SKELETON CREW by Stephen King


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Twenty-some items, mostly collected from magazines, by America's most prolific living horror-master, including a doggerel called "Paranoid: A Chant" that sounds like an amazingly accurate parody of Absolutely Bob Dylan. King's fans--who must revel in his huffery-puffery space-filling--will find their favorite as peppery as ever. In each of these pieces, no matter how ineffective, King strikes upon some truly unsettling image that only he would have the persistence to uncover. In the most ambitious, a short novel called "The Mist," a Maine heatwave announces the coming of a living, bloodsucking, tentacle--filled white mist that eats up woods, radio stations, drugstores, and just plain brand-name folks who are trapped in a supermarket and fighting back with Raid insecticide and burning brooms dipped in lighter fluid. The horrormist is never explained, but one cannot avoid feeling that it is a self-punishing psychic projection of King's consumer society, which is mocked up from paste characters without a single breath of life in them. King sculpts these dummies with as much art as he has, but it is an art which has failed to deepen since Salem's Lot, his most carefully styled novel. King's shorter stories are more artful, but even so, judging them against each other is as hard as telling a Wheaties box from a Fruit Loops box by chewing on each. "Survivor Type" is a parody of survivor stories in which a drug-pushing surgeon is stranded on an island and--high on smack and low on food--forces himself to begin eating himself, starting with a cracked leg. In "The Word Processor of the Gods," the genie in a Wang begins fulfilling a writer's dreams by deleting him of his fat wife and clinker son and inserting him the wife and son he longs for--a lively conceit that King works to a warm, sentimental climax which avoids the strong, hard punch the reader asks for. His oldest story, "The Reaper's Image," written at age 18, tells of an ancient mirror which disappears people. The newest story, "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" (1983), is about a one-shot successful novelist who feeds his typewriter peanut butter and jelly because some elves called Fornits live on the keys and sprinkle gold dust (fornus) on his copy. Then his alcoholic editor starts to go mad as well in a folie a deux. So, bizarre little spellbinders, but more pulpy and concocted than truly driven in their bizarreness.
Pub Date: June 21st, 1985
ISBN: 0451168615
Page count: 530pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1985


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