This review covers the stories two, three and four in the audiobook edition of “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” by Stephen King.
This book has some very skilled narrators but I wish they hadn’t felt compelled to punctuate the stories with pieces of clichéd music. They should let the book stand or fall on the quality of the text and the narrators. Or they should buy some much better music.
“The End Of The Whole Mess” is a clever science fiction story that builds in some unusual narrative challenges that it mostly meets.
The story is an account, written by a man under great time pressure, that explains the causes of an apocalypse that promises the destruction of mankind.
The cause of the apocalypse is interesting and credible in the way a science fiction story should be. The fact that the disaster is brought about by people working in everyone’s best interest lifts it from the normal “greed = doom” post-apocalyptic narrative.
What gives the story extra bite and makes it much more difficult to write is that the person writing the story is aware of his own rapidly declining ability to do so.
I admired the way Stephen King kept the story human by focusing on the relationship, from childhood onwards, of the two brothers who were the main actors in the disaster. It made the story more human and made the first-person account more compelling.
Keeping a first-person account when that person is losing themselves is challenging and Stephen King comes close to the edge of losing the narrative push but in the end, he pulls it off with great skill.
The story in “Suffer The Little Children” was so slight that it almost slipped by me as I listened to it. After I’d listened to it, it kept coming back. It’s the story of an elderly school teacher who comes to believe that her students are evil and have to be eliminated.
This is one of those stories that can be read in two ways. In one, the school teacher is right. In the other the school teacher is insane. I’m not sure which version is scarier.
Perhaps the strongest thing about this story is the how a credible but ordinary picture of a nearing-the-end-of-her-career strongly disciplinarian teacher’s use of power to control her class is juxtaposed with the possibility of an entirely different and far from usual power struggle.
“The Night Flier” is told from the point of view of a far from pleasant tabloid journalist who is pursuing a killer who preys on staff at small rural airfields. As the journalist flies to the airfield he believes the killer to be at, he reviews the steps in his investigation and we are shown his motives for chasing the story.
What I liked about the story was the portrait of the journalist as a monstrous man: unempathetic, vulgar, narcissistic, predatory and incapable of believing even in himself.
I began to think that the killer he was chasing was unlikely to be the most monstrous character in the story. Suffice it to say, I was wrong.
This was tense, gory horror with an original twist.