I don’t read short stories. And yes I know, it’s weird and makes no sense. However as I launched into Stephen King’s newest release If It Bleeds, I was reminded that much of his early work, that I loved, were (in fact) short stories.
The title’s namesake, If It Bleeds, is in fact possibly almost a novella and is a sequel to The Outsider. It’s complemented by three other shorter stories and I actually… preferred a couple of those as I’m not a huge fan of the fantasy / horror genre. Twisty yes, but I’m a lover of logic so I like trying to wrap my head around something mysterious or even mind-bending, rather than fantastical. If that makes sense.
If It Bleeds
by Stephen King
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Paranormal / Fantasy / Sci Fi
A collection of four stories:
* Mr. Harrigan’s Phone
* The Life of Chuck
* If It Bleeds
The first story Mr Harrigan’s Phone centred around an elderly billionaire who retires to a small town (near Castle Rock!) and employs a local 9yr old (Craig) to read to him. Mr Harrigan, though having made money in tech and the like eschews it now until—several years into his employment—Craig (having won a small amount of money on a $1 birthday scratchie gifted to him my Mr Harrigan) gives him an early iPhone. The elderly man recognises both the power and danger of having information (the world) at our fingertips.
There is a fantastical link here but I enjoyed some of the not-so-subtle messaging about technology, our propensity to always want ‘more’ and fact that we’re sometimes surprised what we’re driven to do.
The latter is a theme in Rat as well, a story about an author wanting to overcome writer’s block and finally write a novel; and the lengths he’s prepared to go to give him what it is he thinks he wants. And—of course—the subsequent regret.
In If It Bleeds we’re reintroduced to Holly Gibney, from Finders Keepers Detective Agency. She’s come up against ‘evil’ before and certain she sees it again when a bomb goes off at a local Middle School. I actually didn’t remember much about Holly so didn’t really engage with her as I’d have liked or find myself invested in this story. Those who’ve read other books in The Outsider (et al) series will probably understand what I mean when I say I like my baddie less amorphous.
The Life of Chuck was probably my favourite of the four stories. Sure it kinda has a mystic element but it’s really clever. The story unfolds in reverse in three sections and the clue to the whole thing is an early part of the story. At least I’m assuming that was the point of it all.
I’ll end with a quote from one of the stories that resonated as I’ve been watching way too many ‘the end is nigh’ type things lately. Of course my dystopian / apocalyptic type of viewing wasn’t helped originally by the onslaught of the Coronavirus. Though thankfully (here anyway), it seems I need not be quite so fearful.
I think when a man or woman dies, a whole world falls to ruin – the world that person knew and believed in. Think of that kiddo – billions of people on earth, and each one of those billions with a world inside. The earth their minds have conceived. p 94
If It Bleeds by Stephen King was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.