Night Shift is a collection of Altoid-strength, horror-focussed short stories. The stories here are not just strong in an almost consistent manner. They are modern classics, and I’d argue that they’re definitive in the genre. Several from this collection alone have been made into films, and justly so. There was even talk for one of the stories here, Trucks, may actually be remade into a film for what would be a third time, in the near future.
There is nothing here that is not great, and that is not worthy of reading. From the opening Lovecraft-inspired Jerusalem’s Lot, a tale that rewards equally the King hardcore fan (for ‘Salems Lot followed from here) as well as the reader who loves all things Arkham House, this collection picks up steam and keeps going.
Graveyard Shift is a menacing tale of the dangers not just of overtime, but also of maligned-nature, in this case lurking in the basement of an old textile mill. It’s one of the best treatments of mutant rodents in horror, comparable to James Herbert’s Rats trilogy for inducing creep factor, though obviously refined, shortened, for the format here.
Though no familiarity with The Stand is necessary for enjoyment of Night Surf, it nonetheless deals with Captain Trips and subject matter familiar to those who’ve read King’s apocalyptic viral-based epic. It’s an interesting tale that leaves a sour taste and whets the appetite for further reading of the greater work (at least in density of words) that it inspired.
Trucks is a really interesting read, a techno-phobic tale with a twist if you will, with mechanical machines, petrol-driven trucks, cars and such suddenly coming to life on their own. Whilst already the source for two films, a made-for-TV movie Trucks and a film Maximum Overdrive, there are plans afoot to adapt it again in the near future. Reading it you can see why that may be. It’s tense, brutal and genuinely scary. You really do drop your sense of disbelief as King unfolds his mastery with storytelling.
Likewise, you won’t bemoan (or I didn’t) the protagonist’s enemies in Battleground, and the waspish but lethal when combined nature of their attack on their target; it’s an attack that is almost encouraged given his unsavoury job-type. Its conclusion packs a powerful, but suitably tongue-in-cheek, kick.
I should point out that it’s not all menacing stuff. The Last Rung of the Ladder is a suitably emotive and touching story, evidence of skilful adaptation of literary sentiment, analysing the relationship between a brother and sister. Revolving around a childhood accident, its strengths are similar to, and a hint upon, those which play upon early, formative years, features which come to the fore in later King classics such as IT.
The Man Who Loved Flowers is a shocking tale, and one which reminds me of a short story I read in a Pan horror collection some years later (but which was published over a decade before King’s entry here). It’s a nice reminder too that all is certainly not what it seems at first glance, both for us the reader and the characters in this tale of mistaken conclusions.
Quitters Inc. and The Ledge are two of the shorts here which were adapted into the film Cat’s Eye. Both deal with wagers of a sort, one more obvious than the other. The first tale is definitely an eye opener for anyone who has ever juggled with having to give up an addictive habit, and how pressing such a thing might be even in the face of threatening, even deadly adversity.
All in all, and there are quite a few more of the stories which I’ve not covered here, some equally prominent as those mentioned, this is a superb collection. If you’ve any interest in horror, you need to read this book. So run, quickly, to your library and grab a copy. Yes, it’s that good.