BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS
like any short story collection (or, increasingly these days, any King book) this is a mixed bag. there's some really good stuff here, and some really bad stuff, and a lot of in between stuff. i guess a lot of these stories have already been published elsewhere, but the only one i think i had previously read was Blockade Billy, which is one of the ones i liked. this book continues recent trends of King's work such as 1) less horror/supernatural-based in favor of attempting different genres, and 2) generally less sharp writing than his earlier, better work. i'm really a King horror fan, while i appreciate some of his forays into other genres like Shawshank and the Dark Tower series (and less so with other, like a couple recent detective novels that have already been talked about too much in here), it's the horror stuff that made me a fan and comprised my favorite work of his. sadly here, the "horror" stories in this collection, particularly the supernatural or monster-based ones, are some of the weakest. they feel a bit half-assed, like King is going through the motions, giving people what he thinks they want, but his heart is really in the other, non-horror material. some of that is bad too, but it has more energy.
it's hard to review a book like this overall, so i'll just give some quickie reviews of the stories themselves:
1) Mile 81 - typical King monster horror with more of his trademark bad kid dialogue. not a good start.
2) Premium Harmony - King's first stab at "serious" writing. pointless.
3) Batman and Robin Have an Altercation - i liked it
4) The Dune - good story, good suspense, good buildup, predictable ending
5) Bad Little Kid - despite the title, this one actually DOESN'T have much bad little kid dialogue.
6) A Death - pretty good dark western
7) The Bone Church - a poem(!); King has intros to each story and for this one he talks a bit about why he doesn't publish much poetry. after reading this one, i don't blame him
8) Morality - this one's pretty good, feels like a shorter version of something that would have fit nicely in Full Dark No Stars
9) Afterlife - terrible. it's like a bad comical version of the entire DT series ("Ka is a wheel") wrapped up in one lame story, even down to the Horn of Eld (in thematic terms, the Horn of Eld doesn't actually show up). probably the worst piece of the collection.
10) Ur - this story simultaneously contains some of the best and worst of King-isms in a single story. it starts off bad... i mean REALLY bad. apparently King was commissioned to write this story in the early days of Kindle and had to include the Kindle as a central plot point (though he claims he initially turned the deal down, because he's an ARTIST with INTEGRITY yadda-yadda-yadda). and the first several pages of this story really feel like a giant Kindle ad. you know how King loves to name-drop his technology (tech-drop?) and this story gave him the perfect excuse and he makes the most of it. though i guess by the end of the story, you could kind of argue this is an ANTI-Kindle ad (and from other King books as well as other stories in here, King seems to be much more of an Apple guy). the middle section gets really good, and then the end brings in some full-on King mythology from some famous series of books he's written, which makes good fan service but kind of serves to defuse the tension of the ending a bit. i can imagine a much darker direction this story could have gone in. still a good story overall once you get past the shameless Kindle shilling in the introductory pages. kinda like 11/22/63 meets the Dark something-or-other.
11) Herman Wouk Is Still Alive - another King stab at "serious" writing that doesn't really work for me
12) Under the Weather - OK but nothing special. it feels like there's a twist coming, but it never does.
13) Blockade Billy - the one story i had previously read. liked it then, still like it now
14) Mister Yummy - meh
15) Tommy - poem #2. worse than the first. maybe if i was around in the 60s like King, it would have some impact.
16) Little Green God of Agony - monster story #2. going through the motions.
17) That Bus Is Another World - interesting vignette, maybe one of the more "serious" (sorry, i always have to put "serious" in quotations when discussing King) stories that works the best
18) Obits - this one had so much potential. it's got a bit of King's tech-fetish, but not to the point of annoyance. in the intro, King talks about how he was inspired by some movie he saw on TV that was really scary for the first 60 minutes but then pussied out at the end. ironically, King does the exact same thing with this story. the end is so underwhelming, it reminded me quite a bit of the series finale of Dexter
19) Drunken FIreworks - King does comedy. he's the King of Comedy! it's not bad.
20) Summer Thunder - saving the best for last. one of the best stories in the book.