The overall theme of this collection, whether Stephen King realizes it or not, is that lazy little sin we call sloth. If you're a no-account layabout, the Langoliers will come and eat you up. If you're too lazy to write your own material, John Shooter might come calling. Can't be bother to take back that library book? Here comes the Library Policeman to suck you dry. And if you wanna make a fortune not by working but by profiting off other people's misfortune, the Sun dog might make you a Scooby snack.
I do have a personal favorite here, along with a personal story for each of these short novels, but I must ask your pardon, because both shall remain a mystery. Two of these books bring back memories of people whom I'd rather not name. I will be obtuse when mentioning them, perhaps not telling you even as much as their sex. Let the rumor mill run.
The Langoliers - Five stars. Craig Toomy is one of King's classically flawed characters . All too often King writes about over-the-top baddies of both the supernatural and real-world variety. Where Toomy deviates from King's normal build is that you actually feel bad for him. He was a little boy raised by a tyrannical father. Then his over-protective mother stepped in. If there's a recipe to build a sociopath, I don't know a better one. The tale itself is fantastic and fantastical, with a clear theme. Seize the day, or something is liable to run away with it.
Secret Window, Secret Garden - I have a very special memory attached to the movie version of this one. That memory involves activities in a movie theater. I still haven't seen the end of the film adaptation, and I don't plan to. I'd much rather remember what happened in that theater. The book itself is a kind of fraternal twin of The Dark Half. To tell you why would be to spoil the book, and I will not. Suffice it to say that Secret Window, Secret Garden will always be an important story to me and one of King's twistier tales. Five balls of gas for this one, too.
The Library Policeman - This is probably my favorite horror novella from King. It's his creepiest by far, and I believe that the creature herein shares several traits with Derry's infamous dancing clown. The mystery element is handled well, and the denouement is one of King's best. Five easy stars.
The Sun Dog - I was fine until I got to this story. I cannot read or speak about it without crying. The story itself is not a tear jerker (far from it), it's the emotional baggage I carry, events in my life that just happened to go down while I was reading this book for the first time. The Sun Dog is an extended prologue to Needful Things, and if you want to travel down a long and windy road, I suggest starting with The Dark Half, moving to The Sun Dog, and then finally coming to a stop at the end of Needful Things. One helluva journey, if you ask me. (I miss you, my friend. I miss you so fucking much. When these moments pass, I'm good for a while. But when that wound is reopened, I bleed. And, goddamn it, does it hurts.) All the stars.
In summation: To the average reader, this collection might not seem as good as Different Seasons, but to me, it means so much more than the words on the page. And, while I sit here remembering and swiping at my eyes, I'm returned to a time best forgotten. I will always fondly remember the back row of a cinema in Montgomery, Alabama, but I will also forever wish I could have a certain friend back. So there's some pleasure with the pain, and not one without the other.
Final Judgment: Who stole the Kleenex?