Stephen King’s new short story collection includes several previously-published stories, but also many all-new ones, and most of them are excellent.
When I first saw in reviews for this collection that many of the stories don’t have a supernatural element, I was a bit disappointed, because I’ve always loved King’s tales of things that go bump in the night. However, I found myself being drawn into some of these stories because of the strength of the characterization. Many of King’s novels (Salem’s Lot and Needful Things especially come to mind) are as much about the relationships between the human characters as they are about whatever monster happens to be terrorizing the region. When the monster is taken away, those character interactions can still provide a compelling story. I really enjoyed the stories “A Death,” “Morality,” and “Batman and Robin Have an Altercation” because they made me care about the characters.
That’s not to say that there isn’t excellent supernatural fiction in this book too, because there is. “Obits”, “Bad Little Kid”, and “The Little Green God of Agony” were all chilling, while “The Dune” successfully melded the wondrous and the ominous.
This collection also includes two poems. One is a ghost story about an elephant graveyard, and the other is a poignant tribute to a deceased friend. While I liked the poems that King published in his earlier collection Skeleton Crew, I felt that both of the ones in Bazaar would have flowed better if they’d been in a prose format.
As a general rule, I prefer King’s older novels to his newer ones, but the same isn’t true of his short stories. His short story collections remain consistently excellent, and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams can easily stand alongside Skeleton Crew and Night Shift.