A Thrilling Anthology of Horrifying Human Experiences
Stephen King brings the familiar style that readers have grown to love back in this horror anthology series If It Bleeds (2020). With four short novellas that offer horrifying experiences humans could and might go through and, at times, surprisingly loving and tender moments. Over his fifty year career of horror writing, Stephen King has come to perfect the novella style, giving it a twist of his own like no previous horror novelist. If It Bleeds packs together vintage King horror themes with their own strangely unsettling twists that will leave any reader satisfied yet wanting more.
The anthology series starts off with the novella “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” set in classic King horror territory, bringing together gothic horror elements with unsettling ghosts, and the fear of the unknown through technology. The fascination of revenge beyond the grave is brought to life in this novella, along with the intense human curiosity of what lies beyond death, Old Testament justice, and fears of advancing technology. It is a classic tale of punishing wrongdoers and rewarding kindness. While it isn’t specifically scary at any time, it brings a lurking feeling in the reader that cannot be shook, even at the end. The ghostly aspect of the story is a distraction from the real danger that King presents to the readers, the dangers of technology and humanity’s dependence on it. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” at times can bring about great sadness and empathy within the reader, which King twists into a sense of wanting justice to be served, the main premise of this story. It does not disappoint, and starts off the series strong, allowing the reader to deeply invest themselves into the series .
The next novella in If It Bleeds is the story “The Life Of Chuck,” which is by far the strangest story in the entire series. While at times “The Life of Chuck,” can be difficult to follow due to the sense of incoherence in the writing, which is intended by King, it seems to also be the most touching story in the series. Written from the end to the beginning of Chuck’s life, the reader gets attached in a different way, knowing the unfortunate outcome of the characters’ lives throughout the story, but learning about their development and growth knowing their fates. The novella is written in three different acts, with the first and last being heavily based on fantasy and the supernatural, with ghosts and haunted houses. The second part mainly focuses on the aspect of human empathy and tenderness. King brings these two aspects together in a unique yet familiar story just investing the readers even more.
The third novella is the star of the show, titled the same as the anthology series. “If It Bleeds,” is a sequel in a sense to The Outsider (2018), which was also developed into an HBO mini series. “If It Bleeds” follows private investigator Holly Gibney, first introduced in the Bill Hodges novels, starts off with a bang, literally, as she watches coverage of a bomb attack on a middle school. Something strikes her as odd about the reporter covering the event, which causes her to do some digging into his background. Shockingly she discovers something sinister while researching the reporter leaving a suspenseful feeling in the reader throughout the story. King brings together modern technology through intense forensic science and classic horror tropes for a uniquely peculiar reading experience, even if it might feel familiar to those who read previous King novels.
The last novella in the series, “Rat,” also returns to familiar King territory, reintroducing the character Drew Larson. Drew, an aspiring author who is not very good at his craft, comes up with an idea one day that sends him into a spiral. Any author knows that an idea can send one’s self into absolute madness, isolation, and self destruction. Drew is also literally trapped away in a cabin due to an intense winter storm. In his time at the cabin, Drew encounters a rat that seemingly talks to him. “Rat,” while mainly witty, at times forces the reader to confront the questions of personal success, financial gains, and the price we’re willing to pay for them. “Rat” finishes off the series with a lighthearted energy, something King is always spot on for.
If It Bleeds is a wonderful anthology series written by Stephen King, who has yet to disappoint readers and does not in this book. Each novella, while familiar, has its own unique twist that is unsettling, yet satisfying. It will not disappoint and will satiate one’s need for a King novel without the time investment. If It Bleeds can be bought at WalMart or on Amazon.
If It Bleeds (2020) Official Trailer