Saturday, February 20, 2016

Just a taste

I'm always perplexed when I discover a Stephen King book that I've not yet read. When I was in high school I pretty much caught up on everything he'd written from Carrie to Cell so I feel like I've read everything but I keep forgetting that the man is a bloody machine and will just keep pumping out two books a year with occasional additional collections of shorts or novellas.

He's also had a habit in the last ten years or so of releasing off-genre pulp novels and shorts through an imprint that seems never to make it to the endcaps in bookstores, so I never end up finding these until they pop up as recommendations on Amazon. Goodreads helps - they have their nice little monthly flier about new works by authors you've read in the past - so hopefully I'll be able to keep up more in the future.

Anyway, Blockade Billy is a tiny little book made up of two non-horror novellas. The titular short is abut a ballplayer with a shocking secret. "Morality" is a short that covers the well-covered question of whether accepting money for doing something awful will turn you into an awful person.

"Blockade Billy" is interesting - it's a bit spooky and feels like a King story in the atmosphere and character development even if it isn't really a horror story. The characters are fun to get to know, the narrative is nicely constructed, and overall it's a good way to sit down and spend an hour disappearing into some fiction.

"Morality" is regrettably cliche - it's basically a rebranding of The Box mixed in with Indecent Proposal and watches the dissolution of a marriage over a husband and wife team committing a crime that is bad but not heinous for a $200K paycheck and not being able to cope with the guilt. It feels somewhat lazy and is incredibly predictable - I don't regret reading it, really, but there's no reason for me to ever read it again.

I do sort of wish this had been a larger collection though; I feel like with another couple of stories Blockade Billy easily could have fit in with Everything's Eventual or Different Seasons as a solid collection of shorts. And I like short collections because they're a good way to introduce new readers to an author or to participate in that author's worldview without having to dive headfirst into a novel. As it stands this double feature isn't quite enough to sink into. I enjoyed it but it was over much too fast.

King, Stephen. Blockade Billy. Scribner. New York: New York. 2010.

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