Written By: Stephen King
Narrated By: Ken Howard, Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Tim Sample
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Date: January 2016
Duration: 29 hours 41 minutes
Four Past Midnight is a collection of novellas written by Stephen King in 1988 and 1989 and published in August 1990. It is his second book of this type, the first one being Different Seasons. The collection won the Bram Stoker Award in 1990 for Best Collection and was nominated for a Locus Award in 1991. In the introduction, King says that, while a collection of four novellas like Different Seasons, this book is more strictly horror with elements of the supernatural.
Four Past Midnight Audiobook Summary
Includes the story “The Sun Dog”—set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine
The Bram Stoker Prize-winner for Best Fiction Collection—four chilling novellas from Stephen King that will “grab you and not let go” (The Washington Post).
With the success of the Hulu series 11/22/63 starring James Franco and the highly anticipated The Dark Tower movie release, Stephen King’s brand is stronger than ever. This collection, nominated for a Locus Award, is guaranteed to keep readers awake long after bedtime, and features an introduction and prefatory notes to each novella by the author. “Stephen King is a master storyteller, and you will never forget these stories,” raves the Seattle Times about Four Past Midnight.
One Past Midnight: “The Langoliers” takes a red-eye flight from LA to Boston into a most unfriendly sky. Only eleven passengers survive, but landing in an eerily empty world makes them wish they hadn’t. Something’s waiting for them, you see.
Two Past Midnight: “Secret Window, Secret Garden” enters the suddenly strange life of writer Mort Rainey, recently divorced, depressed, and alone on the shore of Tashmore Lake. Alone, that is, until a figure named John Shooter arrives, pointing an accusing finger.
Three Past Midnight: “The Library Policeman” is set in Junction City, Iowa, an unlikely place for evil to be hiding. But for small businessman Sam Peebles, who thinks he may be losing his mind, another enemy is hiding there as well—the truth. If he can find it in time, he might stand a chance.
Four Past Midnight: “The Sun Dog,” a menacing black dog, appears in every Polaroid picture that fifteen-year-old Kevin Delevan takes with his new camera, beckoning him to the supernatural. Old Pop Merrill, Castle Rock’s sharpest trader, aims to exploit The Sun Dog for profit, but this creature that shouldn’t exist at all, is a very dangerous investment.
Four Past Midnight Audiobook Reviews
At first glance, Four Past Midnight looks a bit on the intimidating side. Weighing in at a formidable 935 pages (the Trade Paperback format, which is the one I purchased), it’s a ponderous tome that will take you a while to get through.
Some readers consider Four Past Midnight a “short story compilation”, and throw it the same category as Stephen King’s more famous collections like Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, and Nightmares & Dreamscapes. And while Four Past Midnight IS a collection of sorts, I don’t personally put it in the same category as the aforementioned titles. Because the four “stories” in this collection aren’t stories, as much as they are short novels. Or, more appropriately, they are novellas.
Generally, when someone is reading a review on a book that is composed of a sum of smaller works, they don’t want a full review of EVERY single story in the collection, but Four Past Midnight only has four stories in it, so I don’t think that a brief critique of each novella is pushing the envelope. And I don’t have anything negative to say about any of them, because they were all fantastic yarns that showcase Stephen King’s mastery of the horror/suspense genre. That being said, I DID like some more than others.
The novellas contained in this volume are as follows: The Langoliers comes first (this was my least favorite of the four), followed by Secret Window, Secret Garden, (this was adapted to the big screen in the Johnny Depp film Secret Window), after which we get The Library Police (this one was so freaking BIZARRE that it ended up growing on me to the point where it became my second favorite of the collection), and bringing up the rearguard is my personal favorite, The Sun Dog, which is kind of a prequel to the disturbing Needful Things, but even subtracting that fact from the equation, the story is good enough to stand on its own merits, because it’s just a good read.
The Langoliers was a good read, don’t get me wrong, and I enjoyed it. It takes place mostly on an airplane, and for some reason I had concocted this idea in my head that it was going to be like that last vignette of the Twilight Zone Movie, with John Lithgow, from the 1980’s, where he sees that demon on the wing of the plane and goes crazy trying to tell everyone about it, and they don’t believe him. In reality, The Langoliers is NOTHING like that. So that’s probably part of the reason I didn’t like it as much as the others. Part, but not all. One of the things I have come to really love about Stephen King is his ability to craft characters in his stories that are both LIKEABLE and MEMORABLE. The characters in this particular story didn’t really grow on me, with the exception of the British gentleman who’s a passenger on the plane, Nick is his name. The others didn’t really leave any impact on me, and I didn’t really feel any emotion about them, one way or the other. The premise of the story was cool, interesting, even, but the premise wasn’t enough to sell me on the Langoliers completely. But, all of that being said, it was still a very good read for me.
Secret Window, Secret Garden, is an interesting tale. It takes place in a remote cabin in the woods for its majority, and the main character is a fellow by the name of Mort Rainey. He’s an author, and also going through the healing process after a split with his wife. Not to mention he has a fellow named John Shooter harassing him about a story that Shooter claims Rainey plagiarized from him and passed it off as his own. This was a bizarre novella, and pretty freaking disturbing to boot. I enjoyed it, and it positively oozes Stephen King, not just because the main character is an author, either. I don’t want to give it away, but suffice it to say that the ending is pretty interesting.
The third story, entitled The Library Police, is such a strange concept that I ended up liking it, at first, chiefly due to the fact that it was unlike anything I’d ever read in the past, from Stephen King, or anyone, for that matter. It’s about a guy who checks out a couple of books from the local library, and he ends up misplacing, or losing them. And it ends up becoming a supernatural confrontation with the Librarian, who, as you might guess, is not what she appears to be. There’s other factors at play in this one, but, again, I don’t want to give it away. While the originality of The Library Police was what initially piqued my interest, Stephen King’s ability to tell a story and manufacture characters that tug at your emotions ended up taking centerstage for the final half of this novella.
Onto the final act, and, in my opinion, the Master of Horror saved the best for last.
The Sun Dog is a VERY good novel. I really felt that frenzied compulsion to read more, and see how the themes of greed and guilt manifest in this very disquieting tale about a boy who gets an old polaroid camera as a gift, and no matter what he takes a picture of, the picture that the camera spits out displays a dog that gets closer and closer to the field of view, every single time. This book deals with concepts of greed, guilt, and, to some degree, religion, and it’s genuinely disquieting and unsettling, which is something that very few authors can really pull off with the degree of success that Stephen King does. The Sun Dog is also considered to be a prequel of sorts to what, at the time, was supposed to be the “Last Castle Rock Story”, which, of course, would be Needful Things. I thought it was very appropriate to see the character of Pop Merrill’s descent into madness, after actively trying to exploit a totally innocent teenager and his father. Obviously, this is a work of fiction, and not real-life. That being said, Pop Merrill’s dishonest character & blatantly chauvinistic personality eventually catches up to him, and it was nice to see Kevin & his father eventually become wise to Merrill’s shenanigans.
All in all, Four Past Midnight falls just short of perfection, primarily for the reason (for me, at least), of The Langoliers being not-as-great as the other three novellas. That being said, it’s still a FANTASTIC piece of literature.
I hope you gained some insight on Four Past Midnight after reading this review, and found it to be useful, relevant information. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! Thank you, as always, for your time.
Listen To Four Past Midnight Audiobook
Upon its release, Michael A. Morrison in Washington Post called the collection “exceptionally well crafted” with the exception of Sun Dog, praising King’s “unexpected similes” and his use of “dreams to reveal character”. Robert Chatain called it possibly King’s best book and “a serious, heavyweight effort”, characterising the tales as “rich” as well as “fast, tricky, even perverse, like carnival rides that look easy from the ground but turn unexpectedly nasty and vertiginous when we’re up in the air”.
However, Josh Rubins in Entertainment Weekly graded the anthology a “C+” and considered it formulaic with “enthusiasm” and contemporary setting. Rubins compared a novella “The Langoliers” to—quoting characters of the novella—a “stupid disaster [movie]” and a “bad [television] movie.” He found “Secret Window, Secret Garden” bearably suspenseful with a “gimmicky, least convincing [finale].” He called “The Sun Dog” the “simplest, most distinctive story” and praised it as mostly “a delicious black comedy.” Andy Solomon in The New York Times commented that King’s mass appeal comes “ironically from his cliched diction,” referring to the anthology’s reliance on popular culture for descriptions.
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