The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a large collection of novellas and short stories that include a wide variety of genres. Each time I turned the page to the next story it would be kind of a wild card and I never knew what to expect which was both good and bad. While it was nice that the variety keeps things fresh, it also made the collection feel disorganized. The stories in the anthology don’t fit any particular theme, instead they just seemed like odds and ends thrown into a master volume. This will probably not be a big deal to many, but for me it just broke the flow.
On a more positive note, one of my favorite aspects of King’s writing is the incredibly dark humor that is present in much of his work. I think the addition of comedy helps to break some of the tension from the otherwise horrific stories and I found myself chuckling several times while reading. The anecdotes before each story were fun to read and gave some interesting insight into King’s writing processes and the things that inspire him. These personal little notes were one of the major highlights of the collection since it serves as a way of connecting the reader to the writer. King to me just has a likable voice and I enjoy reading or listening to his talks.
“When a long book succeeds, the writer and reader are not just having an affair; they are married.”
My favorite story out of the entire collection was no contest, there was one story that stood out to me more than the others: Under the Weather. The short is just so well paced and filled me with so much dread from start to finish that I was in awe. It really showcased King’s mastery of the technical aspects of writing and how to build tension and suspense. Other notable stories were Mile 81, Batman and Robin Have an Altercation, The Dune, The Little Green God of Agony, and Summer Thunder.
Despite all of my praise, it was difficult for me to decide how I wanted to rate this collection. The stories are decent, there are even a few really good ones in the collection, but overall it was nowhere near King’s best. When I closed the book I felt relieved to finally be done, which is not the best feeling to have after finishing a book. Many of the stories seemed to be either love or hate to me and so it was really a mixed bag. Even after I’d finish a story I enjoyed and put the book down for the night, I’d find that I had no motivation to pick the book back up again the next day. Because of this I ended up taking a full month to read this collection which is slower than my average. I had actually been thinking of rating this book lower but the strong final stories drove me to push my rating up a little higher.
Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.
There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.