. Suffice it to say that in his desperation he will have to use his surgical training to solve this dicey problem.
While there are other stories that give me the willies, I am always drawn to "Word Processor of the Gods." I first read it before I ever owned -- or even used -- a personal computer, and its premise involving a word processor with supernatural powers, while silly on the surface, was very compelling to me as an aspiring writer. King asks: What if you simply typed a sentence like "I wish I were married to the loveliest, kindest person on earth," and by pressing ENTER, it came true? Maybe in the hands of a lesser writer the premise is silly, but King tells his story with a fine balance of spookiness and wit. The closing paragraph is a gem.
The beauty of an anthology like Skeleton Crew is that you can read as much or as little of it as you like, choosing whatever story strikes your fancy at any given moment. If you are a newcomer to King's storytelling and don't want to commit yourself to a major novel such as IT or The Stand, this is a fine place to start.
on September 7, 2003
Skeleton crew is a highly recommendable collection of short stories by Stephen King, including a large variety of little masterpieces that are worth reading more than once. More than anything, the novella "The mist" makes this book a must-buy for any serious horror fan. It is not typical Stephen King, miles away from "Christine", "Cujo", "Salem's Lot" and even "The Shining", it is, apart from some short stories, Stephen King's darkest, most hopeless, and most cosmic story ever.
It is in every sense lovecraftian without even mentioning one of the usual prerequisites, but combines Lovecraft's concept of cosmic alienation with all the merits of Stephen King's fine writing: a detailed and sympathetic characterisation of his protagonists and antagonists, a good sense of black humour, an action-packed plot and some delvings into the funny horror of old school splatter movies (among many others).
"The mist" tells about the dire adventures of a bunch of Mainers (of course) caught in a supermarket and confronted with the unknown and utterly alien, told from the perspective of a family father. The horror is generated on several levels, by the mysterious "mist" that traps the people (and for which a good 1950'ies horror movie explanation is provided) which creates an eerie atmosphere of constant threat, by the creatures that inhabit it (which range from the ridiculous to the awe-inspiring), and particularly by the behaviour of the people that are confronted with supreme horrors, and which slowly but constantly go nuts one after the other.
It is easily one of Stephen Kings masterpieces and easily outshines any of the other stories in the collection -well done as they are. It is more lovecraftian than anything Derleth, Carter or Lumley ever wrote, because it understands the cosmological concept. H. P. L. always raged about what would happen if the gates to the outer spheres are opened. Stephen King shows it and leaves no (or, at best, a pathetic) hope for mankind.
To put it in one word: brilliant. If King wouldn't have written anything else, this book would secure him a place among the masters of weird fiction.
on May 28, 2003
Stephen King is a well-known, best-selling author. Many of his books have made it to the movies, like Dream Catcher, and The Shining (which has made it to the movies many times). I especially like The Shining, and Cujo. Of course, he has written books I'm not too fond of either, like Christine. But some of his best stories are the short kinds, like the short stories in his book, Skeleton Crew.
Skeleton Crew is an imaginative and often gruesome book. Some of the stories may seem hokey at first, but after some reading, you quickly become riveted to the twisting plots, gory details, and seemingly unstoppable evils that drive the stories. One of the best stories in the book is the first one, which is "The Mist". "The Mist" is about a failed military experiment that unleashes another dimension upon Earth that is filled to the brim with demented creatures. I could not get into some of the stories though, such as "Uncle Otto's Truck", which is pretty boring until just before the end, when Stephen King builds up some suspense, and pulls off a pretty boring ending.
The reason I like "The Mist" is because of the detail. It's detailed enough that you can create a cool image of what he's describing, but he doesn't describe it so much that it's already basically drawn onto the page. He uses this perfect amount of detail in each of his stories. I also like the detail in these stories because it doesn't dwell on one thing too long, but it isn't so vague you have no idea what he's talking about. After reading "The Mist", I was surprised and pretty freaked out to wake up to a thick mist one morning.
I give this book four stars. The diverse stories reel you in and keep you there. You never know what thing Stephen King will manage to make creepy. From milkmen to toy monkeys.
on January 1, 2003
In his second and comparatively subdued anthology of short stories, King's distinctive prose comes off as more haunting than all-out horrifying; a deliberately paced walk through a haunted mansion rather than an amusement-park simulation thereof. The stories are no more or less effective for the wear, but <i>Skeleton Crew</i> doesn't so much grab you by the lapels and order you to be frightened as shrewdly offer you the option to be...and, should you accept it, you are methodically jangled from gut to psyche, and left to reverberate once the last word glides across the page. This is something an evolutionary jump for the Stephen King anthologies, somehow darker and far more intimate than its predecessor. Self-image, paranoia, and survival are recurring themes (The open-ended question "Do you love?" is sprinkled throughout the book like an ancient yet timeless chant of infinite power and potential)...whereas <i>Night Shift</i> focused primarily on society's external structure and surreality overlapping the real world. In these writings, you'll find only what you choose to take with you.
THE BALLAD OF THE FLEXIBLE BULLET: A poignant and complex tale with massage both universal and deeply personal.
BEACHWORLD: Science fiction as interpreted by King; somewhat superficial in contrast to other stories, but can easily get under your skin. The futuristic pidgin lingo is a tough go, but I gotta admire the man for having the patience and skill to create a universal dialect in the first place.
BIG WHEELS: A TALE OF THE LAUNDRY GAME (MILKMAN #2): Something of a day-in-the-life that abruptly crescendos into a revenge drama. Not the best this collection has to offer, but solid entertainment.
CAIN ROSE UP: An unnerving tale of cynicism, disenchantment and impulse, eerily foreshadowing the acts of school violence prevalent from the late twentieth century to now.
FOR OWEN: A breezy and touching poem dedicated to his youngest son, showcasing King's elusive sentimental side.
GRAMMA: A harrowing tale focusing on youth and the unknown, raw and evocative.
HERE THERE BE TYGERS: A strange, juvenile but effective mini-study on the parallels between a child's everyday concerns versus the perils that could potentially befall us out of the clear blue nowhere.
THE JAUNT: Another slice of sci-fi a la King, every bit as twisted as Beachworld, but far more purposeful/cautionary overall. Tinges of Cronenberg's <i>The Fly</i>. This one scared the [daylights] out of me--I thought about it for literal DAYS afterward.
THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT SHAKE HANDS: A brief meditation on paranoia; it seems alost satirical to me.
THE MIST: An apocalyptic novella that takes the classic final-showdown-of-mankind scenario and transports it into a most unusual locale. Hints of <i>Jurassic Park, Dawn of the Dead</i> and John Carpenter's <i>The Fog</i>.
THE MONKEY: A classic horror story, and as close to vintage King as you'll find in this anthology. The angel of death manifests itself in the form of a mechanical monkey-doll.
MORNING DELIVERIES (MILKMAN #1): A conceptually interesting kind of horror farce, more a hypothetical situation than a telling of actual events...as with Ellis' <i>American Psycho</i>, the reader is almost led to believe the scenario exists only within the wishful thoughts of the main character. Flawed, but readable.
MRS. TODD'S SHORTCUT: A woman's desire to save time and resistance to change leads her life into a series of strange events. Deep.
NONA: Almost a love story, it seamlessly fuses the mythic images of the anima and the succubus...a theme that's been touched upon in modern literature, but not fully or effectively explored until now.
PARANOID--A CHANT: Another poem, this one brimming with kinetic imagery and dark satiric humor. A personal favorite.
THE RAFT: Another straightforward horror story featuring what could best be described as the Blob's bastard cousin, with strong subtexts of post-adolescent angst, envy and sexual (im)morality.
THE REAPER'S IMAGE: Haunting and original, yet strangely anticlimactic. Not my favorite.
SURVIVOR TYPE: A survival tale with a shocking--and sickening--twist. By no means superficial, though.
UNCLE OTTO'S TRUCK: A wealthy elderly eccentric is driven literally crazy and to poverty by his Cresswell truck. An odd premise with a webwoven theme of irony and gossip.
THE WEDDING GIG: A sad tale set in the Prohibition era, representing a refreshing change of venue in King's world. A provocative look at, of all things, family ties and prejudice.
WORD PROCESSOR OF THE GODS: An interesting take on the nagging what-ifs of life and the hypotheticals of reversing personal regrets...both disturbing, yet not without a strange sweetness.
on October 10, 2002
Skeleton Crew by Stephen King is a collection of short stories. They range from horror to unrealistically frightening fantasies. At the end of his introduction King suggests to the reader, "Grab onto my arm now. Hold tight. We are going into a number of dark places, but I think I know the way. Just don't let go of my arm."
"The Mist" is the first of these short stories and is one hundred thirty pages long. It is about a gigantic storm which brings a mysterious mist to a small town in northern New England. The mist has a life of its own. It spreads and inexplicably produces creatures that are beyond the imagination. Several people become trapped in a grocery store. One by one they are preyed upon by the creatures of the mist. Six main characters eventually plan an escape. Only three of them survive the twenty foot scramble to the car. The mist's range and area of coverage is unknown. Driving at five miles per hour they come upon an abandoned Howard Johnson's hotel. The story ends in a cliffhanger leaving the reader wondering how three ordinary, simple people will overcome all odds.
"The Mist" was my favorite short story. It is a wonderfully gruesome page-turner. It is written for an adult audience. The vocabulary challenged me at times, but not too much. This story is for people who enjoy horror and extreme fiction. There are moments of acute suspense, but there are also parts that are slow and unexciting. There was clearly no way out of the grocery store except through the front door and twenty feet through the mist to the car. Some readers may not enjoy the characters because they appeared unsure and unstimulating. The creatures on the other hand were intriguing. This contrast, however, is what made the story more frightening. Finding temporary safety in an abandoned Howard Johnson hotel for three of the main characters is indicative of Stephen King's writing style. The characters escape one trap only to find themselves in another one. I found myself speculating for days about how one man and two women would overcome the creatures of the mist; whether the mist had overtaken the entire nation or world; and whether there were any other humans alive. Sometimes I still think about it.
on August 10, 2002
Stephen King is truly an imaginative and unique writer; sometimes making the simple things of everyday life seem dark and menacing. While Night Shift has to be his best short story collection, Skeleton Crew also has a few gems worth reading. It opens with "The Mist", this collection's novella that succeeds in keeping your attention, this time the villian is a mysterious fog..sounds goofy, but surprisingly its not. However, it's not one of those stories you would read again-like "Children of the Corn" from Night Shift. Then we have "Here There Be Tygers" which is pretty creepy just in its childhood fear of schools and teachers. "The Monkey" is one of the best in my opinion, just because I think those toys are scary! LOL!! "Cain Rose Up" is shocking, "For Owen" is an excellent poem about adolescence-which is in no way scary. Most of the stories seem to be free of any real horror, leaving the option to be scared or be challenged up to the reader. That's what sets Crew apart from most King works. Each story is compelling, whether you are hiding under the covers one minute or laughing hysterically the next. I think the choice is ours.
on March 13, 2002
This tome of tales first came into my hands when it was first released, and I was 11. Last year I bought a new copy and was amazed at how well the stories had lasted in my memory. These are some of Stephen King's finest works and if I wanted to interest a non-fan or novice in his writing, this might well be the book I would give them to whet their appetite.
"Word Processor of the Gods" transcends terror to make us all wonder what we would want if our computer could shape a new reality for us - and can we really all swear there is absolutely no-one we'd like to use the DELETE button on? "The Jaunt" uses a similar technological premise to Michael Crichton's "Timeline", but to a far different effect. "Gramma" is a tale loosely drawn from a frightening childhood experience of King's, as you will know if you read his "On Writing". Childhood fears, and the demonic powers scared children can fancifully assign to toys, also provide the basis for the evil toy in "The Monkey". And, in "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut", King introduces us to a woman whose passion for saving time leads her to some particularly bizarre places - quickly. Some two dozen stories, many of which scare less than they titillate, and create lasting images of the eerie.
on November 8, 2001
The novel Skeleton Crew by Stephen King was a collection of several stories. It mixes the realities of science fiction with the terror of a horror story. The novel challenged the reader to use their mind to either figure out several unanswered questions in the book and to use the imagination to create certain endings for many of the stories. Although, King in many of the stories seems to unclearly end a story, leaving many readers hanging or unsatisfied.
In one particular story "The Mist" King leaves the ending unsaid. The characters in the story are at conflict with the creations of a military experiment gone terribly wrong. The characters are trapped in a super market through out most of the story. Yet as the story comes to an end King never directly reveals the fate of the surviving characters. This really leaves an enormous gap in the readers mind as to what will become of the characters. King should have ended the story on a more clear note in which a reader would be able to know and understand what happens to the characters. He really doesn't use many literary divices in this story, there are many situations in which King could have used forshadowing or the use of irony to help readers understand events in the story a little better.
In another story "The Monkey" King shows the reader, a grown man who comes in contact with a childhood fear, a fur toy monkey with clanging symbols. In the story the man remebers the fear the monkey stuck in his heart and how every time somthing bad would happen the monkey was always there. King really tells this story well. There is great suspense in the story that always keeps the reader second guessing and thinking of what will happen next. He does a much better job in this story of letting the reader know the ending. He also uses forshadowing in this story to give hints as to what might happen on the next page. King also used dramtic and situaltional irony in "The Monkey." He leads readers to belive one thing will happen only to find out King had pulled a complete 180 and somthing the exact opposite happens.
Over all Skeleton Crew was a good book. It made me think and have to use logic to understand many of the situations in the novel. I would recommend this novel to any reader who enjoys a collection of horror stories, mysteries and stories that flat out make you think.