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.
on 14 December 2014
Whilst this was quite good with some interesting stories, I have to say that I didn't find it as compelling as some of his other short story compilations. A lot of the material in this book almost felt "Experimental", and a few of the stories left me somewhat underwhelmed. One or two classics in the mix, but not enough to make this volume anything special for me.
on 10 November 2015
Be advised that this volume contains one short story (the last one), and three novellas. I didn't quite realize this until I was wondering if the second story would ever end; Not because it wasn't good, but because I was primed for the longer story. Having said all this , although categorized as a'horror' writer, Stephen King is really a brilliant storyteller who loves humour as well (much like Charles Dickens). I think this aspect of his writing comes out really well in his 'short' story collections.
on 15 January 2015
A great collection of very bizarre, surreal stories. I think my favourites were popsy, the moving finger and umney's last case (took a while to figure that story out!). I really wasn't keen on 'head down', the baseball story. I know King is a huge baseball fan but it's really not that interesting to me and I had to skip it (the first time I've ever done that with a Stephen King book). The other stories more than made up for it though. A good read!
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.
on 13 October 1999
A masterly exhibition of four compelling stories from King's powerful mix of irresistible fiction. Each tale takes the reader into a powerful, shockingly real situation - no stone is left unturned as every character's fears, hopes and desires are graphically explored and detailed to the terrifying brink of nail-bitten exhaustion. It is a great tribute to this work that three of these four dynamic stories have been transferred to the big screen and, although they are successful motion pictures, King still proves that nothing can replace the gripping and enthralling style that emanates from the pages of one of his books. This potent collection is no exception.
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.
on 2 July 2016
Having read many Stephen King books this is my first time in reading his short stories and they are all excellent.
Two are well known from the films, the other two are just as good if not even better.
All the stories are about telling stories and life and death.
Recommend this book to all. Definitely going to read more of Stephen King's short stories now.
Different Seasons is a collection of 4 novellas, and is notable for seeing King beginning to stretch away from writing just horror tales, though there is certainly enough macabre moments contained here to keep the more bloodthirsty fans happy. `Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption' tells the story of a wrongly convicted murderer and his escape from prison, seemingly a tale told so many times there's nothing more to add, but King transforms this into a beautifully moving character study. `Apt Pupil', while containing no supernatural elements, is certainly close to King's horror territory, being a disturbing a tale about a young boys blackmail of an ex-Nazi concentration camp commandant. A trifle overlong perhaps (this `novella' is around the same length of King's debut novel Carrie) but the bizarre double-blackmail relationship between the two characters is compulsive, and the dispassionate finale is memorable. `The Body' is undoubtedly the highlight of the collection, and certainly one of the best things King has ever written - a thinly-disguised childhood reminiscence fictionalised as a successful authors thinly-disguised childhood reminiscence - it captures brilliantly the coming of age from childhood to adulthood, and features some of King's best prose. Finally `The Breathing Method' is a back to basics old-fashioned horror story - all the basic tropes are familiar genre favourites: the mysterious gentleman's club where Lovecraftian things slither out of sight in upstairs rooms; the Victorian-style Christmas fireside ghost story - but King injects some modern-day grand guignol splatter horror to keep things fresh - slightly ridiculous, but good fun.
With four long stories in different genres, and every one in it's own way is successful, this is an excellent collection, and one of King's best books.
For all those who doubt the fact that Stephen King is one of the all-time great masters at the craft of writing, there is Different Seasons. If nothing else, the doubters should at least acknowledge King's important contribution to reviving the lost art of the novella. King has always said he would write, whether he ever sold a single book - and I think that is completely true. He didn't write these four novellas with publication in mind; each one was written immediately after the completion of a best-selling novel - and each one just sort of sat there after it was finished. What, after all, can a modern author really do with manuscripts too long to be short stories and too short to be novels? Eventually, the idea came to King to just publish them together, with a title that speaks to the fact that these are not the author's usual blood-dripping, creepy-crawling horror stories. In doing so, he not only gave us four of his most captivating works of fiction, he showed a whole new generation of readers the vast, inherent power of the novella.
Three of these four novellas are even better-known than many of King's best-selling novels - due in no small part to the movie adaptations that followed in their wake. It all started with the film Stand By Me - which was not marketed as an adaptation of a Stephen King work of fiction. This was a smart move, considering some of the weak adaptations of earlier King novels. I can only guess how many impressed moviegoers were shocked to learn that Stand By Me was adapted from King's novella The Body. It's a story of four boys who set off to see a dead body, that of another kid hit by a train; their adventure makes for an extraordinary coming-of-age story. It is, in fact, a story about childhood, founded upon a mysterious event in King's own early days (he supposedly saw a friend hit by a train when he was four years old - but there has always been some question as to whether or not this is true); The Body feels autobiographical, and it truly does recapture the essence of childhood and the maturing process into adolescence. I like to think of The Body as a fantastic warm-up to King's later novel It, which captures the essence of childhood almost perfectly.
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption gave birth to Shawshank Redemption, the most critically acclaimed and popular of all King movie adaptations. I think the movie is even better than the novella (largely due to Morgan Freeman), but everything that shines in the movie is here in the novella. An innocent man, convicted of killing his wife and her lover, gives new meaning to the term patient resolve - and has a profound effect on some of his fellow prisoners. I think it's the ultimate prison story, as it shows us the good and the bad of prison life and imbues its characters with a humanity rarely seen in prison-based stories. It's just a stellar piece of writing.
Apt Pupil is my favorite, though, and it finally, after years of fits and starts and rumors, was made into a film in 1998. The movie did make some changes to the original storyline, but it was a vastly underrated film that truly embodied the spirit of King's original novella. The most horrible things can oftentimes be the most fascinating. I know I've always been fascinated by everything that took place in the Third Reich. The teenager in the story, though, is obsessed with those atrocities, and that obsession turns into something increasingly disquieting and dangerous when he discovers a former Nazi living under another name in his neighborhood and blackmails him into telling him all the "gooshy" details of his part in the Holocaust. Apt Pupil is one of the most impressive psychological studies of evil I've ever read.
The Breathing Method sort of gets lost in the shuffle. It's shorter than the other novellas and has never been adapted for film. I really like this story, though. It has a classic fireside story feel to it, hearkening back to the likes of Poe, with its mysterious gentlemen's "club" and emphasis on story-telling. The particular story we are privileged to hear about is in some ways rather ridiculous and certainly quite melodramatic - yet it works extremely well. The novella was dedicated to Peter and Susan Straub, and I think it shows the obvious influence of horror maestro Straub from top to bottom (which, to my mind, is a good thing).
The Breathing Method supplies the theme that serves as a sort of mantra for the entire collection: It is the tale, not he who tells it. The story is everything, and the author is sort of a literary midwife who helps the birthing process along. I heartily believe that many a King critic would fawn over Different Seasons if they read it without knowing who wrote it. This book is a perfect introduction for those yet to experience King for themselves - these are, for the most part, mainstream works of fiction that reveal a master storyteller at work.