Although Stephen King’s tales are the stuff of which myth is made, they are not written for an assumed posterity. They are contemporary, with frequent references to products, events, and current attitudes toward life and social events. Indeed, this fascination with the contemporary marks the King’s fiction and separates it from the traditional tale of horror. His stories are seldom of exotic places and remote times. His style is not that of Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft but of a local newspaper columnist. In fact, King is not a stylist but a storyteller, a storyteller who does not underline his art.
The unassuming art of Stephen King is, however, both various and quite effective in this collection, as are his preoccupations, which include the threat of danger to children, the horror that lurks in the ordinary person or object, and the fear and distrust of authority. King’s protagonists, who often become heroes, are seldom extraordinary people, but they are people who must face extraordinary threats.
In “The Mist,” an inexplicable mist drifts across the land bringing creatures from another dimension. Trapped in a supermarket, David Drayton and his son Billy must quickly adjust to this new world and learn to survive or try to survive. In “Here There Be Tygers,” a mysterious tiger appears in a first-grade washroom to dispose of a disbelieving teacher.
In “The Monkey,” a windup toy monkey that claps tiny cymbals together returns repeatedly to bring death and haunt Hal Shelburn. Though gripped by fear, Shelburn manages to deal with the toy and save his younger son, Petey. The pattern continues throughout the stories. An ordinary object or situation is quickly transformed into a metaphoric tale of fear and threat. Four college students out for a morning swim find themselves trapped on a raft by a mysterious flesh-consuming blob that eventually destroys them in “The Raft"; a man who is unhappy with his nagging wife and worthless son is left a makeshift word processor by his dead nephew, and the magical processor allows him to wipe out his wife and son and get ideal replacements in “The Word Processor of the Gods.”
The quality of the stories varies, as might well be expected in tales written over a period of seventeen years. Yet the voice of Stephen King is present throughout. With its mistakes, inconsistencies, and lapses, King’s narrative voice is a distinctive one, that of a storyteller who has so many stories he can barely get them out.