Night Shift is exactly what I have always expected to find in Stephen King’s work, but which I have only experienced sporadically in his novels; it was genuinely scary. Short story collections are generally pretty hit or miss for me. Even those I’ve enjoyed aren’t usually overwhelmingly successful, giving me a handful of stories sprinkled liberally with mediocre tales. Not so here. I honestly enjoyed every single story in this collection.
King is the (nearly) undisputed as King of Horror. While I have undoubtedly been frightened by his stories, and sometimes deeply so, I have found the scary moments to be just that: moments. There were elements of Pet Sematary and The Shining and ‘Salem’s Lot that left me horrified, but the only novels I’ve read so far that actually given me heart palpitations and nightmares were IT and Revival. But even compared to the books often considered his most terrifying, I felt that this collections surpassed those in terms of fear factor. Almost every tale took something common and ordinary and turned it into something disturbing and somehow wrong. King does an absolutely fantastic job packing a complete, unique thought into each story, which I honestly found surprising as he’s known for his doorstoppers.
The book starts with a Lovecraftian tale that I felt delivered the creeping sense of dread Lovecraft is known for even more successfully than its namesake. From there, King gives us stories of a freaky infection of sorts from outer space; sentient trucks that have flipped the tables on their creators; a possessed laundry machine; a way to quit smoking that has no room for failure; a divine lawn service with a dark side; and a boyfriend who really is too good to be true. We also have a return trip to ‘Salem’s Lot and the most famous story in this collection, Children of the Corn. Every story was unique and in some way uncomfortable. I really, deeply enjoyed it.
I found this collection to be some of the most impactful writing I’ve encountered from King so far. It was surprisingly rich and deep and varied, and I will definitely be reading more of King’s short stories in the future. If you’ve never tried King and would like to do so, but are intimidated by the size of some of his novels, this is a great place to start.
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