If It Bleeds by Stephen King

There's no denying the fact that I'm a Stephen King fan. Be it his doorstop sized horror novels or the crime novels he's turned to more recently, I always look forward to reading his writing. He has the ability to suck the reader into a story and connect with characters in a way few other authors do. All that being said, I've never read his collections of short stories or novellas. Sure, I've enjoyed his shorter works like Elevation and Joyland, but I've yet to cross paths with any of his collections. Enter his latest release If It Bleeds. This collection of 4 novellas was the perfect excuse to explore a new to me side of King's writing.

Mr. Harrington's Phone sees King flashback to 2007, the year the iPhone was released. This one reads like something from The Twilight Zone! A young boy, Craig, is encouraged to read at church and catches the attention of the local billionaire Mr. Harrington. The elderly Harrington is in the twilight of his investment career and is losing is eyesight. For a few bucks each day, Craig reads to the man each day. Harrington also gifts the boy scratch-off lottery tickets. When Craig strikes it big (a couple thousand bucks) he buys an iPhone for himself and another for Harrington. This opens up a new world for the man, foreshadowing the way technology would impact the lives of many. When Harrington dies, the boy places the iPhone in the casket with him. Days later and really missing his mentor and friend, the boy decides to call Harrington's phone. Unsurprisingly, the call goes to voicemail. When the boy texts him, though, he is shocked to receive an answer!

The Life of Chuck is Kings most ambitious entry to the collection. Told in three acts going in reverse, it teases the end times and focuses on the life of Chuck Krantz. The earth is being ravaged by extreme weather and the failure of the grid. Advertisements line the streets with the strange message "39 great years! Thanks, Chuck!" Told backward, King answers the questions of the reader just as each act gets to a peak. While I enjoyed the structural ingenuity of this one, I felt like it was the weakest of the bunch.

The titular novella If It Bleeds is worth the price of admission alone. It sees the return of King's go-to hero of the last several years, Holly Gibney. This is the same socially awkward private detective from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy and The Outsider. If you haven't read either of those books, you might be better off skipping this story for now. There are spoilers aplenty about the ends of both of those narratives, so consider yourself warned. This novella sees Gibney face the kind of monster she thought she was rid of in The Outsider. This one feeds on the suffering and grief of others and takes the form of a news reporter to satisfy its hunger. This is easily the best entry in the entire book. I loved being able to revisit the characters from the previous novels, and I thought King did an excellent job of expanding the mythos of the monster he created in The Outsider. King seems to love writing about this character. If every work featuring her is this strong, I say bring them on!

If Mr. Harrington's Phone was like an episode from The Twilight Zone, then the final entry Rat is more like something from Tales from the Crypt. It tells the story of author Drew Larson and his obsession with trying to write a novel. You see, Drew has been acclaimed for his short stories, but attempting a novel-length work always ends in the kind of mental breakdown that causes him to rethink his entire life. But now he has an idea for a new novel. The kind of work that could really put him on the map. Drew convinces his wife to allow him to travel to his father's isolated cabin to write the book. At first, the words come easily, but then the familiar downward spiral begins. In a last-ditch effort to save the book and finally finish a novel, Drew makes a dark deal with a rat in exchange for finishing the novel and then...well you'll just have to read to find out!

If It Bleed is yet another solid piece of writing from the famed Stephen King. I found three out of the four stories to be completely engaging and inventive. The really great thing about this book is that it shows a variety of the kind of books King can write. You've got the moral fable of Mr. Harrington's Phone, the formal inventiveness of The Life of Chuck, the hard-boiled mystery tinged with the supernatural of If It Bleeds, and the pure psychological horror of a classic King novel in Rat. As with any collection that features different styles throughout, your mileage may vary with some of these, but I think they are all worth a read. I can finally check off a Stephen King story collection from my list, and I'm happy that If It Bleeds was the one I chose to read.

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
(2020, 21)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

40 Responses to “If It Bleeds by Stephen King”

  1. I had a blast with these and I am glad to read your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's been a long time since I've read anything from Stephen King but I always enjoyed his short story collections. Mr. Harrington's Phone really piques my interest.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm not a big fan of novellas, unless they're written by Stephen King. He's such a good writer, I enjoy most of what he writes. Though I was a bit disappointed by The Tommyknockers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is one of his that I haven't read yet. It just got pushed down a few spots on my King TBR list lol

      Delete
  4. Oh! This might be a great way for me to get back to reading King. I used to read his novels a lot years ago but I'm not in the head space for something long or dense.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    ReplyDelete
  5. I used to be a big King fan, but I'm too wimpy to read him now. His books always suck me in, despite being gory and disturbing, so I have to avoid him these days. Glad you enjoy him, though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you're willing to try one that has no horror whatsoever, I'd recommend his novella ELEVATION.

      Delete
  6. Stephen King isn't for me but I've been seeing this book everywhere! Glad you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is always fun to see book lovers widely share a new book!

      Delete
  7. Great review Ethan. I agree with you re: The Life of Chuck being the weakest entry - and If It Bleeds with Holly the best. But all round five stars. Can't wait to see what he writes next!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm ready for him to dive into a straight ahead horror novel again. It feels like he's been more focussed on crime lately.

      Delete
  8. I've watched a few of his books turned into movies, but I haven't read any Stephen King except for A Good Marriage which was kind of terrifying. I guess they made it into a movie on Amazon Prime and I keep meaning to watch it.

    This sounds like a creepy and fun collection. The description of Mr. Harrington's iPhone gives me chills!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I remember back in the day being a serious fan of all things Stephen King,
    and I had collected all his books, but I have never heard of this one. Glad you enjoyed it, and it's always so fascinating to see that he is still a master of his craft. Hugs, RO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It has been cool to see how his style has changed a bit over the years!

      Delete
  10. I have never heard of this book and I'm ashamed. Me, a HUGE Stephen King Fan... I LOVE his writing style and will definitely add this to my TBR!
    Thanks for pointing this book out ^^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It just came out a couple weeks ago, so you're forgiven for not knowing about it yet.

      Delete
  11. Since I haven't even tried King, then an anthology like this could just do the trick

    ReplyDelete
  12. I do plan to read this one. I am a more recent fan of King's work and really appreciate his ability to tell a story. I haven't read The Outsider or Mr. Mercedes books yet so I may need to wait to read the Holly Gibney story but I feel like I need this one on my shelves. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Ethan!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's a great author to become a fan of. There's so many books to read!

      Delete
  13. I have never read anything by King, as I don't do scary (I have been terrified by his films in my youth), but this sounds like such a treat for fans. There seems to be a bit of variety in the novellas too. Glad it was a winner for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You actually might enjoy some of his novellas. They are less horror and more just good character studies.

      Delete
  14. It's been forever since I've read a Stephen King book.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I need to get to this one. I love Holly and she is one of my favorite Stephen King characters. In fact, when I first heard of this book, I thought it was a novel featuring Holly. Great review and now I'm super excited for this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a great continuation of her story!

      Delete
  16. I've never met a Stephen King book I didn't like. There are still a few I have yet to read, but he is one of my all-time faves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This was another great one!

      Delete
    2. I will definitely keep that in mind. The Shining remains my #1 King book. Staying at the Stanley Hotel solidified that once and for all.

      Delete
    3. I love The Shining too!

      Delete
  17. Always been curious about his writing but I have not read a lot of it. I did read some of his recent work and enjoyed it. Now that I know this is short stories, def looking forward to it more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His short stories are definitely a good place to start and get a taste for his writing.

      Delete
  18. I am ashamed to say that I've not read a single King book though I have been tempted with his mysteries. I blame getting the bejeesus scared out of me as a teenager when Carrie and Cujo were made into movies. This collection sounds neat and especially because it is a variety showing his talents well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His mysteries are a great place to start, especially if you're a bit nervous about his horror stuff. The Mr. Mercedes trilogy is very much worth a read of listen.

      Delete
  19. They've just announced this week that this one will be turned into a movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've read that several of the stories from this one are turning into either movies or tv series!

      Delete

Powered by Blogger.