Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton) 2015, 483pp, RRP $32.99

The ludicrously prolific King’s latest (he seems to knock off a bestseller over a weekend these days!) is a bumper collection of short stories, some of which have been published previously (the biting Morality, the baseball-themed Blockade Billy) and all of which demonstrate his surprising humanism.The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams - Stephen King - Hachette - The Clothesline

The first tale, Mile 81, is a killer-car epic complete with a cheeky reference to director John Carpenter’s filming of King’s novel Christine, and while there are darker fantasy pieces here, the expected full-blooded scary stuff doesn’t quite eventuate, with even Bad Little Kid and The Little Green God Of Agony being more about guilt, fear and pain than full-throttle supernatural terrors.

And as Stephen pushes 70, he’s also delving further into issues of old age, death and all of those big cosmic questions, and these underpin stories like The Dune, Afterlife and Mister Yummy, but there’s also plenty of playfulness here too, with Ur, a near-novella written to help publicise Amazon’s first Kindles, turning out to be a page-turning suspense saga about a mysterious pink Kindle that can do unexpected things. And did Amazon appreciate how their hot new product was so mocked and demonised?

The final outing, Summer Thunder, wraps everything up with a haunting tale of a handful of characters waiting to die after nuclear war decimates the planet, but surely the most moving piece here is the cryptically-titled Herman Wouk Is Still Alive, which shows how the tragedy of real people and the pain of everyday life is far more devastating than cheesy fake horrors.

Dave Bradley

The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams is now available through the Hachette website. Click HERE to purchase your copy.

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