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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.

Recommended.
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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.
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on 11 December 1999
It's stephen King, and another collection of "horror" stories. But if you're looking for unsightly festering wounds, and big bad creepy things: Avoid. If on the other hand you're looking for a more complex psycholigical novel(s), based on character rather than "ickiness" factor you've just found yourself an armchair partner.
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on 27 October 1998
I was 15, when I first read different seasons. I picked it up to read "The Body." which had been adapted to become "Stand By Me". (Rob Reiner film)****. I later read "The Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption", and "Apt Pupil". Them both being amazing. I had a dream that the latter would be the first film I direct. I found out while reading a newspaper that Bryan Singer had done it and it was playing at the Toronto Film Festival. This is a treat, in a manner of respect I think of being waiting seven years for. (--Going to see it tonight. Looking forward to it. ) It is a disturbing look at the psychological decay of a pubescent boy, as well the sickening bond (mutual-addiction) between himself and a Nazi (Denker/Dussander). Awsome read.
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on 20 January 1999
I read Apt Pupil twice and both times I was at the edge of my seat. I enjoyed the many twists and turns the story took. All of my frieds who read the book had the same reaction that I had. Mr. King out- did himself with this book
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on 8 November 1998
When I heard Apt Pupil was coming out as a movie I said so what? But then the announcer said "based on the novel by the author of 'Carrie' and 'The Shining'" I thought to myself...."Gee didn't Stephen King write those?" I went to the bookstore. I knew it wasn't a novel by itself, it had to be with a collection of stories, because I had never heard of it. Sure enough I found it with Different Seasons. I read it and even though it was slow at first, by the end King had me wincing when the Nazi war criminal burned a innocent cat alive in his oven. I just returned from the movie and it was very well adapted from the book. Read the book first then go see the movie. Both you will enjoy!
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on 4 January 2009
Any writer would give their eye teeth for for just one of these story ideas. It's a mark of King's genius that he can almost throw them away as short novellas (though he does churn them out a little too often these days).

When I casually remark to non-Constant Readers that 'Stand by Me' and 'Shawshank Redemption' are Stephen King stories, I enjoy seeing their looks of surprise. In some people minds, he's been stuck in a horror category with hacks like James Herbert. This collection firmly dispels that notion as he investigates adolescence, corrupting evil and the triumph of the human spirit and rounds it off with a creepy fireside tale.

Of course horror is present here, but it's of the non-supernatural variety. The apparent feelgood tale of teenage camaderie centres around the very boyish desire to see a real dead body - only to confronted and changed forever by the ordinariness of death. Meanwhile, another teenager's morbid curiousity about Nazi death camps sees him change from perfect (if slightly arrogant) student into a monster as he discovers a war criminal lives locally.

Most people will pick this up for 'Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption'. I'd read this before I'd seen the film, so I'm not sure what it must be like for people who do the reverse. However, reason the film is successful is that it sticks to the plot and brings the characters to life.

The final story, 'The Breathing Method' is almost overlooked because it follows three tales where King is at the absolute peak of his dark powers. Whilst not quite as compelling as its predecessors, it's still a damn fine read.

The next time you hear somebody sneering at you for reading cheap trash like Stephen King, just hand them a copy of this. If they're still sneering after that, it's their loss.
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on 14 August 2001
I picked this book up a couple of years ago with the intention of using my own imagination to re-structure two of my favourite films, Shawshank Redemption and Stand by me. However, on finishing the anthology, I was struck by, as a first time King reader, the man's extraordinary gift of involving his audience, both spiritually and emotionally. Shawshank proved better than its celluloid counterpart, with a greater sense of character evoked in both Andy and Red. The Breathing Method proved a revelation, a tightly maintained and chilling tale. Admittedly I found Apt Pupil a little long winded, I felt that the story lacked the same superior character driven element as the other tales. For me the real triumph was The Body. As someone who has lost a dear friend, I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried when reading King's description of Chris's death, as it's poignancy and sensitivity was beautifully crafted and handled. Buy this book now...
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VINE VOICEon 2 August 2007
Following on from the success of 'Different Seasons' Stephen King revisits the format with a second collection of four novellas:

In 'The Langoliers' a routine US passenger flight takes off, but midway into the flight a half-dozen sleeping passengers awaken to find the pilot, crew and almost all of the other passengers have vanished into thin air, leaving the plane flying on automatic and those remaining in a desperate fight for survival. King takes a fantastic Twilight Zone-style premise and successfully builds it into a gripping and nightmarish tale, with the slow revelations behind the mystery leading to a wild science fiction finale. There is sadly one flaw with this tale, as King presents a US authors attempt at an English lead character that is such a mangled caricature of that it brings to mind Dik Van Dyke in Mary Poppins - but even this bizarre characters habit of ending every other sentence with 'matey' (like all us Brits do) can't stop this from being one of King's best stories.

'Secret Window, Secret Garden' takes us back to King's number one favourite topic: writers and writing - as a successful author is suddenly confronted by a mysterious stranger who accuses them of stealing his story, and takes violent revenge. King freely admits in the forward that this is essentially a variation on his novel 'The Dark Half', but the premise is different and compelling enough to make this a worthwhile excercise, and with it's effective and disturbing breakdowns in the lead characters perception of what is fantasty and reality this may even be the better tale.

'The Library Policeman' has the threat of a fine over unreturned library books taken to ridiculous levels as a man finds himself stalked by a decidedly different vampire. Some readers may find this tale a little over the top, but personally I enjoyed the sheer sense of the fantastic in this story - this is Stephen King at full throttle revelling in the bizarre, complete with a deliciously hideous monster and some effective chills and character moments amongst the comic-book style horror.

Finally 'The Sun Dog' tells of a boy who's new Polaroid camera seems only to take pictures of another world, a world where a viscious dog seems to be drawing closer with every photo taken. A simple yet highly effective excercise in building tension, King's 'literary bloat' seems to be in effect here, swelling what would to any other horror writer be a 30 page short story into a 200 page mini-epic, but the final pay-off is worth the slow build. According to the forward King considers this the middle part of a trilogy with 'The Dark Half' and 'Needful Things' but the links are so slight as to make this an enjoyable stand-alone tale.

Ultimately 'Four Past Midnight' is a rip-roaring success, and while it may lack the breadth of styles of 'Different Seasons' for those who love pure horror this represents Stephen King at his best. At nearly 300 pages 'The Langloliers' alone would have made a perfecly satisfactory stand-alone novel, but to have it packaged with three other top stories makes this unmissable. One of his best.
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on 11 July 2007
Different Seasons is a collection of 4 novellas, each set in a different season. The stories do not interlink except for a few minor references to each other here and there.

The most notable thing that will first hit you upon reading is that none of the stories are horror, as you may have expected from Stephen King.
What you get are four beautifully crafted individual stories. However, it must be said that each story still does hint upon certain 'horror aspects', but I believe this to only be part of good storytelling and not King slipping into his usual typecast role. The final story 'The Breathing Method' has the strongest connection to horror, being very reminiscent of an Edgar Allan Poe story.

Three of the stories have been made into films, The Shawshank Redemption, The Body (Stand by Me) and Apt Pupil. So the likelihood is that you may have already seen at least one of the adaptations. Do not let this pass you up on reading Different Seasons. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption as well as Apt Pupil in novella form are far superior and enjoyable to their movie counterparts.

My personal favourite of the novellas in Different Seasons is Apt Pupil. The sheer human psychological torture and overall bleakness makes an outstanding read. It pushes far beyond what a film of our time would DARE to reference to. I should perhaps warn you of the bleakness you will find whilst reading it. But the human condition is a strange thing, and you will find yourself at times questioning why and how you are being entertained by reading it. Amazing.
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