Book Review: If It Bleeds by Stephen King

Book Review: If It Bleeds by Stephen King

If It Bleeds by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve honestly come to believe that King can simply do no real wrong in my eyes. And I’m still baffled by this turn around, as I vividly recall years of my life when I couldn’t get past the first chapter of anything he wrote. Whatever the catalyst for this change in taste might have been, I’m grateful for it. King is now firmly planted among my favorites. While not every book or story is a masterpiece, they’re all enjoyable. This newest collection of his is no exception. Below are micro-reviews for each of the four stories contained in this collection. Even if I didn’t adore them all, I had fun reading them.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone: 4 stars
Love this as a coming of age story with an whiff of the supernatural. It has the nostalgic feel of so many of King’s coming of age stories, even though it takes place in a more modern setting. Equal parts cozy and unsettling. I love the relationships between Craig and the adults in his life. Especially his relationship with the title character. However, I now even more firmly believe that, not only can you not take it with you when you go, you really, really shouldn’t. Technology should never reach beyond the grave.

“I think our phones are how we are wedded to the world. If so, it’s probably a bad marriage.”

The Life of Chuck: 3.5 stars
A timely story, touching on our addiction to technology and how both its presence and its potential future absence so radically affects our lives. Can the world possibly go back to a time without the internet without humanity devolving into pocket dystopias? Act 3 is a very interesting portrayal of the world winding down, and the end coming with a whimper instead of a bang. Acts 2 and 1 are a sweet, intriguing life story. The way in which these three parts come together is ethereal and, according to King, up for debate. It’s a very intriguing concept that provides a lot of food for thought without giving anything approaching an answer. I both really enjoyed it and found it unsatisfying. My feelings about the story are mixed.

“The universe is large, he thought. It contains multitudes. It also contains me, and in this moment I am wonderful. I have a right to be wonderful.”

If It Bleeds: 4.5 stars
Having now read Doctor Sleep, I love the stronger link this story makes between Doctor Sleep and The Outsider. There is also a small link to 11/22/63 that was unexpected, as well as allusions to IT. As one of my favorite things about King’s work is his tendency to self-reference and to link all of his works to one another, these links made me very happy. And while I understand that some King fans have a strong dislike for Holly, she seems to have grown on me with each of her appearances. By the time I read this novella, she had already won me over, so I was completely invested. This ended up being a much stronger, and better, story than I was anticipating.

“If it bleeds, it leads.”

Rat: 3.5 stars
I love the way King portrays writers in all their quirky, intelligent, vaguely superstitious, not-always-pleasant glory. In this story, he demonstrates once again how thin the line between creativity and madness can be, and how easily that line can be crossed. Take a sick day when you need one, folks. You never know when you drive yourself too hard if you’ll finally push yourself over the brink from which you can’t return. It’s a chance we all risk when we don’t cut ourselves some slack. The pursuit of art can be your end if you allow it. How much will you sacrifice for it? Also, this one got really weird. Interesting, though.

“It was like a splinter, one lodged in his mind instead of under his skin.”

Overall, this was a fun, if mixed, bag of stories. Even those I didn’t love were still entertaining and thought-provoking. I’m not positive I’ll revisit this particular collection in the future, but I’m still glad to have read it.

You can order this book from: (Support independent bookstores!) | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Audible | (Another way to support independent bookstores!) | Book Depository (Free shipping)

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