The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King book coverGenre: Mixed Genre Anthology
Publisher: Scribner
Published: 2015
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by David L. Felts

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I was wandering through the aisles of my local grocery store when I passed by their minuscule magazine/paperback book rack. Tucked in there was Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams. New short stories by Stephen King? Sign me up! I need to note that many of the stories had appeared in other venues before being collected here, so it might be that some readers have already run across them.

Whether you like his writing or not, there’s no denying that King has made an indelible impression on the landscape of popular fiction world-wide. Bazaar of Bad Dreams is yet another fun romp through the author’s self-admitted twisted imagination.

Not all the stories in here were great, and not all come from a speculative slant, but most of them do come from a rather dark slant and end poorly. No surprise I suppose, given King’s pedigree. There’s a feeling of mortality that resonates here, or perhaps it’s the awareness of mortality that the stories comment on. Sudden and unexpected death play a large role here.

“A Death” is perhaps closet to traditional King, a depression era tale of an accused murderer who swears his innocence until the end.

“That Bus is Another World” is modern close encounter that explores the distance yet intimacy of traveling in a vehicle. Neither of these offers anything in the way of being supernatural, but there’s no lack of horror.

One exception is “Ur”, a story about a man who receives a very special Kindle. It was fun seeing technology like that find a place in King’s universe. It was especially fun here, as we are greeted with the appearance of some references King readers will recognize. “Afterlife” and “The Dune” also incorporate a speculative aspect that is more traditionally King’s style.

“Blockade Billy”, about a ball player who is both more and less than he seems, was a lot of fun.

Perhaps it’s me, or perhaps it’s King, but maybe this collection made me feel as though King was saying we don’t need the supernatural for horror. No need for demons and zombies and vampires and killer clowns. We are quite capable of inflicting horror on each thanks. We lie, cheat, steal, harm and even murder each other, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes with passive neglect.

If I had to assign a theme to the stories of Bazaar of Bad Dreams, it would be the world is a wonderful place, but it’s a grim dark place as well, so look out.

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