1-1 - Book Review: NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPESStephen King
Viking / Signet
1993

Nightmares & Dreamscapes is Stephen King’s third collection short stories released during his career (both Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight being collections of novellas than short stories, if you want to argue the point), originally in 1993. This was the period in my life where I was denouncing any kind of reading of fiction as “not what a good Christian does”, and having gotten rid of my rather extensive Stephen King collection along with the rest of my fiction literature that I deemed not worthy my time anymore the summer prior, when this one was published, I pretty much ignored its existence for a good decade, until I got back into enjoying fiction without that pesky self-acquired guilt that comes with self-righteous hoop-jumping. Long story. In any case, I came across a hardcover copy of Nightmares & Dreamscapes for a couple of bucks at a local Goodwill one early Fall afternoon in 2005, and dug into this rather massive tome not too long after that. And here’s my blow-by-blow of the thing:

“Dolan’s Cadillac”
A widower gets revenge on the mob boss that had his wife killed…it’s rather cathartic for him, really…

“The End of the Whole Mess”
A scientists discovers a chemical that reduces aggressive tendencies in people; only, too late after the fact, do they realize that it does the job too well…

“Suffer the Little Children”
A third grade teacher begins to suspect that the phrase “little monsters” may be less figurative than she thought…

“The Night Flier”
A reporter is chasing down a serial killer who thinks he’s a vampire…because vampires don’t really exist, right?

“Popsy”
A child abductor for human trafficking abducts the wrong kid…let’s just leave it at that…

“It Grows on You”
An old house in the town of Castle Rock seems to be taking on home upgrades all by itself…

“Chattery Teeth”
A guy buys a pair of novelty wind-up walking teeth and a hitchhiker, then proceeds to have a very bad, very weird rest of the day…

“Dedication”
A hotel maid has an encounter with an eccentric writer…then something weird happens…

“The Moving Finger”
A Jeopardy! enthusiast discovers a human finger poking its way out of the drain in his bathroom sink. Wackiness ensues.

“Sneakers”
A recording studio exec discovers that the pair of sneakers he’s been seeing in the adjacent stall in the work restroom belong to the ghost of a drug dealer killed by the studio exec’s boss. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

“You Know They Got a Hell of a Band”
A couple get lost driving around Oregon, and happen upon a town called Rock And Roll Heaven, which may be a bit more that just an eccentric town name.

“Home Delivery”
A young and pregnant widow lives on a small remote island called Gennesault–“Jenny” for short–when an alien thing orbiting Earth at the South Pole causes all the dead to reanimate and attack the living. Again, I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

“Rainy Season”
An out-of-town couple rent a summer vacation house, and discover that it probably wasn’t a very good idea.

“My Pretty Pony”

An elderly man decides to give his grandson the gift of a pocket watch and an existentialist lecture, in that order. Fans of the precursor of the My Little Pony toy line will be sorely disappointed.

“Sorry, Right Number”
Originally a teleplay written for an episode of the Tales From The Darkside television series, this is the script form which tells the tale of a lady who uses a phone to talk to her long-dead husband years ago on the night of his death.

“The Ten O’Clock People”
A smoker tries to quit his habit, and because of that chemical imbalance has a They Live! experience…

“Crouch End”
Two London police officers discuss a case where an American woman’s husband disappeared one night, when the town turned into a Lovecraftian nightmare.

“The House on Maple Street”
Four children arrive back after Summer vacation to discover that their house is slowly turning into some sort of space ship. They then decide to use this to deal with their tyrannical stepfather. As one would do.

“The Fifth Quarter”
More of a hard-boiled crime story, written and published under the pen name John Swithen in the 1970s, this is the story of a crook getting revenge on the death of his friend after a botched caper.

“The Doctor’s Case”
A Sherlock Holmes mystery written for the 1987 collection The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, this one finds the legendary detective’s investigation into the murder of a sadistic British lord waylayed by a bunch of cats.

“Umney’s Last Case”
A 1930s Raymond Chandler-style private investigator has a very, very bad day.

“Head Down”
This is a non-fiction essay about Stephen King’s son Owen’s little league baseball team.

“Brooklyn August”
Another baseball-themed piece, this one a poem that waxes nostalgic for the so-called American national pastime.

“The Beggar and the Diamond”
Kind of a re-telling of an old Hindu parable, a beggar is kind of down about his situation in life, when he happens upon a shiny object that changes his life.

Overall, Nightmares & Dreamscapes is a rather decent collection. It showcases King’s ability to write beyond the label of “horror fiction”; and while that dark undertone of personality is always there, it just serves as a flavoring for the stories, no matter what kind is being written about. Fortunately, for all of you dark fantasy horror types, the stories are mostly of that variety. Maybe pick up a good mass market paperback of this and enjoy.

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