A collection of short stories by Stephen King, published in 1985. It was King's second short story collection. I think this is my favorite of King's collections -- the stories are generally pretty good, there are a lot of them, and while there are plenty of great horror stories, there are also more examples of King pushing the boundaries and trying tales outside of his usual arena.
The stories here include:
- "The Mist" - A novella in which a strange mist blows into town, unleashing bizarre monsters -- and an impromptu end times cult -- on the population. This was adapted into a film directed by Frank Darabount in 2007.
- "Here There Be Tygers" - A very short story written when King was in high school, it focuses on a child who needs to visit the school restroom, but must deal with the wild tiger sitting on the floor.
- "The Monkey" - A kid finds a monkey toy with a terrible curse on it.
- "Cain Rose Up" - A college student takes out his frustrations -- and a bunch of innocent people -- with a sniper rifle.
- "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" - Mrs. Todd likes to drive around the countryside looking for shortcuts, some of which take her to very strange places.
- "The Jaunt" - A science fiction horror story about the teleportation technology of the future.
- "The Wedding Gig" - A crime story about a Mafia wedding between an obese bride, a skinny groom, murder, and revenge.
- "Paranoid: A Chant" - A lengthy poem about a man suffering from paranoia and schizophrenia.
- "The Raft" - Four college kids go swimming in a remote lake and are trapped by a predatory slime monster in the water. The story was adapted as part of 1987's "Creepshow 2" film.
- "Word Processor of the Gods" - A writer acquires a word processor that can alter reality.
- "The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands" - Why would a man be so terrified of shaking anyone's hands?
- "Beachworld" - A sci-fi tale of a spaceship that crashes on a planet formed entirely of sand.
- "The Reaper's Image" - An antique collector encounters a mirror that sometimes shows an image of the Grim Reaper in its reflection.
- "Nona" - A man commits terrible murders under the influence of a beautiful woman. But is she really a woman? Does she exist at all?
- "For Owen" - A poem about King walking his son Owen to school.
- "Survivor Type" - In this remarkably grisly story, a physician-turned-heroin-smuggler is marooned on an island with nothing to eat. How can he survive?
- "Uncle Otto's Truck" - A wealthy murderer is haunted by a derelict old truck that wants him dead.
- "Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1)" - A milkman makes his daily deliveries. But he's not delivering milk! Or anything wholesome!
- "Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2)" - A couple of lowlifes drive around town, get drunk, commit murders, and meet a terrible milkman.
- "Gramma" - A little boy is home alone when his dreadful grandmother dies. But has she died? Or does she have something horrible planned for him? This story was loosely adapted as a film called "Mercy" in 2014.
- "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" - A magazine editor gets roped into a novelist's paranoid fantasies about magical beings living in their typewriters.
- "The Reach" - The oldest resident of a remote island has never visited the mainland, and before she dies, she decides to walk across the frozen ocean to get there.
A few of these stories don't really measure up. "Cain Rose Up" is dull, "Word Processor of the Gods" is derivative, "The Wedding Gig" is unpleasant, and "Big Wheels" is meandering.
The rest of these, luckily, range from good to brilliant. The best of the bunch include "The Mist," which is justifiably acclaimed as a one of King's shorter masterworks; "The Raft," with its tense, claustrophobic setting; the surreal "Morning Deliveries"; the utterly terrifying "Gramma"; "The Reach," which is a beautiful and empathetic story about accepting death; the glorious "The Jaunt," with most of its mind-twisting horrors happening offscreen except for that one final, brutal shocker at the end; and "Survivor Type," a story even King believed went too far -- but it's still gruesome and audacious and fun to read.
What's particularly surprising about this collection is how few of them were adapted for film, especially compared to his earlier collection, "Night Shift." It's quite possible that people got burned out hard on Stephen King movies -- he had a long stretch of low-quality stinkers for a number of years, so maybe Hollywood just gave up on him. But the lack of adaptations means a lot of these stories aren't remembered very well, if at all.
Still, if you want to read a bunch of excellent Stephen King horror stories -- including a few that are among the very best he's ever written, you should be out there looking for this one.