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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kings best short stories
Night Shift is Stephen King's first collection of short stories, and features 20 tales. Not every story is perfect, but all in all Night Shift is a fantastic anthology stuffed with great ideas. Stephen King has subsequently published 3 more short story collections (Skeleton Crew, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and Everything's Eventual) but Night Shift remains the best of...
Published on 4 Mar 2005 by Jane Aland

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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars underwhelming, simplistic and a bit dull
well now - this is definetely not the best short stories collection i have read. but its the first of Stephen King's. and its the first set he wrote.
on the strength of this collection alone i would not buy a second collection - but on the strength of his novels i might well give another set a read.
Its like that - not all that great - not very many standout...
Published on 17 July 2008 by Toby Andersen


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kings best short stories, 4 Mar 2005
By 
Jane Aland (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Night Shift (Paperback)
Night Shift is Stephen King's first collection of short stories, and features 20 tales. Not every story is perfect, but all in all Night Shift is a fantastic anthology stuffed with great ideas. Stephen King has subsequently published 3 more short story collections (Skeleton Crew, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and Everything's Eventual) but Night Shift remains the best of the bunch.
While no date is given, collection opener 'Jerusalem's Lot' certainly reads as though it is the earliest of King's stories presented here, as the authors' voice is all but buried beneath those of his influences. Readers of 'Salem's Lot may be expecting a vampire-filled sequel to that novel, but this is in fact an unrelated Lovecraftian tale of a mans disturbing family inheritance. There are some nicely macabre moments, but the elements of the story are so familiar - presenting the tale as diary extracts; an inherited spooky old home; mysterious sounds in the walls and basement; superstitious locals; Cthulhu Mythos references - that they are virtually horror fiction clichés, making this a very average start to the collection.
'Graveyard Shift' is better, and though a story about clearing rats out of a basement doesn't sound particularly enthralling, the power play between drifter Hall and his obnoxious boss Warwick pushes the stakes to a higher, if rather unbelievable, level.
Next up is 'Night Surf', a powerful vignette detailing a handful of amoral survivors of an apocalyptic disease. Short but full of startling imagery.
Another science fiction style horror story comes with 'I Am The Doorway', where an astronaut is taken over by an alien infection picked up while orbiting Venus. Very melodramatic, and with a Cronenberg body horror feel, King's way of making everyday object appear strange by looking at them through alien eyes is suitably disorientating.
Stephen King has tackled many cornball subject in his time - and amazingly has made them work more often than not - but the idea of a possessed laundry press roaming the streets in 'The Mangler' may very well be the most ridiculous concept he's ever touched, and despite a few nice macabre moments, the overriding silliness of this story proves impossible to escape.
By contrast 'The Boogeyman' is one of King's most effective shorts, drawing on the common childhood fear of 'something' hiding in the bedroom closet to produce a very chilling tale.
Another strong tale is 'Grey Matter', when a batch of bad beer has dire consequences for a boy's father.
In 'Battleground' a professional hitman finds himself under attack by toy soldiers after killing a toy manufacturer. A great OTT idea, with an amusing punchline.
There's more inanimate objects coming to life in 'Trucks', when vehicles start driving themselves and trap a group of drivers at a truck stop. It's a great concept, though this is more of a situation than a story with a beginning, middle and end.
In 'Sometimes They Come Back' a schoolteacher is haunted by the killers of his long-dead brother. A more traditional ghost story after the last few bizarre tales, but no less effective for all that.
'Strawberry Spring' deals with a serial killer on a college campus. Despite the lack of any supernatural content there is a distinctly otherworldly feel to this evocative fog-bound piece, and n terms of prose this is the most accomplished story in the collection thus far.
King enters straight thriller territory with 'The Ledge', where a man who's crossed a gangster takes up a life or death bet that he can walk round the outside of a high-rise apartment on a 5-inch wide ledge. A simple but brilliant idea, with a nice twist in the tail.
A man gets more than he bargained for when he hires someone to cut his lawn in 'The Lawnmower Man'. Bearing no relation to the film of the same name, this is a short and bizarre piece, filled with some fantastically insane imagery.
'Quitters, Inc' features another great concept, with a company offering a unique method of curing cigarette addiction. The concept and punishments for breaking the treatment are so rich in potential drama that it's almost a shame this story isn't twice as long, but this is still a fantastic punchy read with a nice twist ending.
'I Know What You Need' tells the story of a nerd with the magical power to give people whatever they need, and his attempts to win over a girl. A decent enough story, but rather overshadowed by the more outlandish concepts elsewhere in the book: this is well done but forgettable in comparison.
Perhaps the most famous of all the stories in the collection, 'Children Of The Corn' finds two travellers stranded in a town where homicidal children intend to sacrifice them to He Who Walks Behind The Rows. A fantastically dark tale of religious mania, this plays on the urbanites fear of isolated rural communities, and does for small-town America what The Wicker Man did to the Scottish Islands.
'The Last Rung on the Ladder' is the first tale that doesn't fit into the horror / weird fiction genre, being a melancholy and quite beautiful tale of a girl's brush with death as a child and her relationship with her older brother. A nice change of pace.
'The Man Who Loved Flowers' is one of the least impressive stories in the collection, being a very short piece dependant solely on it's twist ending for effect. Pleasantly written, but the story lacks any original ideas.
Next up is 'One For The Road', a tale of a mans attempt to save his wife and daughter after they are stranded in a snowstorm. Opening tale Jerusalem's Lot ironically had no connection to King's 'Salem's Lot, but this is a straight sequel set a couple of years down the line.
Finally 'The Woman in the Room' is another non-genre piece, a very bleak tale of a woman suffering from terminal cancer, and her sons doubt over whether or not to administer a mercy killing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars King's first collection of masterful short stories, 1 Feb 2005
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Night Shift (Paperback)
One thing that has always distinguished Stephen King among his peers is his commitment to the short story. You don't find many novelists writing short stories these days, but King has always excelled in the area of short fiction, and I daresay the discipline involved in telling a story in a relatively small number of pages has helped make him such a successful writer of long fiction. Night Shift, which was first published in 1976, is the first of King's short story collections, bringing together twenty stories originally published in such disparate magazines as Cavalier, Penthouse, and Cosmopolitan (yes, Cosmopolitan) in the early to mid 1970s. These stories have given birth to a surprising number of film adaptations, but I would urge you not to judge these stories in advance by the quality of films such as Children of the Corn, The Mangler, Sometimes They Come Back, and The Lawnmower Man (especially The Lawnmower Man, as the film has nothing whatsoever to do with King's story).
There is a lot of variety to be found in this collection, as King delivers much more than a sequence of horror stories. The horror is there in droves, of course, but so are stories of a general bent that show just how effective a writer King is when he wanders away from the dark forces usually driving his imagination. The Woman in the Room, for example, is a rather tender story of a son struggling with his mother's impending death, while I Know What You Need and The Man Who Loved Flowers display romantic sensibilities of a truly engaging nature.
The book opens with Jerusalem's Lot, a thoroughly Lovecraftian exploration of the early history of this infamous little hamlet; told in the form of letters and steeped in Mythos lore, it is the type of tale that could have been written by a member of the original Lovecraft Circle. One For the Road also centers on Jerusalem's Lot; it's unusual to set a vampire story against the backdrop of a severe New England blizzard, but this proves to be one of the most effective stories in this collection. Rats, traditional horror favorites, play a part in a couple of stories, particularly Graveyard Shift with its rat-infested subterranean levels containing monstrosities that can no longer be considered mere rats.
The Ledge is, to me, the most uncomfortably effective story in the collection, mainly because it ruthlessly exploits my own fear of heights. Quitters, Inc., though, stands head and shoulders above the other nineteen stories; brilliant in its conception and development, it details a brutally surefire way to quit smoking. Children of the Corn is also a masterful tale; the film adaptation elaborately expounds upon the idea, but the core of the story and the mysterious horror of He Who Walks Behind the Rows is given a glorious birth in these pages. Sometimes They Come Back gave birth to two less than exhilarating films, but the original story is vintage Stephen King, with three dead youths returning to high school to finish the deadly job they started years ago. Then there is The Boogeyman which builds upon the palpitating fear that has touched every child scared of the dark; I can picture King grinning wickedly as he was writing the twisted final lines of this tale.
Battleground holds special meaning for me as this was the first Stephen King story I ever read - believe it or not, we actually read this in my advanced English class in seventh grade. Some regard it as a weak contribution to Night Shift, but the story is a lot of fun despite its rather unbelievable nature. The Lawnmower Man is more than weird enough to be memorable. Some people also don't care for The Last Rung on the Ladder, but I think it is a wonderful little story; the human element takes precedence over any overt horror, and some people prefer their monsters to be external to themselves. The Man Who Loved Flowers is masterfully done, an idyllic look at a young man in love that takes a deliciously insidious turn at the end. I Know What You Need is similarly executed; this account of a young lady who finds true love (or so she thinks) in the most unlikely of potential mates calls to mind the psychological mastery of Shirley Jackson.
There are no bad stories in this collection, but a few don't live up to the standards of the rest. Strawberry Spring is a little disappointing, as this story of a serial killer who comes in with the fog of unusual New England weather is quite predictable. I Am the Doorway, with its touch of alien horror, isn't as good as I think it might have been, Gray Matter is the equivalent of Creepshow's The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill, The Mangler offers nothing special, Night Surf is a pale shadow of its cousin The Stand, and Trucks runs out of gas rather quickly.
All in all, Night Shift delivers a shockingly good collection of short stories from the hand of a masterful story teller plumbing the depths of his horror-laden imagination while at the same time tapping into his immense knowledge of human nature and popular culture to produce tales of fiction that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant, Early Trip Into The Psyche Of Stephen King, 16 May 2003
This review is from: Night Shift (Paperback)
Most of these stories centre on the thing that has made Stephen King so famous - pure, old-fashioned horror. There is much more blood and guts in Night Shift then there is in later collections, such as Everything's Eventual. Some of the stories are pretty hard to get your head round, such as Night Surf, whereas a fair few are genuinely chilling (I Am The Doorway,'Salem's Lot). Most, however, rely on pure gruesome-ness to get along (Night Shift,The Mangler). You may well have seen some stories transposed to film in the Drew Barrymore/James Woods-starring Cat's Eye (Quitter's Inc., The Ledge, The Boogeyman). Reading these stories will not tax your brain, but they will most certainly keep you up at night. Pretty awesome.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars King at his very best, 28 April 2007
By 
S. Bailey "will work for books" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Night Shift (Paperback)
In my ongoing love-hate relationship with Stephen King, the short stories seem to universally come out on the side of love. They're frequently much more experimental than the novels, featuring ideas that in a full-length work would just be too outlandish, but in a short story, burn very bright indeed.

This collection begins with Jerusalem's Lot, a prequel to "'Salem's Lot" the novel. The short story is possibly even better than the book, a pure gothic classic, which explains the beginnings of the evil in the Lot. Less good was Night Surf a rather feeble and extremely bleak addendum to The Stand. King obsessives need to own this for these two stories alone.

The best stories here are the ones which mix humour into their horror. The Boogeyman is the tale of a man whose three children have all been taken by the monster in the closet. The thing that made this story for me was that the protagonist was so very unpleasant, I quite felt for the poor boogeyman having to deal with him, but the ending is genuinely chilling; I read it out loud to my little brother, and he came out in goosebumps.

In The Mangler, the ingredients for an ancient spell to summon demons are accidentally mixed inside a laundry machine, which then develops murderous tendencies. Sounds ridiculous, and it is, but it also has a deep sense of the dark.

Not all the stories here are supernatural. Both The Ledge and Last Ring on the Ladder concern very different forms of purely human nastiness, as does Quitters Inc., a return to the perennial King favourite topic of giving up smoking.

The collection also includes the famous stories Children of the Corn and The Lawnmower Man, both of which are great but seem to lack a little of the sparkle found elsewhere in the book. Recommended for King fans and newbies alike.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection!!!, 21 Dec 2008
This review is from: Night Shift (Paperback)
This is a great collection of short stories. Some stories such as, the ledge, sometimes they come back, quitters inc.,and of course children of the corn, are sublime. Quitters inc., and the ledge were translated for film (cats eye). The last rung on the ladder however, is without doubt my favourite, the horror is entirely human.
Enjoy!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You'll start the night shift and it won't let you go, 19 July 2013
By 
Simon Edwards (Liverpool, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Night Shift (Paperback)
Before he was a bestselling writer, known for powerful tales of the macabre, Stephen King was a teacher, a husband and a father, struggling to make ends meet by selling off short stories, mostly to men's magazines.

It is in this collection that brings about a large proportion of those short stories that are now just as well known as his best-selling novels.

Like his debut novel "Carrie", "Night Shift" shows a writer really getting to know his craft and enjoying the process of the storyteller around the campfire who loves to entertain, and with these short stories, he really does entertain.

The art of the short story among writers has always been snobbed upon - it's not as developed as the novel, some would say; the writer is lazy and cannot be bothered with the process of drafting a long novel. With King, that is quite the opposite. He sees the short story as a chance to ground the writing and fine-tune his craft. He says what needs to be said and tells a good yarn.

I've got to admit I was quite sceptical on reading his short stories after loving his novels so much but after reading "Night Shift", I now love his shorter works just as much as his longer ones.

Some of my favourite stories are included in this collection: "Jerusalem's Lot" is a prequel to his 1975 novel "'Salem's Lot". Written very much like Dracula, it is a series of letters written in the mid Nineteenth Century in the style of Poe and Lovecraft. It is a haunting tale that really chills the spine and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! While none of the characters or story from `Salem's Lot appear in this story, I felt when reading, as if this was the final piece of the puzzle that allowed `Salem's to be complete. 10/10

"Graveyard Shift" is one of King's earliest and nastiest stories. It tells the tale of a drifter who goes from job to job, finally coming upon a job clearing out a basement. There he finds more than he at first expected - heavily evolved rats that have a deep taste for human flesh. A great little story that was turned into an awful movie. 10/10

"Night Surf" is very much a short story version of King's epic novel "The Stand". The flu has hit the world and only a few survivors are left. The story talks of a night on the beach. I wasn't very impressed with this story, and loved "The Stand" a lot more. 6/10

"I Am The Doorway" - horror meets science fiction like only King can tell it. This is another early short story from the master, but it is a great little story with a lot of wonderful, disturbing imagery. I liked this one a lot and wish it could be turned into a film 10/10

"The Mangler" is a strange story about a laundrette machine comes alive and kills people. It is quite a nice little tale that was inspired by King's day of working at the laundry. 9/10

"The Boogeyman" is one of my favourite of King's short stories. King manages to take an obnoxious, sexist pig and make his readers sympathise with him. This is one I come back to often. 10/10

"Grey Matter" - a lot of people seem to love this story, but I found a bit too strange. Another early story of King's, it's got some good ideas, but it just didn't hold my attention as much as the others. 7/10

"Battleground" is a one man battle with toys and machinery. This was a really edge-of-your-seat-blockbuster-type story that engrossed me until the very end. It is also a very fun story. 10/10

"Trucks" is a strange tale about a group of human beings inside a café while a group of trucks outside try and kill them. This is notable as being turned into the movie "Maximum overdrive", the only King adaptation to be directed by the man himself. I thought this story was a bit long and I couldn't really get in tune with the characters, but it is still fun. 8/10

"Sometimes They Come Back" - if ever anyone asked me what is your favourite Stephen King short story, I would have to pick either "The Man In the Black Suit" (from "Everything's Eventual") or this one. I loved every moment of this: from the main character, to the setting, to the climax. I saw the movie first and liked it, but when I read the short story, I was blown away. This story has elements that would show up in later King stories, such as "The Body". Three words to sum it up - I loved it! 10/10

"Strawberry Spring" is a story about a serial killer in the time of Strawberry Spring (otherwise known as false spring). It was a strange tale, but the ending really makes up for the complexity of the actual story itself. 9/10

"The Ledge" is a great story about revenge. A man who has been sleeping with a gangster's wife is forced to walk round the 5 inch ledge. I have got a fear of heights so I know what the main character is going through which made it all the more better. The ending is another great payoff that would have made a great Alfred Hitchcock movie. It later, a long with "Quitter's Inc" became the inspiration for the film "Cat's Eye" 10/10

"The Lawnmower Man" is one of King's strangest stories and that is saying something. Nothing to do with the film starring Pierce Brosnan, this is just a weird tale about a lawnmower man who kills people that don't believe in the god of the lawn. Not one of my favourites. 7/10

"Quitters Inc" is a story that is enough to put anyone off smoking. I enjoyed this story a lot, more due to King's great campfire storytelling talent than the actual story itself. It is well worth reading just for the disturbing unexpected ending. 10/10

"I Know What You Need" is one of King's most unknown stories, but one of my favourites. I really loved this story because I just didn't know what would happen next. I loved the ending especially as the main character becomes very strong. 10/10

"Children of the Corn" is one of King's most famous short stories, having been turned into the notorious adaptation starring Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton. The King story is brilliant though and even more disturbing the film itself. It follows the same premise, but unlike the film, it works. Having seen the film I was not expecting the ending. It was a true shock. 10/10

"The Last Rung In the Ladder" - I never really got this story. I thought it was okay and it had a sombre ending, but it just didn't seem to be going anywhere. 7/10

"The Man Who Loved Flowers" is one of my least favourite Stephen King stories. I really didn't enjoy this at all and wish it had been left out of the collection. It is not really a story, but more of an experiment that fails. I won't be reading this one again in a hurry. 3/10
"One For The Road" - my favourite Stephen King novel has always been "'Salem's Lot", yet I always felt that the readers were cheated out of the ending as to what happened when Ben and Mark left the town after burning it. Here we get to find out in this great little sequel, set two years after the novel. It is eerie and creepy, and has residues of "The Mist" within its atmosphere. There is one little problem I have with this story - in "'Salem's Lot", it seemed to take awhile for them to turn into a vampire. In this, they get turned straight away, but if that is my only hick to a great story, I think King has done his job well. 10/10

"The Woman In The Room" is probably the most disturbing story in this or any of King's short story collections. This seems to be almost an autobiography of King's thoughts and life. There are just too many similarities with King's own life and this story that it makes it all the more chilling. I really resonated with this character as I had had to watch my dad die. I thought I was going to hate it because of its subject matter, but I really loved it. 10/10

Stephen King might be famous for being the most popular writer of the later half of the 20th Century due to his bestselling books and masterpieces such as "The Shining", "The Stand" and "It", but in this collection of early short stories, King shows his readers just what an eclectic writer he really is. There are no holds barred with his writing - he is the master of his craft, an entertaining storyteller that keeps us wanting more and more. I have spent the last two weeks reading these short stories, and I have come away just as satisfied as I have coming away from my favourite King novel.

Should you buy and read this book?

Easy enough answer? YES
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars still great, 50 books later ..., 19 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Night Shift (Paperback)
This was the first S. King book I read, many years ago when it came out, and it impressed me in a big way. I have recently bought this back, having "lent-lost" it. Reading it today, 50-odd Steve books later, makes me feel so great. The stories are still incredibly catchy, punchy, and darkly original (like "battleground"). My favourite remains "sometimes they come back", but it's hard to choose. There are a few duds in here, but it is mostly great work. It definitely stands among Steve's simplest, but most effective, short story work. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, some of SK's best work, 10 July 2014
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This review is from: Night Shift (Kindle Edition)
Brilliant, some of SK's best work. It's amazing how he manages to scare the wits out of you/chill you to the bones with so few words. Children of the Corn was my favourite - terrifying - but there wasn't a bad story in the whole book. Recommended if you like SK/horror/sci fi, or if you just have a short attention span.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This will always be the best book of horror short stories I 've ever read, 2 July 2014
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This will always be the best book of horror short stories I 've ever read. Truly frightening characters, the bogeyman, the astronaut. Each story gets more terrifying. I read this book in the early 80s when I was 13 and read it again and again. Just read this again this year and found it more terrifying and think the writing of a young Mr king makes him a genius. You are not a horror buff until you read this book. Enjoy and read it with the light on ......
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good reads., 12 Jun 2014
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Night Shift contains a number of short stories, each one different and yet with an underlying theme of being grotesque or horrific. Some of the stories aren't as good as the others, but overall a good read.
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