Book Review: FOUR PAST MIDNIGHTStephen King
Viking / Signet

You are strapped in an airline seat on a flight beyond hell. You are forced into a hunt for the most horrifying secret a small town ever hid. You are trapped in the demonic depths of a writer’s worst nightmare. You are focusing in on a beast bent on shredding your sanity. You are in the hands of Stephen King at his mind-blowing best with an extraordinary quartet of full-length novellas guaranteed to set your heart-stopwatch at- FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT.

Four Past Midnight is the second collection of novellas written by Stephen King. Novellas are an interesting thing, really; they’re too long to be considered “short stories”, but not enough of a word count to be considered full-length novels. Though you could probably argue what exactly constitutes a “full length novel”, the point is we have another bunch of Stephen King stories to look at.

Like the Different Seasons collection (and to a certain point, The Bachman Books), Four Past Midnight has four separate novellas written for this collection. Unlike Different Seasons, though, the stories here are all uniformily of the horror/supernatural variety, all designed to give you some spine-tingling sleepless nights. Well, attempt to, anyway. Not that I’m knocking the quality of the stories…well, let’s take a look at what’s inside, shall we?

“The Langoliers”
Ten passengers on a red-eye flight wake up to find that they somehow slipped through a tear in the space-time continuum maybe a split-second or so after normal reality, and try to find a way back to said normal reality before the After-Reality cleanup crew arrives…before everyone goes stark-raving mad, that is…

“Secret Window, Secret Garden”
Kind of a companion piece to the previous novel The Dark Half, a writer is confronted by a rather angry guy from Mississippi claiming he had plagerized his story…only, it turns out to be a bit more complicated than that…

“The Library Policeman”
Sam Peebles has a phobia about public libraries. This is compounded when he has to go to one to check out a couple of books on speech writing, and discovers the new librarian has this thing about feeding on the fear of children…

“Sun Dog”
Fifteen-year-old Kevin Delevan receives a Polaroid Sun 660 instant camera for his birthday, only to discover that it has a glitch of some sort: it only produces picturs of a vicious looking black dog that seems to be trying to break out and do some damage…and Kevin can’t seem to stop taking pictures…

I received my copy of Four Past Midnight as a Christmas gift in 1990, while it was still just a hardback in stores. And despite the length, and the fact that I was only 17 at the time, I read that thing in less than a week. I probably would have read it in less time than that, had I not have to read it around my usual high school work and farm life business. Point is, I more or less devoured it, and the stories still have stuck with me decades later. In case you’re wondering, yes, I have seen the movie versions of both “The Langoliers” and “Secret Window, Secret Garden”, and I’m glad I read them long before I watched them, as the stories are the top two favorites in this collection for me. “The Library Policeman” falls on the “more bizarre but still interesting” side of things (“Chow-de-dow”?), while “Sun Dog” once again takes a bit of harmless nostalgia and makes you afraid of it. Also, it’s the second-to-last Castle Rock story, so there’s that.

Anyway, I rather enjoyed reading this back in the day. I recommend picking it up, as I think it falls in that period where Stephen King was sobering up and getting back to his stride.