Stephen King, one of the most renowned creators of spine-chilling, eye-widening, ingenious horror novels recently hit the gas pedal with his latest collection: If It Bleeds. This four-novel compilation was released just seven months after The Institute, featuring innocent children being kidnapped and incarcerated, hit the shelves. Similar to many King novels, these four new stories come with four individual realistic possibilities, making the read wickedly entertaining.
King’s novels possess a distinct trademark for being borderline realistic. He often draws inspiration from life experiences and weaves these foundations into a twisted, but possible, story-line. The potential King’s novels have for transforming into physical reality have landed certain parts of many in the real world. With each new novel predicting the future in one way or another, many fans have started to wonder if If It Bleeds has the same realistic potential of It or The Stand.
Shortly after the release of It in theatres, a novel centering around Pennywise, a villainous clown, multiple ‘creepy clown sightings’ were reported throughout the nation. At first, there were records involving rashes of clowns staring down police and pedestrians in public areas such as parks. However, this soon escalated to clowns knocking on doors, tempting children into the woods, and much more in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee among other states.
The Stand, released back in 1978, is probably the most outstanding example of life imitating art due to our current circumstances. The Stand centers around a dystopian society where a virulent virus wipes out all but a fraction of human life. The purpose of constructing such a story was not to captivate readers’ attention with a fear-filled plotline; rather, it was to point out the importance of morality in the context of humanity. King’s main message in this book is centered around the bravery needed to stand up to classic, Darwin-like survival instincts and instead come together in the fight to rebuild democracy from the bottom up.
These are just some examples of King’s published works laying the foundation for multiple conspiracy theories. Some think he is a wizard, others argue he has futuristic visions, and of course there is a Facebook group which believes a fool-proof magic 8 ball exists. Despite all these theories, King believes the only superpower he possesses is the ability to empathize with human society.
“If you tell the truth about the way people behave, sometimes you find out that life really does imitate art,” King said in an interview with the New York Times.
King made it clear in his interview that he derives inspiration from pure observation and a drive to be vocal about certain issues. For example, King said he published The Institute in order to shed light on the fact that defenseless people, specifically children, need a voice and a machiavellian government is unacceptable.
“One of the challenges when you’ve been around as long as I have and you think you’ve explored all the corners of the room, you have to say to yourself, ‘What are the things that really concern me? What are the things that I care about?’” King said in his interview with the New York Times.
King used this same type of inspiration in the construction of If It Bleeds, a four novel compilation each featuring a unique tale.
Book 1, Mr Harrigan’s Phone, involves two main characters: Craig, a curious teenager, and John Harrigan, a retired businessman. When Craig gifts Harrigan a phone, Harrigan initially backs away from the new device but soon becomes obsessed with it. When Harrigan dies, Craig decides to bury the iPhone with him, leading to a mysterious line of communication beyond the grave. This mind-boggling original pulls at the unknown capabilities of technology in addition to strong bonds surpassing barriers such as age.
Book 2, The Life of Chuck, has received the most acclaim. The beginning is very bizarre and because of the book’s setup, the pieces don’t fit together until the very end. The first couple chapters set the scene in a seemingly end-of-the-world type scenario. Among burning buildings and ghost towns King points out that Charles Krantz’s face is plastered on every single smoked billboard with the words “39 great years, thanks Chuck!” The reader is left wondering who Chuck is before the story traces his life from end to beginning. The first and last sections are a bit more supernatural (Chuck grows up in a haunted house) but the middle is unusually heartfelt. King harps on Chuck’s seemingly ordinary life but puts into perspective how important even his is. So important, in fact, that when Chuck dies the world goes up in flames with unbearable loss.
Book 3 takes centerstage with the title If It Bleeds. Playing off the famous newsroom axiom ‘if it bleeds, it leads,’ this story follows Detective Holly Gibney, a character from a previous King novel. Gibney follows the trail of a reporter who is always first on scenes of the most horrific news stories (bombings, shootings, etc). Gibney suspects this is no coincidence and starts an investigation. This book mixes a methodological viewpoint with extreme adventure to formulate an interesting outcome. Though it has no obvious underlying message, this novel is still worth the read.
The fourth and final book titled Rat is perhaps the most personal novel for King as it reveals the dark side of creativity and personal success. Drew Larson is a struggling author who decides to isolate himself in the woods for writing inspiration. Trapped by a storm and extreme sickness, Larson encounters a talking rat who begins asking questions concerning the price of monetary success and whether one person’s life could be valued more than another. Though a talking rat definitely plays a light note at the end of King’s four part novella, the deep questions left unanswered leave readers frantically searching for another page.
Each book in If It Bleeds brings with it an interesting story in addition to realistic prospects. A world overrun by wealthy, career-oriented individuals, a lost loved one, the unforeseen consequences of technology being revealed, and the rise of a carnage-crazed killer are all possible futuristic outcomes. Let us all just hope King’s psychic record is a broken one this time.