Short story collections are often overlooked gems in any bookstore or library. However, unlike CD collections of miscellaneous music selections including two songs you know and a plethora of songs from artists you’ve never heard before, short story collections tend to piece together works from a single author, at least the ones I read.
Two collections, and in turn two books, caught my attention. Being a lover of thrillers and horror novels, I’m always on the lookout for something other than Stephen King. Admittedly, my attention comes from Hollywood adaptations of two of Richard Matheson’s short stories, but once you read these short story collections, you’ll have a new respect for truly good sci-fi, horror, and thriller stories.
The Box: Uncanny Stories (originally titled “Button, Button: Uncanny Stories”)
Uncanny Stories (both under the title “The Box” and “Button, Button”) includes about a dozen short stories published in random science fiction and other magazines by Richard Matheson. Of course, many may know “The Box” (source), the 2009 film starring Cameron Diaz, which is the opening story to the collection by the same name.
Good: Sure, The Box is a good story, but there are others that are equally worthy of being screwed up by Hollywood. “No Such Thing as a Vampire” sets up a husband bent on saving his wife from apparent nightly vampire attacks. “Clothes Make the Man” is just a brilliantly fun story, a sort of spin on the Emperor’s New Clothes story.
Every story has a head-turning twist ending that is absent in so many recent horror and sci-fi pieces. Making Richard Matheson’s stories a breath of fresh air.
Bad: Some of the stories have such a twist ending and end so abruptly that I couldn’t follow what actually happened at the end. These stories don’t rack your brain too much but they certainly beat Stephen King’s collections like “Night Shift”.
“I am Legend and Other Stories”: Also, Richard Matheson. I’ll be honest, I got this book because of “I am Legend” is slated on many top 10 best horror stories of all time. I’m not one for zombie stories, and quite frankly, “I am Legend” starring Will Smith (source) was a complete let down. The story is nothing, I repeat, nothing like the movie.
Good: Matheson makes you think in his “I am Legend” story, grappling with questions of humanity and morals and what makes a human a human. Its much more a “Notes From Underground” than your typical zombie story.
Bad: The half dozen other stories, for the most part, are a major let down after “I am Legend”. They still maintain their twist endings that Matheson is so good at, but are less engaging than “I am Legend”.
If you like Stephen King, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, check Richard Matheson out. There is a reason Hollywood gravitated toward his stories, though Hollywood may have completely misunderstood what Matheson was trying to say. There is also a reason why Stephen King himself has claimed to be heavily influenced by Richard Matheson.