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on 18 January 2002
This is by far the best collection of short stories King has released to date. Don't expect any great literary behemoths (I'm sure you weren't from Stephen King anyway) but do expect excellent, if highly implausible, bedtime tales of horror and fantasy that will both scare the pants off you and fill you with warmth. The Mist is almost a book in its own right and is one of the best things he has written (but it is kind of like the film The Fog). The Reach shows King at his haunting best, the sort of King you find guiding the pen over such excellent stories as The Body (from another excellent anthology of mini novels), Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Inbetween these two masterpieces lie roughly 20 little slices of death that range from all-out horror (Gramma, The Raft) to dabblings in sci-fi (The Jaunt, Wordprocessor of the Gods) to just great little tales of interest (Mrs Todd's Shorcut - one of my favourites - , The Wedding Party and the Ballad of the Flexible Bullet.).
For first timers and constant readers alike.
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on 11 September 2013
Usually I'm not a big fan of short story collections but this set of tales from Stephen King really did impress me. There are over 600 pages in this book, split over roughly twenty stories. Whilst one or two don't merit much discussion (Here There be Tigers and the few included poems, for example) the majority of the stories will keep you hooked enough to read each tale through to its conclusion in one sitting. There are a mixture of horror and sci-fi tales included in here and the science fiction stories, although not based on actual fact, are interesting enough anyway. The Jaunt, a tale about teleporting human beings, really was an enjoyable read despite the science being rather wonky (as King admits himself in the notes).

For me the stand out efforts of the book are Mrs Todd's Shortcut which follows a woman obsessed with saving time who finds an impossible shortcut between two cities that, whilst dangerous, has its benefits; The Monkey which follows a father who desperately tries to dispose of a cursed object that has haunted him since his childhood; The Jaunt, the aforementioned sci-fi effort about the discovery of human teleportation and a family moments away from their first trip using it; and Survivor Type, the disturbing tale of a surgeon stranded on a tiny desert isle who must resort to drastic measures to ensure his survival. King also returns to the mystifying building frequented by storytellers at 249B East 35th in The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands; the group of narrators and their freaky host are visited in another of King's short story collections, Different Seasons, and it was nice to return for another weird tale from that otherworldly building.

Some of the tales are showing their age now (some are older than I am!) but they are worth a read nonetheless. These bitesized tales are highly recommended for reading on the plane, in the bath or on the go. King fans who haven't read this tome yet will lap these offerings up.
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on 11 January 2013
I first read these stories over twenty years ago on a family holiday and they're still fresh and exciting. My whole family read this book and we've talked about "The Jaunt" ever since, the concept of which will blow your mind if you think about it too much. This is one of the books that inspired me to write. Simply brilliant.
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on 21 April 2014
Though a huge science fiction fan, I do occasionally dabble in the genre of horror, but the relationship is tetchy. It's been my experience that most horror stories revolve around the occult, possession, supernatural or any combination of the three; these stories aren't the least bit frightening. There is a certain flavor of horror fiction which tickles my sense of horror and now I know this type of fiction is called body horror, which is a more directly physical horror than the nebulous dark demons haunting the souls of deserving victims. Two lesser known body horror books I've read are Jeffrey Thomas' Punktown (2000) and Jeremy Robert Johnson's Angel Dust Apocalypse (2005).

Thankfully, Skeleton Crew has a few body horror stories which satisfied my need. Also, this collection separates itself from Night Shift (1978) as it doesn't have as many stories featuring randomly possessed objects which kill unwary victims. That got kind of boring in retrospect. While King isn't my favorite author, I don't have much choice or experience to say otherwise in the genre of horror... but Dan Simmons' The Terror (2007) and Hyperion (1989) still haunt me.


The Mist (1980, novella) - 4/5 - David, his wife Steff and their son Billy take shelter in their home when a freak storm rolls across the lake leaving trees uprooted and a thick, opaque mist settled over the water. David, Billy and their tetchy neighbor Norton go to Federal Foods in town to buy supplies only to become overwhelmed by the mist and in the middle of a murderous, tentacled fog from the nearby Arrowhead Project. 130 pages

Here There Be Tygers (1968, shortstory) - 3/5 - Miss Bird, the third-grade teacher, has it out for Charles and he's always known it. Even something as simple as going to the bathroom can stress poor Charles . his need to urinate, as Miss Bid calls it, impels him to sheepishly pass the eyes of all the other students and walk to the boys' room, where a crouching tiger awaits him. Stepping out again and accessing the situation, another boy comes to check his reason. 5 pages

The Monkey (1980, novelette) - 3/5 - One of Hal's sons discovers a nappy-haired monkey doll with crashing cymbals in the attic. This causes Hal great alarm as he remembers throwing it down a well twenty years ago after a series of deaths related to the monkey's jang-jang-jang. It keeps coming up in his life after finding it in his own father's belongings. Now, the monkey makes its unexpected ominous appearance. 38 pages

Cain Rose Up (1968, shortstory) - 4/5 - Garrish returns to his university boarding house after a difficult exam, which he probably aced to maintain his 4.0 GPA but shares in his friend's opinion of its difficulty. His friends are leaving for the summer and his only companion in the room is a .352 rifle loaned from the university. Cleaning and assembling the rifle, Garrish recants the biblical tale of Cain and Abel, then takes aim and fires at a girls' dorm. 7 pages

Mrs. Todd's Shortcut (1984, novelette) - 4/5 - Homer recalls his strange experiences with the eccentric out-of-towner Mrs. Todd. Though compassionate and social, she has one quirk which both annoys and piques old Homer. Mrs. Todd pines for a shorter route between Castle Lake and Bangor--normally 156.4 miles. Through her trials and errors in her Mercedes, she hits 129.2 miles, then 116.4 miles, just short of 79 miles as the crow flies... until... 26 pages

The Jaunt (1981, novelette) - 5/5 - Prior to jaunting his wife and two children to Mars, Mark recants the part-tale and -myth of the invention of the jaunt. In 1987, the Jaunt was funded by the US government and the sole researcher was Victor Carune. In is farm, his accidental experiment transports two of his fingers across the barn, followed by mice which come out stunned, then die. The curious children urge on the morbid conclusion of the story. 26 pages

The Wedding Gig (1980, shortstory) - 4/5 - Mike Scollay, a true-born Irish-American and serious liquor smuggler, hires a jazz band to play for his sister's wedding. Their high rate fo pay for 1027 is clue to the increased likelihood of gang violence as the ceremony. Also dangerous is Scollay's sensitivity about his sister's massive weight, ugly looks and engagement to the scrawny Italian groom. To fume the Irish gangster, a Greek messenger arrives. 16 pages

Paranoid: A Chant (1985, poem) - 4/5 - Perched in his apartment, a paranoid man silently peers outside his window and in all facets of life at the creeping intrusion into his life: agent's outside, agents across the street, agents crawling all the way to his toilet. The man envisions intrusions and remains delusions regardless of their physical lack of physical infiltration to his abode. His thoughts reflect his monotonous and delusion existence. 4 pages

The Raft (1982, novelette) - 4/5 - The dawn of adulthood at the dusk of summer is an intoxicating allure for nostalgic dalliances. Deke's brutish impulsiveness leads a group of four, including his brainy roommate Randy, out to a lake where a pontoon sits at the center. Their initial bravado for the swim turns into horror when a blob dissolves one of the swimmers, leaving the rest facing death by blob or death by cold. 29 pages

Word Processor of the Gods (1983, shortstory) - 5/5 - His dead brother was an alcoholic, wife-beating jerk, but he had a beautiful wife and a genius son. Just two weeks after his brother's death, his nephew gives him a birthday gift of his own creations: a mongrel of a computer, part IBM, Erector set and Liol train transformers. At first use, the word processor literally processes his typed word and the deletion thereof. First a picture appears, then gold bullion. What else foes he deserve? 19 pages

The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands (1981, shortstory) - 4/5 - A rich elderly man tells a tale of a poker game which happened in 1919. A man who had recently returned from India decides to join the game but makes it absolutely clear that he cannot touch another person. The pot of the last hand of the night soars hundreds of dollars and the same solitary man wins big but the belligerence of another player perverts his taboo. The money may be lost, but the story is not. 17 pages

Beachworld (1984, shortstory) - 3/5 - The entire ship and one crew member are totally pulverized; the remaining two crew are left deserted on a planet covered with dunes, after dunes, after dunes without water or greenery. Shapiro observes Rand slip into a hypnotic fixation for the planet while he attempt to beacon for rescue. When it does come, Shapiro is quick to push the lift off as he's leery of the planet. 18 pages

The Reaper's Image (1969, shortstory) - 4/5 - In an ancient house full of worthless wonders rest a few priceless artifacts, including a rare DeIver mirror which Mr. Carlin is cautious to show and which Mr. Spangler is eager to inspect. The objective history of the mirror interests him most as he examines the authenticity of the piece but his unconcerned for the subjective myths of its reported viewers' disappearances... until he looks just a little closer. 8 pages

Nona (1978, novelette) - 4/5 - Childhood memory of rats in the cellar and lost opportunity for reciprocated love cascades into a tumultuous, prolonged affair with deep love-stricken longings for black-haired women with abrupt endings. One his sentences for life, the young man recollects his criminal-themed affair with Nona, a girl who stole his heart, started his murder spree and disappeared from his life. 39 pages

For Owen (1985, poem) - 3/5 - A school on Fruit Street spawns the imagination of a child into a plethora of categories for children in the same school based on characteristics of common fruit characteristics: small blueberries, fat watermelons, and the grouping nature of bananas. However, there are times when fruits act like other fruits, yet the subterfuge is both a façade and a unnatural perversity. 2 pages

Survivor Type (1982, shortstory) - 5/5 - Scorned during much of his childhood and university career, a young doctor exploits his Irish heritage during his doctor residency and later life as a surgeon. When his dollar doesn't carry itself for enough into investments, he turns to importing heroin. This is the very same drug he is left with on a deserted island where his smuggling ship crashes and he's left with very little to eat. 20 pages

Uncle Otto's Truck (1983, shortstory) - 2/5 - A series of business ventures between Otto, born way back in 1905, and his financial partner Mr. McCutcheon ends in a huge tract of land around Castle Viewm a red Cresswell truck and a sour division between opinions of a business idea. Seventy years later, Otto's involvement with his partner's death under the same truck spurs controversy in the same town, which haunts Quinten's whole adulthood. 17 pages

Morning Deliveries (1985, shortstory) - 4/5 - Spike's morning delivery of dairy products starts with his standard list: milk, cream, yogurt, cyanide gas, nightshade, and a tarantula. Some deliveries are exact according to the household's list, but other houses are dealt deadly surprises. His route ends with a sense of expectation for drinking with his friend Rocky and an expected conclusion to his services--a home with a blood splotch. 5 pages

Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (1980, shortstory) - 4/5 - With only hours left of validation on Rocky's car, he and Leo get absolutely hammered on Iron City beer while enjoying an evening cruise. Hopelessly decrepit, Rocky has no chance at passing another inspection until he see an old high school friend with a car shop. Soon, with stories swapped and backslaps given, the friend gets wasted on beer. Meanwhile, Rocky simmers with hatred for the milkman who slept with his wife. 15 pages

Gramma (1984, novelette) - 4/5 - When George was five years old, he was scared of the white, fleshy sack he called a grandmother; he cried when she wanted to hug him. Now twelve years of age, George's brother is in the hospital and his mother is by his side, leaving George alone at home with the grandmother in progressively poorer health. Steeling himself against fear, he checks on her room and finds her dead, but her mysterious past haunts him still. 31 pages

The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet (1984, novella) - 5/5 - A rising writer and his wife, his agent and his wife, and a long recovering alcoholic editor dabble in the macabre topic of writer suicides. The skittish author's wife doesn't withhold the editor's bizarre tale of Reg Thorpe. After Reg's initial success, he and his own wife withdrew to Kansas and, due to his growing strange behavior, cut off their electricity. Even more bizarre, the editor adopted Reg's fantasy of having fairies in the typewriter. 51 pages

The Reach (1981, shortstory) - 4/5 - Off the New England coast sits an island--simple, unremarkable, yet home to all things for Stella, an elderly lady who's never left the island. Having experienced dreadful winters, the funeral of her husband and the uproar caused by a perverted outsider, Stella had had no wish to cross the Reach, the water between her island and the mainland. With frail health and inviting mummers of welcome for her dead husband, he considers crossing. 21 pages
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on 4 April 2015
I sometimes think that Stephen King is better with his short stories than his longer novels! Quirky and just plain inventive, he never fails to deliver. The Jaunt is an eerie sci fi tale, The Reach a real human interest story, more of a story that people tell on a cold winter's evening than a straight up horror (Stephen King can write incredibly beautiful non-horror and this tale is a good place to start if you aren't already acquainted with the Master...) and Word Processor of the Gods is my favourite, showing that just once, maybe, the amazing can and does does he think up these stories?! Read and enjoy!
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on 2 September 2011
Having read Just after sunset recently, I was eager to read some of Stephen King's earlier short story compilations. With the birth of a new born baby, it was the perfect book to just pick and put down again.
Skeleton Crew consists of a variety of stories that encompass mainly horror tales with the odd sci-fi story thrown in for good measure. The stories also vary wildly in length, from 1 or 2 pages to one novella (the mist).
It is said novella that is the stand out story in the book for me. I had seen the film before reading this collection and so knew all about the Mist and how the end had been tweaked (brilliantly I might add) in the film. Normally, this would mean I would find reading the story a chore. Not so with the Mist. This is one of the best books that Stephen King has written. It is a terrific study of the human psyche under pressure. Atmosphere just oozes of the pages and although I prefer Frank Darabont's conclusion to the tale, Kings works very effectively just the same.
There are other stand outs in Skeleton Crew. The sci-fi story, "the Jaunt" is a superb piece of work, as a man tries to placate his family before the teleport for the first time by telling them out teleportation was invented. The other 10 out of 10 story is "the Raft." 4 friends decided to drunkenly swim out to a raft where they discover a rather unpleasant entity.
Special mention to other very good stories goes to: "Survivor Type," "Gramma" and "Word processor of the Gods."
Most of the other stories fall into the "good" category and there are only a few (mostly the flash fiction pieces) that fail to evoke any sort of emotion.
Overall, Skeleton Crew is a very good collection of stories with a few standouts, that really are top notch writing.
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on 30 November 2014
Skeleton Crew is the first of Stephen King's short story collections that I have read, and I must say I already want to pick up the others!

While there's the odd story in here that may not be fantastic, so many of them are. It stars off strong with the Novella 'The Mist', taking up the first 191 pages, and what a great start that is. This is then followed up by some much shorter stories, some consisting of only 8 pages, but they're certainly worth your time. Another few gems of this collection are 'The Jaunt', a slightly wonky, but also creepy science fiction story. 'Survivor Type', the story of a man stuck on an island, causing him to resort to some rather dire and graphic solutions. 'The Reach', a superb end to the book itself, with a rather different tone from the other stories. There's many more but in the interest of this review not dragging on, there's some of my favourites.

Overall this is fantastic short story collection, I would recommend this to any Stephen King fan, or someone looking to start reading his work without dedicating themselves to full 1,000 page novels just yet.
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on 29 March 2015
This collection of short stories is enjoyable with some excellent tales. I've only read full Stephen King novels before this and I think I prefer the longer format as it gives you more opportunity to become absorbed into the book, but as a break from this these short stories are well recommended.
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on 11 January 2014
Maybe it's because it was the first set of his short stories I read, or maybe because it's from what I call his 'riding the crest' phase between '85 and '89 - where we would get Pet Semetary, Thinner, Eyes of the Dragon, The Gunslinger, Misery, the complete and uncut version of The Stand, and of course his Magnus opus, IT - but I think this collection is all killer, no filler. From the gruesome novella The Mist to the heartrending treatise on death and home, The Reach, it's all good. Kisses in the dark from a stranger, indeed.
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on 15 January 2011
This collection of short stories starts off well with the excellent "The Mist" which I can't help wonder if it couldn't have become a novel in it's own right. There is then a selection of odd and bizarre tales which I'm sure I just don't get at all! In the second half of the book there are some real gems such as beachworld and the ballad of the flexible bullet which should not be missed. As with most of King's writing it will leave you with that strange sense of discomfort several times, but do bear in mind that some of these stories were written quite some time back in his career and so they do reflect the time in which he was writing then.
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