Stephen King is a man who seems to never not be working. Popping out novel after novel, he's racked up a bibliography containing some of the greatest horror stories in modern fiction. Now, he's back with the new novella/short story collection 'If It Bleeds'.
Mixing sentimentality and scares, King's latest work is a welcome addion to his enormous libary. Of course, with any collection some stories are stronger than others. It's a fact that comes with the territory.
Slap on those reading glasses because it's time to dig into the good and the not-so-good of this oddly wholesome horror collection from the man who just can't be stopped.
First, the negatives...
'Rat' is the black sheep of 'If It Bleeds'.
The story follows a struggling writer isolated in a cabin in the woods trying to churn out his first novel. A previous attempt to do the same caused a psychotic break that almost resulted in his house burning down. Fortunately, this time around he has a chance to get things right when a talking rat he spares from a gruesome fate offers him a deal. Unfortunately however, said deal involves trading the life of a loved one for the finished product.
Throughout all this collection King's writing is superb, as it usually is. With 'Rat' though his craft still doesn't manage to elevate the material any. It's as if it just exists, not really serving any purpose or fitting in with the themes of the rest of the stories. While it obviously comes from a personal place, it lacks the emotional heft present in the other three.
Remove 'Rat' and you wouldn't be missing much. In fact, it might actually have made an already great book better. In a less thematically entwined collection it'd be pretty good, but here it's just substandard.
And now to the positives...
5. UPS - The Thematic Links
What's so impressive about 'If It Bleeds' is how thematically coherent a majority of it is.
King is no stranger to emotionally complex ideas. He does a fantastic job at keeping the quality and themes consistent for the first three-quarters of the book. Each one feels like it compliments the others in what they're trying to say about the ideas of acceptance and letting go. Since he does this so well, it also makes the first three have more of an emotional impact.
It's just a shame it doesn't quite continue all the way through.