It is one of my customary habits to re-read a number of select books over time, and 'Night Shift' is one of those works I will never be tired of exploring all over again. Before I picked up this incredible anthology of short stories, I had never read any books by Stephen King. However, partly because I had been talked into giving it a go, and because I had read many good reviews about the universally acknowledged 'Master of the Horror Genre', I decided to look into one of his works, relying on the head-ups provided by one of my "Stephen King-fodder" friends.
Comprising a collection of twenty short stories- a genre revalued and championed by Stephen King- 'Night Shift' encompasses a wide range of settings, characters, and situations, interconnected with one another by the author's desire to invite the reader to look at the world he or she lives in as a place in which the most innocuous objects or people might well be a liaison with blood-curling, horrific dimensions. In accordance with the thematic variety of characters, settings and even writing styles, each protagonist penned by the American novelist is far away from the canons of the Gothic horror genre; rather, the concept of the valiant, mighty hero in his perennial struggle with the evil forces, is replaced by that of the ordinary layman who is sometimes prey to paranormal entities that threaten to annihilate him. And these paranormal entities are certainly not witches or werewolves; they are but familiar objects, even appliances. Therefore, in pursuit of what Lovecraft never completed, Stephen King has here accentuated the detachment from the typical horror genre, embracing the "weird tale" whose macabre ramifications stretch far beyond the confines of human comprehension, surpassing the archetypical idea of evil to embrace one whose origins are utterly inexplicable. It is, thus, no wonder that Lovecraftian themes reverberate throughout the epistolary first tale of this anthology 'Salem's Lot' , with a plethora of references to the Cthulhu myth. Subsequently, the ingenious concoction of inexplicability and macabre dominates the entire anthology. As a result, the reader is invited to heed the metamorphoses of "ordinarily" harmful toy soldiers, which in 'Battleground' become the living nightmare of their unsuspecting recipient; or, similarly, the unfortunate teacher haunted by the ghosts of those who slew his younger brother years before in 'Sometimes They Come Back' . However, the aforementioned combination that certainly plays an essential role throughout the anthology is also counter-balanced - and enriched - by the presence of outlandish elements, unlikely situations, and even dramatic events. On the one hand, the addition of these elements amalgamates well with the macabre nature of the collection, such as in 'Children of the Corn', where two stranded travellers find shelter in a desolate Nebraska rural village, only to find out that they will soon become the sacrificial lambs of the children of the village, all members of an unholy cult; on the other hand, the thematic element of the dark tale is sometimes put aside to usher in unlikely situations such as the reversal of roles in 'The Ledge' where a mobster forces the man who crossed him to play Russian roulette, but soon finds himself on the receiving end of his sick game.
If the immense variety of elements makes this collection a must-have for King aficionados, the several nods and links to earlier novels will make it all the more appealing - such as the tale 'One for the Road' which stand as a prospective sequel to the earlier novel 'Salem's Lot' (not to be mistaken for the titularly homonymous tale in this collection that is entirely unrelated to both).