“Just After Sunset” was released in 2008. This 360 page collection containing 13 stories, had a somewhat depressing tone throughout. I enjoyed it but didn’t love it. It was underwhelming.
This is the first time I have reviewed a story collection. I’m going to go through each story individually, so be prepared for some spoilers, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from reading, they won’t be bad, I promise.
The first story, “Willa,” tells the tale of a group of people waiting in a train station. David realizes his wife, Willa, is missing and decides to leave the station to find her even though the other waiting passengers advise against it. He finds her in a bar with live music.
Throughout David and Willa’s discussion, it is revealed to the reader that they, along with the other passengers waiting at the station, are all dead. Their train derailed, killing everyone, but only a few have accepted the fact that they are ghosts stuck in this station.
“The Gingerbread Girl” is the second story and this one was fun. A woman, grieving after the loss of her infant daughter, leaves her husband and lives alone in Florida. While there and on one of her daily runs, she is abducted by a neighbor. She escapes and is chased by her abductor down the beach. I wont ruin the ending, but this was definitely one of the stronger stories in the collection and it is being adapted into a movie.
Next up is “Harvey’s Dream.” This story was more of a tale of foreshadowing than anything. Harvey has a dream, tells his wife, and then they receive a phone call and, as you would expect, Harvey’s dream came true. It’s a little creepy once you read what his dream was about.
“Rest Stop” followed and this one was okay. A man stops at a rest stop to use the restroom and hears a couple arguing and hears the man begin to harm the woman. Our hero steps in to save the day.
“Stationary Bike” was a very interesting story that fell flatter than the Earth (haha just kidding). This story had so much promise, but the ending sucked, it just didn’t wrap up how you’d want. The concept was very cool, touching on aspects from “Rose Madder” or “Duma Key.”
“The Things They Left Behind” was depressing and creepy as hell. A man who decided to call out of work one day, survives 9/11 because of this decision. About a year later, his coworkers’ possessions start showing up in his apartment and he hears things coming from each one. Creepy and depressing are the best words for this story. It is a good one though.
“Graduation Afternoon” came next, and King stayed with the depressed, destroyed New York theme. A girl is being a loner at a graduation party and watched New York city explode in the distance. The story was alright, but that feeling of dread really hit you.
“N.” was my favorite story in the collection. It was also adapted as a comic by Marvel and in my opinion, it deserves a movie. It was creepy, disturbing, and just great. A man finds a Stonehenge-like stone circle in a field in Maine. Looking upon these stones gives him extreme OCD and makes him believe he must act upon these compulsions to keep demons from escaping the circle.
Each person that sees these stones and becomes infected with the compulsions commits suicide after passing the infection onto someone else. The story is very dark but its fantastic. The comic version had an alternate ending that was extremely disturbing.
Next up was my second favorite, “The Cat from Hell.” This story started out a little slow and strange, but the later half and ending were CRAZY. An old man hires a hitman to kill a cat. The old man tells the hitman about the cat’s history of murdering his family members. The hitman, thinking “this will be the easiest job of my life,” takes the cat, but during the car ride, the cat attacks. This story also appeared in the 1990 film version of the horror anthology series from the 1980’s: “Tales From The Darkside.”
I won’t say anymore because its wild, you have to read it. In the “Sunset Notes” section of the collection, where King talks about why he wrote each story, King says he actually wrote “The Cat from Hell” 30 years ago but never used it in a collection until “Just After Sunset.” The story is definitely different from the others, and I think that 30-year difference is why.
“The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” was next and this one was interesting. A woman receives a call from her husband during his funeral. Yes, you read that right. Her husband is in a building reminiscent of Grand Central station waiting to move on. He tells her a couple premonitions because “time moves differently here.” The story is depressing but has a nice little twist.
“Mute” came next and I really enjoyed this one. A man is in a church confessional telling the pastor about one time he picked up a supposedly def-mute hitchhiker. While driving the man tells the hitchhiker about his cheating wife who is also in trouble with the government for stealing money. Later his wife and her lover turn up dead. Police say the mute hitchhiker is responsible. A very interesting concept and a dark little tale. I liked it.
“Ayana” followed, and this was another interesting one. A family taking care of their terminally ill father are visited by a woman and a young girl, Ayana. Ayana kisses the sickly father and one of the sons and days later the father is no longer dying. The son who received a kiss also, was given a gift. Every now and then, a man visits the son and takes him to hospitals where he must kiss someone else with a terminal illness and save them. This story was mysterious but uplifting, it was enjoyable.
The last story, “A Very Tight Place,” was my third favorite. This story was disgusting but awesome. A man gets locked in an overturned porta-potty by his rival neighbor. I don’t need to say anymore because you can probably smell the fecal matter now. It was so gross to imagine being trapped there, but the story was so good.
Sorry this ended up being long-winded, but it was the best way to show you that the collection as a whole, was underwhelming, but it had some very, very good stories. Overall, I enjoyed it, but of five collections I’ve read, it is number five. I am currently reading the collection “Nightmares & Dreamscapes,” and it is incredible (review coming soon).
Before my rating, I’ll leave you with the last few sentences King uses to close out the collection:
“Take care of yourself… and say! Did you maybe leave the oven on? Or forget to turn off the gas under the patio barbecue? What about the lock on the back door? Did you remember to give it a twist? Things like that are easy to forget, and someone could be slipping in right now. A lunatic, perhaps. One with a knife. So, OCD behavior or not… Better go check, don’t you think?”
Anyway, here is my rating for “Just After Sunset:”