Four Past Midnight joins Stephen King’s other novella collections, Different Seasons and Hearts in Atlantis, the latter of which houses only two novellas and one short story. Midnight contains four novellas that range from the extremely bizarre to examinations of the human psyche.
The first novella, The Langoliers, tests the limits of reality for even a seasoned King reader. When a red-eye flight passes through a vortex, only the sleeping passengers remain on board. As the remaining passengers attempt to figure out what happened, they soon realize that they must not only find a suitable place to land the plane (a task proven more difficult once one passes through a vortex, apparently), but must also fight to get back home before time literally runs out.
Secret Window, Secret Garden tests not the theories of time travel, but how far the human mind can descend into darkness. The inspiration for the Johnny Depp film, Secret Window, the novella follows the exploits of author Mort Rainey. After Mort is visited by a mysterious man who claims to have written one of Rainey’s novels, Mort’s life enters a rollercoaster of events that test his own personal truths.
The third novella, The Library Police, takes the silly and turns it into a terrifying question: what if there was a real price to pay for those overdue and lost books. King barely pulls this one off, but there is a payoff in the end and, of course, the reader is left with a moral warning regarding library debt.
Four Past Midnight’s final novella, The Sun Dog, takes its cue from the classic Twilight Zone stories of Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling. When a young boy receives a Polaroid Camera for his birthday, he discovers that the camera has a mind of its own, taking photographs of a similar event that the camera wants the young boy to see.
This collection of novellas truly illustrates King’s love of classic science fiction, testing the bounds of reality and giving the reader something to think about once the book is set aside. In true King fashion, the novellas within Four Past Midnight take the mundane and make them extraordinary; though perhaps not in the way you would prefer them.
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