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Night Shift by Stephen King

Night Shift (original 1978; edition 1993)

by Stephen King

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5,42166801 (3.79)108
Title:Night Shift
Authors:Stephen King
Info:Doubleday (1993), Edition: Reissue, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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Night Shift by Stephen King (1978)

  1. 50
    The Bachman Books: Four Early Novels by Stephen King (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Another collection of King's early fiction where the rough edges are still intact.
  2. 20
    Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison (artturnerjr)
  3. 20
    Blue World by Robert McCammon (GWoloszczuk)
    GWoloszczuk: Mccammon's Short stories are very reminiscent of this collection of early King stories

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Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
I enjoyed Children of the Corn the best of all. ( )
  cassie.peters1 | Sep 6, 2014 |
I enjoyed Children of the Corn the best of all. ( )
  cassie.peters1 | Sep 6, 2014 |
Read the full review at JohnnyCompton.com'

Stephen King’s first collection of short horror stories might still be his best. Then again, I might be a bit biased, since Night Shift is the first Stephen King book that I read. There's hard-hitting horror such as "Graveyard Shift" and "The Bogeyman." There's more measured, subtle and emotional tales with "The Woman in the Room" and "Night Surf." "I Am the Doorway" is horror mixed with science-fiction and "The Ledge" is pure, pulpy crime horror. In short, it has a little bit of everything, and most of it ranges from good to great.

As with just about any anthology–even the very best–there are some stories that don’t work, at least for me. “The Lawnmower Man” is a little too weird for my personal tastes. “Strawberry Spring" is defanged by predictability, and the premise to "Trucks" is a bit too silly to work.

Overall, though, Night Shift is essential King. ( )
1 vote jcompton | Sep 3, 2014 |
like most collections, there's a bit of a range of quality although there weren't any that i thought were done badly. some weren't really up my alley, and i thought would have been stronger if they didn't feature any of the "spooks galore" that the back advertised. (the story of a family caught in a blizzard in a maine winter is scary and realistic and engrossing enough without the addition of vampires.) i thought the best stories were the ones where he relied on emotion and reality and natural occurrences and fear rather than the more ghoulish. but then i've never been much of a fan of the exorcism/zombie/vampire stuff.

these stories, on the whole, are well done and keep you reading. he hits a bunch of themes that he revisits throughout his writing (at least sometimes done better) - inanimate objects "coming to life," exorcising demons (figuratively and literally), and more vague things like motivation, bullying, religion. mostly he writes relationships and people and what things happen to them, some of which are a bit out of this world and meant to scare. and some of which don't need his supernatural hand to scare at all (like in my favorite of the stories - "the last rung on the ladder" - and the one i liked best last time i read this collection - "graveyard shift").

there is an almost embarrassingly gushing introduction by john d macdonald in which he predicts that king will write many things of different genres (not boxing himself into horror) that i found especially prescient. although after reading the stories in the collection it seemed an easy prediction because these really run the gamut. i only found myself really really liking a couple of these stories, but they're all solid, and they all play on the things that he does best - twisting your expectations, tense pacing, and perfectly reasonable craziness. the few that i remembered from my reading probably 20 years ago weren't all of the ones that stood out to me this time around, but there were a handful that stuck with me because he's awfully good at what he does, even when it's not his best.

only one more thing. in his foreword king says: "All my life as a writer I have been committed to the idea that in fiction the story value holds dominance over every other facet of the writer's craft; characterization, theme, mood, none of those things is anything if the story is dull. And if the story does hold you, all else can be forgiven." i was pretty taken aback to read this because i don't feel exactly opposite but pretty close to it. and i feel like he's a prime example of why i do. i can read and enjoy his stories and books about vampires and aliens and ghosts and demons precisely because of his writing and his characterization and his craft. not at all because of the story, although if a story is good enough he's right that i will forgive many other problems. still, for someone who believes this, he certainly has done an incredible job honing that craft and being a writer of characters and themes and feelings and not just of a story. it's what i love him most for and why i'll never stop reading him, no matter what his stories are about. and it's why i like this book in spite of many of the story topics. ( )
  elisa.saphier | Jun 1, 2014 |
I enjoy King’s short stories quite a lot and Night Shift did not disappoint. There were some stories that definitely gave me the creeps, some that were almost painfully suspenseful, and some that just hit that odd balance of creepy, gross and funny that I enjoy about King. The stories are imaginative and colourful - calling to mind drive-in horror movies and the like. They can be scary, creepy or just plain fun.

The collection kicks off with Jerusalem’s Lot - a Lovecraftian-type story featuring an eldritch horror. The story is epistolary, told in letters sent by an originally skeptical gentlemen who inherited a large estate from an estranged relation. There are strange noises in the walls and an antediluvian monster festering beneath the Satanic church in a mysteriously deserted nearby village.

In Graveyard Shift a worker gets revenge on a bully foreman on a job clearing out the basement of the mill. There’s one hell of a rat problem down there. This one didn’t really grab me, but it’s one of the few that didn’t.

Night Surf is a post-apocalyptic story, in which the world has been decimated by a super flu. A group of survivors in their mid-twenties live out these last days by the beach. The narrator is nasty and sullen. The group itself is becoming gradually unhinged by their grim surroundings and the knowledge that they could each fall prey to the illness at any time.

I Am the Doorway is a very freaky story in which an astronaut who has returned from the first manned mission to Venus has something alien inside him. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give it away, but it absolutely made my skin crawl.

In The Mangler a girl cuts herself on an industrial laundry press and it gets a taste for blood! Pulling people in and eating them! This one hits the odd combination of scary, gross and absurdly hilarious that I love about King. It’s stupid, but in an awesome way. Also, possessed refrigerator!

The Boogeyman succeeded in really creeping me out. The very ending was a bit too cheesy, but up until then it built a fantastically creepy, tingling up the back of the neck horror vibe. The narrator, a distressed man talking to a psychiatrist about the deaths of his three infant children is pretty thoroughly unlikeable - he’s a racist, sexist jerk. Yet the tale he tells gets really compelling and unsettling, you want to know what happens next.

In Gray Matter a man drinks a bad beer and turns into a slimy monster. It’s a simple story and, like The Mangler struck me as more funny than scary, but I still enjoyed it.

Battleground features an assassin, who takes out the founder of a toy company. Later he receives a package containing living toy soldiers with fully functioning weapons. This one didn’t really do anything for me, but then I didn’t grow up playing with toy soldiers - if you did, you might enjoy it more.

Trucks is a funny one and I really liked it. The trucks turn sentient and take over the world! It’s a funny idea told with all seriousness. Somehow it works and makes a very entertaining horror story.

Sometimes They Come Back - when Jim was a child he watched as his brother was stabbed to death by a group of boys. Years later, as an adult, Jim is a teacher, but kids in his class keep dying or disappearing and being replaced by boys who look exactly like those who murdered his brother all those years ago. Although the killers should be in their thirties by now they look exactly the same. At first Jim thinks he is going crazy, but then they start threatening him and his wife. A very suspenseful story. I greatly enjoyed it.

Strawberry Spring - the narrator recounts how during his college days, a serial killer, dubbed Springheel Jack by the press, plagued his campus during a misty, magical, “Strawberry Spring.”

The Ledge - a tennis instructor has an affair with the wife of a mob boss. At first the villain threatens to frame him for heroin possession, but then makes a wager - if the tennis instructor can creep around the narrow outer ledge of his fortieth-floor penthouse without falling to a grisly death, he’ll let him go, give him money and his wife. Meh. I was pretty ho-hum about this one. Other people like it though.

The Lanwmower Man is funny and bizarre more than actually scary. The main character hires a company to mow his lawn. They send over a gross weirdo and things get bizarre.

For my money the most suspenseful story in this collection is Quitters, Inc. After an old school friend recommends the company Quitters, Inc., the main character goes there to get help quitting smoking. This story actually made me very anxious, and as I’m not usually affected by “suspense” stories I was really impressed by this one. I imagine anyone with an addiction of any kind, who puts themselves in the main character’s shoes, will find it frightening.

I Know What You Need - Elizabeth is approached by a nerdy but harmless-looking sort of guy named Ed Hamner. She has a fiancé, but he dies that summer, and Elizabeth and Ed end up together. She really likes him - he seems like the most perfect, most considerate boyfriend in the world - but her roommate Alice is suspicious and uncovers some unsettling facts about Ed. His “consideration” is really manipulation, enabled by a psychic ability and powered by occult magic.

Children of the Corn is an excellent horror story. A bickering, unhappy couple on a road trip find themselves in a town where the children have come to worship a violent, bloodthirsty corn god who demands the sacrifice of anyone over the age of nineteen.

The Last Rung on the Ladder - the narrator recollects a childhood incident when he and his little sister were playing on a dangerous ladder in their family’s barn, and how their lives turned out after. Not horror, but a well written sad and touching story.

The Man Who Loved Flowers - IMO, this is one of the weaker stories in the collection, and too similar to Strawberry Spring. A young man in love buying flowers for his sweetheart is not quite what people think.

One for the Road - a sequel to Salem’s Lot which I haven’t read (I’m probably one of the very few people on the planet who haven’t! I must put that on my too-read list.) A family lost in a blizzard get stuck in the snow. The husband goes for help and finds a couple of guys at a bar a few miles down the road who turn white when he mentions the place he left his wife and daughter. Here be vampires!

The Woman in the Room - a man tries to deal with his elderly mother dying slowly and painfully from cancer. I thought this was a rather boring note to end the collection on. I just really didn’t care about this one.

But overall, Night Shift is a strong horror collection and I had a great time reading it! ( )
1 vote catfantastic | Jan 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (45 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Kingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Halvorsen, Thor DagTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heidkamp, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herrmann, IngridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalvas, ReijoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacDonald, John DIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Let's talk, you and I. Let's talk about fear.
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Book description
Short story collection containing the following stories:

Introduction by John D. MacDonald
Jerusalem's Lot
Graveyard Shift
Night Surf
I Am the Doorway
The Mangler
The Boogeyman
Gray Matter
Sometimes They Come Back
Strawberry Spring
The Ledge
The Lawnmower Man
Quitters, Inc.
I Know What You Need
Children of the Corn
The Last Rung on the Ladder
The Man Who Loved Flowers
One for the Road
The Woman in the Room
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451170113, Mass Market Paperback)

From the depths of darkness, where hideous rats defend their empire, to dizzying heights, where a beautiful girl hangs by a hair above a hellish fate, this chilling collection of twenty short stories will plunge readers into the subterranean labyrinth of the most spine-tingling, eerie imagination of our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:36 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"Nineteen of [King's] most unsettling short pieces: bizarre tales of dark doings and unthinkable acts from the twilight regions where horror and madness take on eerie, unearthly forms, where noises in the walls and shadows by the bed are always signs of something dreadful on the prowl"--Dust flap.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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