If It Bleeds - book cover
  • Publisher : Scribner
  • Published : 01 Jun 2021
  • Pages : 448
  • ISBN-10 : 1982137983
  • ISBN-13 : 9781982137984
  • Language : English

If It Bleeds


From the legendary storyteller and master of short fiction Stephen King comes an extraordinary collection of four new "exceptionally compelling novellas that reaffirm [King's] mastery of the form" (The Washington Post).

Readers adore Stephen King's novels, and his novellas are their own dark treat, briefer but just as impactful and enduring as his longer fiction. Many of his novellas have been made into iconic films, including "The Body" (Stand By Me) and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (Shawshank Redemption).

Four brilliant new tales in If It Bleeds are sure to prove as iconic as their predecessors. Once again, King's remarkable range is on full display. In the title story, reader favorite Holly Gibney (from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy and The Outsider) must face her fears, and possibly another outsider-this time on her own. In "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" an intergenerational friendship has a disturbing afterlife. "The Life of Chuck" explores, beautifully, how each of us contains multitudes. And in "Rat," a struggling writer must contend with the darker side of ambition.

If these novellas show King's range, they also prove that certain themes endure. One of King's great concerns is evil, and in If It Bleeds, there's plenty of it. There is also evil's opposite, which in King's fiction often manifests as friendship. Holly is reminded that friendship is not only life-affirming but can be life-saving. Young Craig befriends Mr. Harrigan, and the sweetness of this late-in-life connection is its own reward.

"Exactly what I wanted to read right now," said Ruth Franklin in a rave on the cover of The New York Times Book Review. "Phenomenal," said Brian Truitt in USA TODAY. "King still owns the fright business like none other."

Editorial Reviews

"As classic as [King's] novels are, his shorter fiction has been just as gripping over the years...The true highlight of the collection is the phenomenal ‘The Life of Chuck'...Just when you think things are getting really weird, it all snaps together like an epiphany and you get to the gorgeous meat of the matter...Sure, King still owns the fright business like none other, but the iconic author will keep you up late at night engrossed in four tales about our dreams and our frailties."
-Brian Truitt, USA Today

"IF IT BLEEDS contains four new, exceptionally compelling novellas that reaffirm [King's] mastery of the form...the mid-length narrative suits his talents particularly well, permitting a degree of expansiveness while maintaining a controlled, disciplined approach to the material at hand. The results are stories that cover a surprising amount of emotional territory but can still be read in a sitting...a collection filled with startling, sometimes unsettling pleasures. In IF IT BLEEDS, King continues to draw from a rich and varied reservoir of stories. At its best, his work remains deeply empathetic and compulsively readable. May the reservoir never run dry."
-William Sheehan, The Washington Post

"[These stories] - about the seductions and corruptions of technology, the extremes of beauty and depravity in even the most ordinary life, the workings of a universe we can never entirely understand - were somehow exactly what I wanted to read right now... ‘The Life of Chuck' is one of the oddest, most affecting stories I have read in a very long time...As sirens blare outside my Brooklyn window and the headlines grow more apocalyptic by the day, I might start working my way through King's backlist. He's good company in the dark."
-Ruth Franklin, The New York Times Book Review

"While this story collection had been percolating inside of Mr. King for years prior to its release, it is striking - sometimes eerily so - how necessary these stories feel today. 'If It Bleeds' continues the increasingly optimistic bent the author has displayed over the past decade, while still bearing those nightmarish touches at which he excels. When so much is uncertain, there's no small amount of comfort to be found in these tales - and right now, comfort, in whatever form we can find it, is what we all need."
-Wendeline O. Wright, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"There's an oddly meta quality to reading Stephen King's new collection, IF IT BLEEDS, in the era of COVID-19. In addition to the expected supernatural horror themes, the four novellas are undergirded, to great effect, with more earthbound fears: the uncertainty of old age and approach...

Readers Top Reviews

I am a “constant reader” but oh this was soooo disappointing. You knew it was Stephen King writing simply because of the style of writing. To me it felt lazy and sloppy and none of the stories had a satisfying ending either. Still my favourite author though :)
On paper this collection sounded great. Unfortunely this was not the case. Maybe SK sees something we can't but Holly Gibney has run her course - my fear been we haven't seen the last of her. If It Bleeds is at best a short story but SK stretched it and in my opinion weakened it. The life of Chuck was poor. Period. It made no sense. Mr H's phone, again was poor. Side note: SK needs to work on his endings. Rat was the best of a bad lot, however, in saying that, the idea was there but the execution was poor. Would a publisher publish this if SK didnt write this? I doubt it. On a seperate note, I think we ( the constant readers) can all agree we're sick of SK's snarky political commentary and personal views seeping into his stories. We get it - you hate Trump. But guess what, voting Trump or anyone else for that matter doesnt entitle you to berate them at every turn. Its been almost four years - get over it. In fact, close your twitter account and put a little effort into your writing!
Disclaimer- Stephen King is, and has been for 30 plus years remained one of my top three writers, I pre-ordered this as soon as it became available, devoured it in a day and would read the man's shopping list if he published it. So some biais may be in play and no spoilers. If It Bleeds is a collection of four novellas. I'll put it up front, for me, it isn't up there with Different Seasons, but I enjoyed it more than Four Past Midnight - both previous quartets. First and foremost King's writing seems as effortless as always and the comfort from settling down with any new King book is one of life's pleasures for me. Going through the stories briefly - Mr Harrigan's Phone is one of those King tales about a young boy on the cusp of growing up and is as much about him as it is about the hook of the tale. Here that hook is a mobile phone given to an elderly, wealthy and somewhat eccentric man the boy reads to. It's a cross between a Twilight Zone episode and that old song Hello, This is Joanie. It's fun, creepy and, one of those King stories where no explanation or resolution is given for what occurs. The Life of Chuck - the most 'experimental' of the four stories: a life told in reverse. King explains he wrote the three acts as separate vignettes originally and then put them together. It is for the most part a slice of life. A 'straight' fictional narrative about an every man, with a sprinkling of 'strange' over it. I didn't quite get the 'strange', I'll have to admit, and in his afterword King seems to say that he doesn't really expect everyone to. The character descriptions are vintage King - small sketches of multiple players that are fascinating to read. As a bizarre reference the background coda reminded me of an '80s movie The Coca Cola Kid - you're reading/ seeing a straight forward story, then there's something much bigger at play. No spoilers though. If It Bleeds- a sequel to The Outsider and featuring Holly Gibney, a character who featured in both that, and the Bill Hodges story. This is definitely sequel material to the former more than the latter and is the right length: I'm glad it appeared in this format and not a full length novel: it's strong here, as a novel it would have been a bit too similar to its' predecessor. For those who read the Hodges series the cast will be familiar, and it's nice to see the Holly character developed some more: she definitely deserves a novel, and hopefully this is a precursor to it. Lastly, The Rat - and we're in more familiar King territory: a writer retreats to his dead father's cabin to try and write a book. Isolated, with a storm coming in and a cold or something worse coming on. There are similarities between the first and last stories - both a touch of Monkey's Paw/ pact about them. It's probably the case that both could have been written as much shorter stories in terms of the...
I thought I would give Stephen King one more chance...now I wish I had saved my money and time. Nothing memorable about any of these stories...one dimensional characters and inane plot devices. Nothing interesting or original here. There was no need for them to be novellas; that only happened due to lots of padding and repetition on King's part. They are most definitely not in the same room with scary, eerie or even suspenseful. Shame on his editor for letting him get away with such banal writing, and shame on the "professional" book reviewers who lauded this nonsense and tricked buyers into handing over their hard earned cash. I suspect these are old stories that King started & then shoved in a drawer somewhere...and rightly so...they should have been left there. He clearly tried to change parts of at least 2 or 3 stories to modernize them, and my only enjoyment while slogging through these awful stories, was in identifying those sections that were overlooked when he (or his assistant) attempted to update these stinkers.
A cell phone, a rat and a legend in his own mind (kind of like the author these days) don’t add up to much worth reading. There is nothing really scary in any of these 3 stories There are obligatory digs at the president in all 4 stories; I guess he’s just rattling around in the authors head driving him crazy. There is a good preview of what might be season two of “The Outsider“ in another Holly Gibney story. Unfortunately there is now quite a difference between the written character and the character as portrayed on the HBO series. I prefer the character as portrayed on the TV series although I did enjoy this story which is the only thing which saved the book from a 2 star review.

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