Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Review - If It Bleeds by Stephen King


For the past two days, I have had the privilege of reading the novella collection If It Bleeds by Stephen King (Available on Hardback and Kindle), courtesy of Scribner.

Warning: Quit reading now if you don't want spoilers!

The first tale is Mr. Harrigan's Phone, which tells the story of a young boy, Craig, who gets a job helping a neighbor, Mr. Harrigan, with his yard and, later, reading to him. The job doesn't pay much, but Mr. Harrigan gives him greeting cards four times a year with a one-dollar scratch ticket inside each one. Although his father said, "He's a cheapster," Craig likes the old man, especially when those scratches paid off. He thanked Mr. Harrigan by buying him a first-gen iPhone.

Sadly, death eventually comes for us all, and Mr. Harriagan dies. Grieving, Craig slips the iPhone into Mr. Harriagan's pocket at his funeral. This is a Stephen King story, so you can probably guess a few strange occurrences happen because of Craig's grieving gesture.

The Life of Chuck is an offbeat tale split into three acts that are told backward, all depending on how you interpret it.

Fans of the Bill Hodges trilogy and The Outsider will absolutely love If It Bleeds, which brings back Holly Gibney and the Finders Keepers detective agency. Set in December 2020, Holly and her crew are trying to locate the man responsible for placing an explosive device at a middle school in Pineborough, Pennsylvania, which caused many casualties, including children.

Rat centers on an aspiring middle-aged novelist, Drew Larson, who has written only six short stories over the past twenty years, with only "Skip Jack" being a slight success by appearing in The New Yorker. With absolutely no story idea, Drew goes to his family's cabin in the middle of nowhere to write a novel. With a storm brewing in, Drew comes up with an idea, but thanks to his past failures part of him is doubting that he can write an entire novel. Then, out of nowhere, a rat comes into life...

Final Thoughts

With a cover featuring a cat with a rat nose, I was expecting at least one story in If It Bleeds to have a Pet Sematary vibe. To my surprise, there's no dark horror insight. Yes, there are some supernatural and paranormal elements, but none are scary. Instead of dreadful setting and frightening descriptions, Mr. King gives us four character-driven stories.

Mr. Harrigan's Phone is a sentimental tale with a touch of the Twilight Zone. It is my favorite out of this collection. 

The Life of Chuck is my least favorite, though it's still worth reading.

The longest story is If It Bleeds, a sequel/spinoff to the Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch) and The Outsider, which centers on one of Mr. King's own favorite characters, Holly Gibney.

Rat will hit a little close to home with any aspiring author or anyone suffering for writer's block. The plot reminds me of the classic supernatural story, The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs.

Overall, If It Bleeds is Stephen King at his very best. Rat and Mr. Harrigan's Phone are more on a par with King's '80s writings. If It Bleeds is an exceptional thriller with returning characters from previous novels. While The Life of Chuck is the weakest of the bunch, I still enjoyed reading it.


4 comments:

  1. I’m glad you liked it! I’m a little nervous about it because I’m not a massive fan of Holly, but I know I’ll end up reading it eventually.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    Replies
    1. I didn't care much for Holly when she first appeared in Mr. Mercedes, but the character has grown on me since then.

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  2. Yes, I listened and loved it. Glad to see you enjoyed reading it :)

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  3. Stephen King rarely disappoints, and this book hits the spot for me. It is silly to say he is a great writer because we all agree. His way with words, the characters he conjures in his imagination, the use of novellas to fulfill his needs as a writer gives us the penultimate read.

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