This is King’s fourth short story collection. Many of the stories herein were published in various anthologies between 1995 and the present day. I always hate it when I pick up an anthology in a bookshop, and the only thing I’m interested in reading within it is King’s contribution. So, a collection like Everything’s Eventual is always a welcome purchase.
The first thing I liked about this collection was the inclusion of fourteen stories, as opposed to the stereotypical thirteen. That old superstition has become rather tired in today’s overpopulated market, and I hoped this was a sign that I wouldn’t be treated to a bunch of tired old stories.
“Autopsy Room Four” gets the book off to a brilliant start. Imagine lying on an autopsy table, fully conscious but unable to move, suffering from some kind of poison that has made everyone think you are dead. Along comes the surgeon with her trusty scalpel. Horror story veterans may yawn and say, “We’ve been here before,” and that may be true to a certain extent. But wait till you get to the ending. This is the most hilarious horror yarn I have ever read.
Moving swiftly on to “The Man in the Black Suit”. A young boy fishing in the woods encounters a strange man who doesn’t seem entirely human … or friendly. It’s a very basic story, tapping into that old childhood fear of monsters, but it works wonderfully.
“In the Deathroom” is a tense tale about a man being interrogated for information, with the threat of torture looming nearby.
Being a Dark Tower junkie, I was really looking forward to reading “The Little Sisters of Eluria”. The story (which is almost a novella in itself) takes place not long before the events at the beginning of The Dark Tower Volume 1: The Gunslinger. A tale about female vampires, and a welcome addition to the mythology.
“Everything’s Eventual” – a young man with a supernatural gift becomes the focus of a government agency eager to recruit him … but to what sort of employment?
“1408” – a haunted room in a hotel. Add up the digits and what do you get? Damn it, Stevie, you just couldn’t resist, could you? Nevertheless, this one’s pretty good.
“Riding the Bullet” – a university student hitch-hikes his way across the country to visit his ill mother in hospital. Between rides, wandering through a graveyard, he spots an impossible message on a headstone. But stranger things are yet to happen when the next car picks him up.
OK, that’s seven good ones for you. The other seven which I haven’t talked about struck me as, well, average to mediocre. Many of the stories contained brilliant characterisation ( describing the human condition is something that King has always had a knack for) but many didn’t have much of a punchline.
Overall, a collection that’s worth reading – one which would have scored higher had it been smaller, with the poorer stories omitted.