28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2004
King gives us four novellas in this 1990 collection, all are without doubt superb and highlight Kings originality and brilliant characterisation as well as his ability to scare the living daylights out of you.
The first story (The Langoliers) is part horror story and part homage to the golden age of science fiction. A commercial jet travels through a strange vortex in the sky leaving only a handful of passengers alive to land the plane in a deserted airport where they find out what really happens to the past.
The second novella (Secret window, secret garden) is one of Kings best. Morton Rainey (Played by Johnny depp in the up coming movie) goes to his quite lakeside home to escape his divorce and work on his writer's block, things take a nasty turn when a sinister individual shows up at his door accusing him of plagiarism. This story also provides fans with a very telling insight into some of King's own thoughts and feelings as a best-selling author.
'The Library policeman' is an enjoyable little shocker, everything from eye sucking monsters to alien librarians grace the pages of Kings third story. After reading this you'll never return Library books late again.
The last story in the collection 'The Sun Dog' is my personnel favourite. Kevin Delevan receives a polaroid camera for his 15th birthday, every photo he takes yields the same image, that of a monstrous black dog, with picture taken the dog seems to be getting closer and closer to it's viewer. Cool
This is a brilliant collection, every story presents King at his very best.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2000
I first read this book when I was at school studying for my finals. It struck me then that Stephen King is much much more than a magnificent horror writer, he is also a sensitive writer with a knack for observation.
I have, of course, read the book again since then and I must confess that it's impact on me has grown in the intervening years. Whilst before, I could find a great deal of entertainment in the stories, I can now appreciate them on a deeper level. There is a sense of empathy that is kindled by the characters in the tales. Although I am not in jail like Andy Dufresne, i often feel trapped in certain siuations and can often be overwhelmed with the feeling that each day will be exactly like the last.
If I was looking for a favourite among the four novellas contained in the book, I would plump for The breathing Method. It is a polished, expertly written tale of triumph over adversity and animates perfectly the strength of will that we mere mortals can sometimes display.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2013
Simply put, this is why Stephen King is the master of his craft.
What we have here are four novellas; The Langoliers which is about an aircraft that finds itself in parallel (sort of) universe; "Secret Window..." which is about an author facing an impossible charge of plagiarism; "The Library Policeman" which about an ancient evil feeding off the fears of others; and it all finishes with "The Sun Dog", which about a photo coming to life (again, sort of).
My favourites were "Langoliers" and "Sun Dog", although that is not to take anything away from the other stories.
I once read a quote attributed to Stephen King, where he claimed to write the fast-food version of stories.
I could not disagree more. Don't get me wrong, this is not Hemmingway or Fitzgerald... but I'm not reading it for that. I'm reading it for fantastical escapism.
The characters have depth and nice (although uncomfortable) back stories. The plot has twists and intrigue, and it difficult to tell you how much I loved "The Sun Dog". As soon as I finished it, I read it again.
There are weak spots. If I am honest, "Secret Window..." did not set the heather on fire. Stephen King has written a number of stories about plagiarism and the fear of accusation. Personally I don't think this story added anything, and the idea of mental voices being made flesh has been explored before (in Skeleton Crew I think).
Equally, "The Library Policeman" reminded me of some cross between "It" and "The Tommyknockers". It was readable, but it was not original.
That said, "The Langoliers" and "The Sun Dog" are worth the cover price alone, and if you want to creep yourself out you could do far worse than this.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2004
I just recently read this book and although I really enjoyed the stories The Langoliers, Secret Window Secret Garden, and The Sun Dog I didn't really enjoy The Library Policeman. I thought it was a bit off the wall, and not in a good way. However I do rate this book 4 stars because of the other 3 good stories in the book. The Langoliers is one of the most interesting short stories I've ever read. I would definitely reccommend this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 September 2010
Again, this book, which has unfortunately been published under two names (Secret window and Four past midnight), is a great collection of four stories. They all tell the stories of characters who are so unfortunate to be led into rather odd circumstances where they have to do their best to cope with the various (and eerie) situations. Each story is in around 200 pages and therefore you have a lot of meat on the bones. I highly recommend this book to anyone and not least to those who are still getting into the wonderful world of the stories of Stephen King.
on 19 March 2014
This Stephen King book is a collection of 4 novellas. Each of them can stand on their own as a book (so not short stories!) Each of the stories look at the concept of time - in the unique King way of course!
1. The Langoliers
I don't think this story is recognised enough - it is in fact one of my favourite Stephen King stories.
Now I'm not a very nervous flyer, but lets just say I always breathe I sigh of relief when we touch down. Now imagine this:
Brian, an ex-pilot, is on a plane travelling from Los Angeles to Boston overnight. He falls asleep.When he awakes, he finds that, apart from 9 other fellow passengers, all the other passengers have simply vanished, and that includes the crew. The plane continues to fly on autopilot. They all quickly figure out that they all have been asleep when 'something' must have happened to the plane which they think is a 'time rip'. In usual King fashion, we have a range of different characters who have to pull together. Lovely memorable types who will stay in your memory including the blind girl Dinah and Craig Toomey, the investment banker who will go bad (long before investment bankers went bad in movies / news)
My absolute favourite read of this collection of stories. Brilliant idea beautifully executed.
2. Secret Window, Secret Garden
Every writer's nightmare?
Mort is a successful writer. One day a man knocks on Mort's door who calls himself John Shooter and claims that Mort has stolen his story and leaves him a manuscript. Mort is horrified at the accusation of plagiarism and dismisses it, but eventually looks at the manuscript and finds it almost identical to one of the stories he has written. But it looks like his story was published 2 years before Shooters story. now he just needs to prove it. But sinister things start to happen.
Johnny Depp plays Mort in the movie-version :)
I loved this story as well, especially when 'it' dawned on me what's happening here.
3. The Library Policeman
Ever forget to return a book to the library in good time…
Sam, a middle-aged man, has to make a speech and goes to the public library to check out a few books on the topic. He starts chatting to the librarian - they are usually friendly folks, aren't they? He gets reminded not to forget to return the books in time, or else? What follows is a ghost-kind of story involving unpleasant things happening at this library. And I mean truly unpleasant.
This was my least favourite story of this collection. Despite the horror/ghost content, there is also has a serious topic (sexual abuse)
4. The Sun Dog
Kevin gets a Polaroid Camera (remember them?) for his 15th birthday . But whatever he aims the camera at, the only pictures it produces is that of a large and menacing dog. And even more uncomfortable is that the dog is getting closer and closer with every picture Kevin takes, as if to break out of the camera. Kevin manages to give the camera to a local second-hand shop owner who promised to get rid of it, but of course doesn't as he smells a business opportunity.
A few 'old' favourites in this story - the story is set in the fictional town Castle Rock, Maine as so many of King's story and the second hand shop owner is Pop Merrill.
This story collection is a must for any King Fan. You won't be disappointed.
This is the first of three books Stephen King has released that contain four novella-length stories. The other two collections are Four Past Midnight and Full Dark, No Stars. Each of the stories is matched loosely to a season of the year.
"Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" is the story of Andy Dufresne, sent to prison for murdering his wife and her lover. Andy quickly stops protesting his innocence after learning that "we're all innocent in here." Andy finds ways to make his sentence more bearable and help some of his fellow inmates. This story was made into the film The Shawshank Redemption.
In "Apt Pupil" we learn that the unassuming and reclusive Arthur Denker is really a Nazi war criminal. A neighborhood boy named Todd knows this and blackmails Denker into teaching him how to torture and kill. The authorities bumble around trying to catch both of them. This story was made into the film Apt Pupil.
"The Body" is about four boys who go on an overnight trek to confirm the rumor of a dead body near some train tracks. As they walk, we learn about each of the boys, their town, and the jokes, stories and games of early 1960's childhood. The story was the basis for the film Stand By Me.
"The Breathing Method" is the only story in this collection that has not--as yet--been made into a film. An aging doctor entertains the other guests at an exclusive club with a story about the breathing method he invented that eased the pains of childbirth. His story focuses on a young mother who used the method under difficult circumstances.
All four of these stories are excellent and well worth reading, even by those who have seen one of the associated films. This is Stephen King at the top of his game.
In my opinion, Nightmares and Dreamscapes is one of King's most varied collections. It contains everything from the gore-streaked (Home Delivery, The Moving Finger), to the quiet and thoughtful (It Grows on You, My Pretty Pony), a sci-fi tale (The House on Maple Street), and a couple of Bachman/Stark efforts (The Fifth Quarter, My Pretty Pony again). There's also a tele-play script (Sorry, Right Number), a piece of sports journalism (Head Down), a poem (Brooklyn August), and a couple of pastiches (The Doctor's Case, Umney's Last Case), along with the Lovecraftian-inspired Crouch End.
There are some genuine curios here -- but there are also a lot of classic King stories, and if you wanted to provide someone with a taster of King's work, this would be a good choice. The tales span King's career up to the point of the volume's publication in 1993, from early tales to contemporaneous creations.
Of course, this could see it accused of being a collection of sub-standard work, stories that weren't quite good enough to make it into other collections. This is something King himself discusses in the introduction and notes -- a lot of these tales have been published elsewhere in marginally different forms, and some were cut from previous volumes. Even so, these tales don't come across as second rate in the slightest -- the variety means that not everyone will like or appreciate every tale, but also that there's something for everyone. This truly is a volume that could appeal to everyone, as it showcases horror in all its various guises and forms, and demonstrates its versatility in a way few others can.
The perfect introductory volume -- and great for any King fan. If horror is your thing, you really don't have anything to lose.
on 29 July 2003
I decided to buy this book because I saw the film 'Apt Pupil' (Bryan Singer) on TV and thought it was a really good film. At first, I was only really bothered about reading the Apt Pupil novella and that is the one I flipped to straight away when I recieved the book from Amazon. From the first page I was hooked and finished reading it in a about a week. I couldn't put it down, every night during that week I stayed awake until the early hours of the morning (but it was worth it). This novella is EVEN BETTER than the film (which is also extremely good in its own right)! I expected the novella to have almost exactly the same plot as the film, but boy was I in for a surprise.
Events in the film would have probably been more surprising if it stayed closer to the book. Apparently, there was a film version of Apt Pupil made in the late 80's but production stopped and the film was never released. I would like to see this version (or what there is of it) out of interest, to see if it is even closer to the book than Bryan Singer's version.
'Apt Pupil' is about an undetected Nazi war crimnal (Kurt Dussander AKA Arthur Denker) living in an American suburb. A school boy called Todd Bowden who has a morbid fascination with WW2 Nazism discovers Arthur Denker's true identity. Todd Bowden blackmails Dussander, telling him that he will keep quiet about his true identity in exchange for 'stories' about the atrocities committed in the concentraion camps during WW2. Atrocities that he himself committed, Todd wants to hear these accounts first-hand. From this, a relationship develops that plunges deep into the recesses of human evilness and which produces disasterous consequences.
When I reached the final pages of Apt Pupil where Todd is "King of the world" a thunder storm suddenly broke out while I was reading it, it was almost surreal, like it somehow represented Todd's complete and final descent into absolute insanity. But, the strange thing about Apt Pupil is that you don't even like either of the main characters, in fact, you despise them. But the book leaves you wanting to know no more about them. And whilst reading the book, you just HAVE TO KNOW what happens to them in the end.
Although I only really bought the book to read Apt Pupil, I HAD TO read the rest of the novellas. 'Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption' and 'The Body' are equally as excellent. 'The Breathing Method' is quite good, but is the worst one out of the lot in my opinion.
'Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption' is about a man called Andy Dufresne who is falsely convicted and imprisoned for murdering his wife and a man she was having an affair with. In prison Andy befriends a man nicknamed Red ("the man who can get you things"). The novella portrays the horrors endured and Andy's persistant struggle to reclaim his freedom. The story is told through Red's eyes.
'The Body' is about 4 boys who go on an adventure to see a dead body. The novella not only shows the problems the boys face in reaching the dead body, but also deals with the problems the boys face in their own lives. It is a coming-of-age story with many strong underlying themes.
'The Breathing Method' is about a woman who is unmarried and pregnant (nothing unusual today but I think it is meant to be set in the time when illegitimacy was severely frowned upon). The story is told by a member of a club, who was the doctor that befriended the preganant woman when he was younger. There are really two different dimensions to this story; that of the club, and that of the pregnant woman.
I would highly recommend Different Seasons to anyone, it is a real page turner and a gripping read. It is much different to King's usual supernatural horror work. It is still horror no doubt about it, but in a more feasible, real-world sense (apart from 'The Breathing Method' that is). I really wish King would write more non-supernatural stuff like this, I personally think it is his best work to date. King is the KING of fiction.
In his introduction to this collection, Stephen King recalls being a credulous youngster who believed all sorts of things--from the reality of Santa Claus to Richard Nixon's plan to get the country out of Vietnam. He is still like this, and willingly accepts the recurring disappointments in exchange for the ability to believe in a story and bring it to life. In this collection, his third following Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, King believes into existence twenty-two stories--and one nonfiction piece--intended to scare the reader "...so badly you won't be able to go to sleep without leaving the bathroom light on." Some of them deliver all too well.
Three of my favorites:
In "Dolan's Cadillac" we live through years of obsessive investigation and planning for revenge. A man traps the mob boss who ordered his wife's death and systematically covers up all evidence of his crime. Perfect.
If you could remove mankind's violent tendencies and bring about "The End of the Whole Mess" of murder and war, you would do it, right? Even if it wasn't the smartest thing to do.
In "Suffer the Little Children" we meet Miss Sidley, a teacher who has been taking care of children all of her adult life. One day her students begin acting strangely...so she takes care of them.
This book is highly recommended for Stephen King fans and readers who enjoy a well-crafted story that makes their brains squirm for a day or two after reading.