Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

Skeleton Crew cover artTitle: Skeleton Crew

Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Signet
ISBN:0451168615

Publication Date: 1986

Skeleton Crew is a collection of 22 stories.  Most are short stories, with the exception of 2 poems and the novella, “The Mist.”  Like most collections, some of the book’s stories are better than others, two of which have been translated to film.

Aside from the Introduction, the book begins with “The Mist“.  This novella is the whole reason I picked up this book.  It has been recently made into a movie, also titled “The Mist.”  In my opinion, with the exception a few other entries, this is the only story that is worth reading in this book.  Since the movie’s release, “The Mist” is now in print as a stand alone novel. 

This story begins in the aftermath of a hundred-year storm that has left residents without power and a hefty chore of cleaning up.  Steff Drayton asks her husband, David, to run into town to get a few items on her grocery list.  David takes his son, Billy, with him along with his neighbor, Brent Norton, with whom he had had a recent court case that left both men with hard feelings toward one another.  As he gets ready to take off, Drayton takes one last look out on the lake where a bizarre mist has been rolling in from the direction of a nearby military base.

In town, the three enter the Federal Foods Supermarket.  But before they can get their shopping done, all Hell breaks loose… literally.  Stuck inside the store with several area residents and summer tourists, Drayton fights to keep his son and fellow shoppers calm and safe while huge tentacled beasts, ginormous flying bugs and spiders, and pteradactyl-type monsters loom on the other side of the Federal Food’s plate glass windows. 

While beasties troll outside, the breakdown of society occurs inside when Mrs. Carmody, area mystic and resident crackpot, begins spewing Apocalyptic references and claims only the human sacrifice of little, innocent Billy will keep them safe.  Drayton and a handful of others realize it’s no more safe inside than out, and decide to make a daring escape.  But is there any world left out there to go to?

The Monkey is another worthy-to-read story.  It is about a small boy finding a toy monkey that claps the cymbals permanently attatched to his simean paws when wound.  But when he winds it, he discovers it doesn’t work.  Later, when it spontaneously claps and chirps to life, young Hal is frightened.  But when he finds out that, at the exact moment it began to play, his babysitter died, he becomes terrified and throws it back in the closet.  But the monkey likes Hal.  He wants to stay with Hal.  The monkey refuses to stay gone, even after he’s given to the junk man and later thrown down a well, all the while clapping his symbols and taking lives, just to return, once more, to the boy he stalks.   I will never buy one of these monkies after reading this… never ever ever!

The second story that was turned into movie magic is The Raft; it was one of the segment stories  in the second Creepshow movie.  I still remember, to this day, this one scared the bejesus out of me.  I went to summer camp, which had the wooden deck floating in the middle of the pond, just like in the story.  I was so excited when I came across the written story in this book.  Basically, it’s the story of 2 couples, over-sexed college students, who decide to take a forbidden swim in the lakem which is closed for the season.  As their swimming out to the anchored deck, what appears to be an oil slick begins to float towards them.  It is no oil slick… it is some bizarre carnivorous floating monster, stalking the lovers like prey.

Other stories worth honorable mention are: Mrs. Todd’s Shorcut (her obsession with finding the fastest shortcut would stymie Einstein), The Jaunt (you can teleport to Mars, just don’t do it conscious).

Paranoid:  A Chant is actually a poem, but I thought it was pretty cool.  So I will end this review with a quote from it:

“Last night a dark man with no face crawled through nine miles

of sewer to surface in my toilet, listening

For phone calls through the cheep wood with

chrome ears.I tell you, man, I hear.”

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