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Four Past Midnight

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At midnight comes the point of balance. Of danger. The instant of utter stillness when between two beats of the heart, an alternative reality can slip through, like a blade between the ribs, and switch you into a new and terrifying world.

"Four Past Midnight": four heart-stopping accounts of that moment when the familiar world fractures beyond sense, the fragments spinning away from the desperate, clutching reach of sanity...

930 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Stephen King

2,529 books827k followers
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,117 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,846 followers
August 2, 2020
4 tosses, 3 hits, no bad statistic in this highly varying collection of short works from the man himself.
Langoliers is a bit of a controversial thing, one of the rare cases King is using some Sci-Fi and cosmic horror elements, although he doesn´t seem to have cared so much about the characterization as one is used to by him. Something is just missing, it´s most possible that King just isn´t the man for combining worldbuilding and characters, seems to make him, or more the characters he is letting do the work, nervous.

Secret Window, Secret Garden is an escalating blackmailing, stalking story with a very finetuned end, something closer to a psychological thriller, psychothriller than the horror King is usually writing, inspired by real world problems.

The Library policeman reminds me of his stories with other strong, mad, frightening lead female characters, such as the Dark Tower witch and the misery nightmare nurse with elements of the old evil from It. I would call it the best of the 4 novellas, because it would have had the potential for a full novel, much could have been added here.

The Sun Dog is the classic, immediate Kingian gotcha, a simple camera used to write a story about occultism, haunting and greed, even including some ethics about money, playing with some flashbacks before Reminds me a bit of the Needful things concept too.

The stories are especially interesting because King was, after rehab, unsure if he would still have the same ultimate writing powaaa as before, but luckily nothing has changed and, as a bonus, he added the extra years to his life to make more unique art.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Luca Ambrosino.
83 reviews13.7k followers
September 9, 2021
English (Four Past Midnight) / Italiano

Four short novels (not so short, actually) of one of the best contemporary writers out there. The Langoliers (my favorite) carries the reader together with the protagonists into a parallel dimension. The unknown and the fear of what we do not know are the main themes, and the atmosphere resembles that of "The Twilight Zone", the acclaimed TV show. One of the best story I ever read. Secret Window, Secret Garden talks about what I suppose is the nightmare of every writer, ie being accused of plagiarism. The Library policeman is the story of an adult experiencing once again a trauma occurred when he was a kid. In The Sun Dog a boy gets a camera out of the ordinary.

Four past midnight... and you will not sleep anymore.

Vote: 8,5


Quattro lunghi racconti di uno dei migliori romanzieri contemporanei in circolazione. I Langolieri (il mio preferito dei quattro), trasporta il lettore, assieme ai protagonisti, in una dimensione parallela. L’ignoto e la paura per ciò che non conosciamo sono il tema principale, e l’atmosfera che si respira ricorda molto quella de “Ai Confini della Realtà”, la fortunata TV serie cult. Uno dei migliori racconti che io abbia letto. Finestra Segreta, Giardino Segreto parla di quello che immagino sia l’incubo di ogni scrittore, ossia essere accusato di plagio. Il Poliziotto della Biblioteca racconta della vicenda di un adulto che rivive un trauma avvenuto quando era un ragazzino. Ne Il Fotocane, un ragazzo riceve in dono una macchina fotografica fuori dal normale.

Quattro dopo mezzanotte... e non dormirete più.

Voto: 8,5

Profile Image for Baba.
3,616 reviews984 followers
March 22, 2021
Four memorable novellas based around the theme of a breakdown in reality. The Langoliers, a haunting and very puzzling 'locked room' mystery set on a plane. The suspense and mystery in this story really got to me; but unfortunately, not so much the reveal of what caused the mystery/

Secret Window, Secret Garden, a Derry-set tale of alleged plagiarism and hell-bent on retribution. The Dark Half updated with a more subtle, but possibly more malignant threat?

The Library Policeman, set in the Stephen King created Junction City, is an absorbing tale of the sins of our past coming back to bite us in the ass.

And the final novella is The Sun Dog, is the penultimate Castle Rock tale, otherwise known as 'whatever did happen Pop Merrill?. This novella is a Stephen King old skool masterclass.

A very fine collection of novellas, each and every one worth delving into. 9 out of 12.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
February 10, 2017
A re-read after more than twenty years. Will it stand up?

Short answer: Absolutely. :)

The Langoliers fits snugly in the New Weird category, pretty much entirely esoteric SF with gremlin-types, alternate dimenions and/or time travel on a plane... There are no snakes here! :) The characters are a blast and we've got a firm horror vibe going on here where we are kept guessing as to who among all these random sleepers will make it to the end. Thoroughly enjoyable novella, but not my favorite. It's probably best that it was relegated to a TV movie. :)

My favorite is a toss up between Secret Window, Secret Garden, and The Library Police.

First, though, Secret Window, Secret Garden, which only slightly resembles the movie with Johnny Depp, or at least more or less. :)

This one was pretty fantastic for the writing insights, the plagiarism scare, the descent into paranoia, and the general ultimate break from reality. What's better than a writer being driven completely crazy by a story and/or a man with a definite grudge over a story? No spoilers, but so many wonderful twists happen, couldn't help but fall in love all over again.

And then there's The Library Police, which is a wonderful twist on early childhood nightmares, a diatribe on fear, Red Licorice, and a cool twist on vampirism. It was definitely probably the most effective and convoluted of all the novellas in this book, I think, and also the most scarily fantastic, diving into some of the most weird and eerie escapades, even outdoing Secret Window, Secret Garden on several levels, but maybe not as much for the MC.

The last novella, The Sun Dog, is classic SK not only for setting dropping and character dropping, but also in the twist he's known for... turning everyday objects into a nightmare of continuing and evolving proportions, driving all those involved into a deeper and deeper despair and fear. :)

Does SK have a think about mad dogs? Even Cujo was referenced here. But the dog in the photograph has got to be even better in this novella. It's absolutely more elusive and menacing, giving up on immediate danger and far-off menace for a much more paranormal and evil menace that gave me, at least, a more pervasive and ongoing fear.

It also happened to be my least favorite of the bunch, but it was still effective. :)

The middle two were plainly amazing, though. :)
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
671 reviews4,284 followers
May 17, 2020
“A woman who would steal your love when your love was really all you had to give was not much of a woman.”

Reviewing collections is so difficult, and my brain is literal mush right now, so I’ll make it easier by breaking it down story by story.

The Langoliers might possibly be my favourite in this collection. It grabbed my attention from the very beginning and didn’t let go! Flying is scary enough, but imagine waking up from your on-flight snooze to find the plane practically empty.... eerie stuff. 4 stars.

I have never watched the movie for Secret Window featuring Johnny Depp before so I went into the novella (Secret Window, Secret Garden) knowing absolutely nothing. Which was probably a huge reason why I did find it quite enjoyable. Although somewhat predictable, I enjoyed the themes and the general storyline around every author’s worst nightmare - accusation of plagiarism. 4 stars.

As for The Library Policeman... geez, that was hard-going. An entertaining story, but I can’t remember the last time I had to set aside a book because a scene was too graphic for me. I also got some intense Pennywise vibes with our featured creature! A stark reminder to everyone to return your library books!! 3.5 stars.

As always, it was good to visit Castle Rock in The Sun Dog. The story centres around a Polaroid camera that is producing some strange and alarming photos... And we get to spend some time with a member of the infamous Merrill family. However maybe this would have been more suited to a short story rather than a novella - it dragged on slightly, I thought. But loved the Lovecraft shoutouts with the mention of Arkham and Dunwich! 3.5 stars.

Overall, an entertaining collection! A welcome component is King introducing each story - I always love these. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
October 3, 2020
Four Past Midnight is a collection of four stories that some would call novellas, but really they are closer to novels. They were written when Stephen King was supposedly “retired.” I think we can safely say, many novels and stories later, that he is never going to retire. I recently saw him on a Zoom meeting through Murder by the Book in Houston, and he was funny and sharp. Going strong.


”Reality peeled away in narrow strips beneath them, peeled away wherever and whatever they touched, and as they neared, Brian realized that they were unzipping more than the world--they were opening all the depths of forever.”

I used to fly four times a week, and for about a year, as I crisscrossed the Western part of the US and Canada, it was pretty thrilling, but with the constant deadlines and having to navigate airports (this is pre-9/11, before airports became even more difficult), rental cars, Canadian border patrol, and hotels, it soon became wearisome. I never was a white knuckle flyer, but it did start to seem unnatural for a human being to be suspended that far above the earth. This is the perfect story for flyers who love to fly and those who don’t because, regardless of how you feel about flying, you are going to feel a creeping sense of dread as the circumstances are revealed to you.

Eleven flyers wake up on a redeye from LA to Boston to find that all the other passengers have mysteriously disappeared. The flesh and bone has disappeared, leaving behind wedding rings, watches, and titanium knees. The world they find themselves flying through is a dead world. Where are the lights of Denver? Where did Kansas City go? The possibilities of what happened are not endless, but none of them are scenarios that inspire confidence that anything is ever going to be okay again. When they land in Bangar, Maine, of course Stevie has to divert the plane to his favorite city, they find a world devoid of life, and something doesn’t want them there.


”’You stole my story,’ the man on the doorstep said. ‘You stole my story and something’s got to be done about it. Right is right and fair is fair and something has to be done.’”

I hope everyone has seen the wonderful film adaptation of this story titled Secret Window with Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, and John Turturro. It is one of my favorite adaptations of a King creation. I’ve been long overdue to read the story that inspired the movie, and needless to say, when John Shooter shows up on Morton Rainey’s doorstep demanding satisfaction for plagiarism, I see Turturro and Depp.

That would be the worst nightmare of a writer, right? No writer writes anything and believes it to be totally his/hers. There is nothing new. All the words have been put in the same order numerous times before. Most writers have read lots of books, and don’t we all wonder when a lovely phrase floats to the surface of our minds that it is a memory and not an “original” creation? Did I read that in Balzac or maybe Tolstoy or that pulp novel by Willeford? Being accused of stealing a phrase is one thing, but to be accused of stealing a complete short story? Well, something odd is going on. Someone is lying, and someone might be dying. Rainey isn’t in the best shape of his life to be dealing with anyone, never mind a guy named Shooter. The name implies what might happen to you if a disagreement happens. Rainey is going through a crippling divorce and spends most of his days sleeping in a ratty robe dreaming about when he used to be able to write. Needless to say, things spin deliciously out of control as the truth contorts around itself, strangling under the weight of its own disbelief.


”Her teeth were no longer dentures; they were long and discolored. They looked like vampire teeth to Sam, both sharp and horribly strong. Grimacing, she bit down her mouthful of candy. Bright blood squirted out, spraying a pink cloud in the sunset air and dribbling down her chin. Severed chunks of licorice tumbled to the weedy earth, still jetting blood.

She raised hands which had become hooked talons.

’Youuuu losst the BOOOOKS!’ she screamed at Sam, and charged at him.”

I didn’t have the best relationship with my librarian in my hometown, but I certainly never encountered the terrifying librarian that Sam Peebles encounters in this story. My librarian routinely had to run me out of the adult section of the library. I was always trying to sneak in a book I’d purloined from the south side of the library with the childish crap I was tired of from the north side of the library. Finally, I had to have my mom come in and sign a waiver that would allow me to check out anything I wanted to read...within reason. I was never threatened with the library police because I have always been careful to return books on time. I have been tempted to steal a treasured library book from time to time, but never have resorted to mixing criminality with my favorite passion of reading. King gets high marks from me for making Robert Louis Stevenson’s book The Black Arrow part of the plot and also for mentioning the magical season of 1980 when the Kansas City Royals went to the World Series. That was also the year that George Brett hit .390. What a year that was for a farm kid from Glade, Kansas. They lost the World Series in game six, but what a ride.

Sam borrows some books from the library to help him write a speech, and somehow the books become lost. This is a minor problem for most people. They just pay for replacement books and take their lumps with a lecture from the librarian, but Ardelia Lortz is not the usual prim and proper librarian. There is frankly something otherworldly about her. Sam’s nightmare might begin with lost library books, but he soon learns there is something much more insidious going on at the local library.


”What was wrong with the picture was the feeling that it was wrong. Kevin had remembered the sense of unease he had felt while composing his subjects for the picture he meant to take, and the ripple of gooseflesh up his back when, with the glare of the flashbulb still lighting the room, he had thought, It’s mine. That was what was wrong, and as with the man in the moon you can’t unsee once you’ve seen it, so, he was discovering, you couldn’t unfeel certain feelings...and when it came to these pictures, those feelings were bad.

Kevin thought: It’s like there was a wind--very soft, very cold--blowing out of the picture.

Kevin Develan gets a Sun 660 Polaroid Camera for his birthday, and the excitement of the gift quickly turns to puzzlement as each picture, no matter what he aims the camera at, comes out the same. Huh?

The first thought is to return it, but then Kevin realizes that he has a supernatural camera, a kind of boring supernatural camera, but still an honest to God paranormal producing camera. There is only one person in Castle Rock who might have an inkling of what is going on with it, and that man is Pop Merrill. For those who have been following the Castle Rock adventures, Pop is the father of Ace, who proves to be a problem for Sheriff Pangborn in The Dark Half. Merrill runs a shop of unusual things and is the precursor for Leland Gaunt, who opens the now famous shop of satisfying desires...Needful Things.

Pop has made some pretty good cabbage off of selling supernatural things to the outright gullible and the fanatical want-to-believe collectors. He is licking his lips over Kevin’s camera, and he is the first to notice that the image with each new photograph is changing ever so slightly. What at first seemed innocuous is evolving into something more sinister. With each depression of the camera trigger, the world in the picture comes closer to the real world. It won’t be long before Kevin will wish he’d taken a sledgehammer to the camera from the first moment he realized it was not a normal camera.

The four concepts in the collection are really good. The prefaces King wrote for each story are worth the price of admission. He discusses writing with such honesty with such aptitude and with as much brimming excitement as anyone in the business. If you haven’t read his book On Writing, you are truly missing an inspirational experience. The one issue that I have with King in this collection, and this is with most of his writing, is that he really stretches an idea. There are times in this collection when I really wanted the plot to move forward, and King kept adding stuffing to an already overstuffed reading chair. The stuffing is not poor writing by any means, but it does make the plot feel unnecessarily bloated. I’ve spent enough time with King’s work now that I’ve accepted that will be the case and still enjoy reading him despite feeling like the guy from Monty Python…”one more thin little wafer, Mr. Creosote?”

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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June 12, 2023
Four Past Midnight a short story collection from SK I did really enjoy this one but I preferred Skeleton Crew & Different Seasons.

The Langoliers - this one was a little gem for me, it was Sc-Fiction horror which I sometimes struggle with but this one was right up my alley. The plot was actually really interesting and fast-paced. It's written so well and the characters were incredibly done. I feel like something I love in SK's writing is his ability to bring together different personalities to create a dynamic group of people, because of this it reminded me of other books/short stories by SK like: The Mist, The Stand and The Dark Tower series all books that I really love. I thought this short story was really fun, it was scary because of the sense of isolation, near-death and tragedy. 4 stars.

Secret Window, Secret Garden - I always love it when SK writes his main character as a author they are always written so perfectly and this was no exception. Although there isn't a lot of horror, gore and brutality in this book it is scary because it's a deep dive into losing your mind and not knowing whether you are crazy or not, there isn't anything scarier than that. I loved the simplicity of this short story it wasn't far-fetched or fantastical it was just a man losing his mind but it was done so well. 4 stars.

The Library Policeman - There were a few little Easter eggs in this one and my favourite was the mention of Paul Sheldon, not only did it slot into the book so effortlessly and make perfect sense but also because Misery is one of my favourite books of all time. This shot story had more of a supernatural element which I quite enjoyed but it did just get weirder and weirder and it started to lose me a little in the middle. A lot of this short story is written as a side characters tells the main character a story of his own - and it just felt a little flat I think because we didn't have enough time to get to know the storyteller perhaps. It did have some truly scary moments and it does manage to remind the reader of their childhood fears and feelings well, but there was something missing for me in this one. 3.5 stars.

The Sun Dog - There was a nice little mention of Christine in this one 'cars that come to life and ran people over they don't like'. Shawshank aslo got a little mention too. I thought this one was the least scary of the four in this collection. Pop is a really interesting character though he is so creepy. Cujo is mentioned in this book - but there aren't many similarities other than the main source of horror being a dog this is a completely different story. One that unfortunately didn't fully capture my imagination - I feel like it could have been taken further. Right at the end of this book we do get some really well written body horror which bumped this one up a star for sure. 3.5 stars.

Overall a decent set of short stories but I were to re-read this I feel like I would just read the first two books in the collection again and miss the other two out.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,274 reviews1,196 followers
March 15, 2019
3.5 Stars

I'm not sure Uncle Stevie knows the definition of a "short" story. The four stories in these collection are more like novellas or short novels. As with all story collections the ratings vary.

The Langoliers - 2 Stars

The first story was my least favorite. The premise is great several passengers on airplane awaken to find everyone else on board has vanished.

That sounded great but after the first 50 pages the story just dragged and the story was overly long. It just wasn't a fun read.

Secret Window, Secret Garden- 4 stars

This was my favorite story out of the collection even if it was a little predictable.

A writer dealing with a divorce and writers block opens his door to a man claiming the writer plagiarized his story.

The Library Policeman - 3.5 Stars

A man pays an unforgettable and terrifying visit to his local library.

So close to being my favorite but just overly long.

The Sun Dog - 3 Stars

A boy receives a very strange camera for his 15 the birthday.

The only true horror story in this collection but like a lot of Stephen King works the ending was a little Meh!

Four Past Midnight was a good collection but not one of his greats. Its still a great addition to your King collection.
Profile Image for Michael || TheNeverendingTBR.
479 reviews190 followers
November 15, 2022
This here book is my 64th book of his and the very first I've DNF'd, I just cannot get into it.

It wouldn't surprise me if someone told me this was written during his cocaine years because there's a fair bit of rambling and filler, like The Langoliers for example, I felt there was so much irrelevant backstory to the characters etc.

I'm just going to throw a moderate rating on it.

I'm not forcing myself to finish a book I'm not enjoying.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,473 reviews1,079 followers
October 4, 2019
“Then his lids closed slowly over his slightly bloodshot eyes, and Mort Rainey, who had yet to discover what true horror was all about, fell asleep.”

I usually enjoy King’s short stories and novellas quite a bit. Unlike many, he has a consistent talent with shorter works. It’s sort of ironic he shines so heavy in this area considering most of his novels are too long, but I kind of digress here.

Unfortunately this was the least favorite I’ve read. I have many more to go, of course, so it may not stay in the weaker spot. 3 Stars isn’t bad, but this is a mundane offering compared to the brilliance of his other novella collections like the excellent Different Seasons.

While I enjoyed The Langoliers and couldn’t put it down (at first), time started weighing it down and the longer it continued, the more it started dragging. I do dig the concept, though, and the characters were fully fleshed.

I figured I’d like Secret Window, Secret Garden...and I did. I dig the idea of a writer obsessed with his fiction. I do keep picturing Johnny Depp in the role now, of course. The movie had a darker twist that fits the fictional short story with irony, but the book ending is a little more somber. I know this particular story gets its share of flack for some reason, but I enjoyed it in theater and I enjoyed it in written form. It was a clever mishmash with some twists, although the ending I’m used to from the movie didn’t match and I’m not sure which version I prefer.

The biggest disappointment was The Librarian Police. It sounded fascinated and started strong, but turns out inconsistent and downright silly.

The Sun Dog as a final installment was a weird wrap-up that stayed interesting enough but fully embraced its cheesiness.

A particular delight was Kings’ foreward before each story, talking about themes and how he came up with each story. He speaks of Castle Rock quite a bit. His stories set in so many imaginary towns in Maine have made that state stand out in the heads of horror fans.
Profile Image for Gabriel.
501 reviews708 followers
May 4, 2021
¿Qué decir sobre este libro que recoge cuatro novelas cortas en su interior?

Pues que es un NO rotundo conmigo. Que no lo recomiendo ni estando sonámbulo, medio borracho o drogado. Sinceramente todas las historias se pasan en extensión y se vuelven aburridisimas en algún punto. Solo hubo una que me llegó a gustar y poco más. De resto, no creo que merezca la pena invertir tiempo y dinero en este libro habiendo mejores en el amplio catálogo de King.

1. Los langolieros 1/5★
Esta novela corta se traduce simplemente en algo aburrido, denso y sin sabor. La más larga de todas y la que no me aportó absolutamente nada; ni siquiera entretenimiento. La odié, hizo que me estancara durante varios días y siendo la primera que abre la colección por poco y me echa para atrás. Es demasiado lineal y predecible, haciéndose obvio el patrón que sigue SK en la mayoría de sus novelas.

2. Ventana secreta, jardín secreto 2/5★
Con Misery, La mitad oscura y esta novela corta; ventana secreta, jardín secreto, Stephen King sigue mostrando el papel del lector y escritor por consecutiva vez. Además, nuevamente entra en escena el poder de la ficción y la realidad, mezclada con un poco de fantasía; donde es difícil identificar qué es real o no. Una novela que me ha dejado en la total indiferencia y se debe al manoseo que hace el escritor sobre este mismo tema con frecuencia. Así, todo se vuelve demasiado predecible (porque no sorprende), y repetitible hasta el hartazgo.

Eso sí, no descarto que a alguien le guste, porque tiene su sazón para quien todavía no ha tocado la idea con King.

3. El policía de la biblioteca 4/5★
Leyendo las reseñas de goodreads me he dado cuenta lo poco que gusta y lo poco que se habla de esta novela. A mí, personalmente es la única que me ha gustado de las cuatro. Me entretuvo y me enganchó desde el inicio con la sencilla propuesta de una historia de terror que se transmite de generación en generación; tan simple y terrorífica como la de un policía de la biblioteca que te perseguirá si no devuelves un libro a tiempo. Es concurrente que a los niños se les asuste de algún modo para que cumplan con algo y aquí se juega con esto, solo que con un adulto. Y sí, le sobran algunas páginas pero no son muchas comparándolas con las demás.

Advierto que contiene una escena muy fuerte y delicada que retrata algo que pasa en la cotidianidad. Y es muy terrible. El título de esta novela engloba algo espeluznante, repugnante y que te eriza la piel. Justo lo que busco cuando leo terror, que en su mayoría me gusta que me genere más el horror. Y como plus a la trama, tiene unos aires con el libro It. Quien lo lea sabrá porqué lo digo.

4. El perro de la polaroid 1/5★
Me pasó lo mismo que con la primera; me aburrió de sobremanera y lo mucho que le sobran páginas es alarmante. De verdad, lo digo muy en serio, a veces hay que tener un filtro o todo se vuelve cansino.

En fin, que casi todo muy mal, King. Ni abriste con broche de oro ni mucho menos cerraste en condiciones. Lo siento, pero no me convenciste. No esta vez. A la próxima, que aún me queda bastante por leer.
Profile Image for Dennis.
658 reviews276 followers
November 7, 2021
OT: Four Past Midnight

Stephen King is a special guy. When a publisher asks an author to hand in a collection of stories, you’d usually end up with 15-20 stories and a 300–500-page book. Not with Mr. King, though. This is a collection of four stories that weighs in at 1,154 pages (in the German translation). And still, when I rated these separately not one, but two of my friends told me that the respective story was amongst their favorite SK short stories. Ha ha! Yeah, he is special.

I’m glad to report that three of the four stories were totally worth my time. Even The Langoliers, which I had read already (and didn’t like the first time around), was pretty entertaining. And while the book ended on a low for me, overall this was very enjoyable.

The Langoliers 🔹 sci-fi / horror 🔹 416 pages

A couple of people wake up during a commercial flight from LA to Boston and realize that while they were sleeping the crew and the other passengers have disappeared. What has happened? Well, that's the question, and as long as the answer isn't clear this story is super intriguing. To speculate about this was a lot of fun.

It's true that when we are getting the answers, leave the land of sanity behind for a while, and the whole thing is less and less grounded in reality, the book isn't great. Or maybe it is just less enjoyable to me because of personal preferences. But when the characters are trying to find a way out of their situation and the story is nearing its conclusion, I was again enjoying myself quite a bit. And the ending is actually rather cool.

So, yeah, I've changed my mind about this one.

3.5 – 4 stars

Secret Window, Secret Garden 🔹 thriller 🔹 218 pages

Another re-read for me. But I didn’t change my mind about this one. This story of a writer that sees himself pressured by a stranger who accuses him of having plagiarized one of his stories was just as much fun as the first time around. It's super interesting to see Mort's life come undone and to question what is real and what is imagined. Yes, the epilogue is unnecessary and what King did on the last eigth pages almost feels like he wanted to live up to his reputation of writing bad endings. But otherwise this is almost perfect.

4 stars

The Library Policeman 🔹 horror 🔹 301 pages

Sam must hold a speech and his secretary Naomi recommends two books to him that might help spice it up. The town’s library turns out to be a not particularly inviting place, though, and the strange librarian warns him to return the books on time, or else he will face the wrath of the Library Police.

160 pages of why isn‘t this a short story? followed by wow, this is awesome! Creepy, with interesting characters and some nice body horror.

4 stars

The Sun Dog 🔹 horror 🔹 186 pages

The premise of this story is intriguing. Kevin is gifted a Polaroid camera for his birthday. Every picture he's taking shows a menacing dog, though, no matter where he points the camera. All the photos appear to be the same. But not quite. The dog is coming nearer.

Yep, King is special. Only he can take what should be a twenty page story, make it almost 200 pages long, and still somehow does not end up with something terrible. But, by God, I hated reading it. Clearly the low-point of this collection for me.

Pop goes to the drugstore to buy a film for the Polaroid? Somehow this results in a 10-page chapter. What other authors would write as, "For a couple of days Pop tried to sell the camera to several of his customers, but to no avail" turns into a 40-page chapter in which nothing happens, except that Pop tried to sell the camera to several people but couldn't. Of course, this is not quite true. In this chapter we learn about four people that Pop is doing business with. However, they are completely irrelevant for the rest of the story.

King might be special in many ways. But he often has a problem with bloat. And he knows it too. All those endless digressions, that annoyed the crap out of me, are not badly written, though. Far from it. I almost felt like maybe I had to give this 3 stars. But then again, I didn't like it.

2 stars

Since the only story I didn’t like is the shortest in this collection and because the rest was very enjoyable, I’ll go with a four over a three here. It’s a shame that the last 100 pages or so were a real struggle. But overall this was fun.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,155 reviews310 followers
August 16, 2021
The Langoliers - 4 stars

Mysteries of time and reality on are explored in this intense piece. I loved the ensemble of unrelated characters who are thrown together into a terrifying situation they don't understand.

The "locked room" setup of a red-eye flight shares similarities with King's well known supermarket confinement horror story, The Mist, which appears in the collection Skeleton Crew. Although the threat in The Langoliers, is less overt at the start, it proves itself to be complete, and it's existential nature is every bit as effective as the cosmic horror of The Mist. Once again, we see how the different characters react and change under pressure, and that's where the real meat of the story lies.

Secret Window, Secret Garden - 4 stars

King does stories about writers going off the deep end like no one else. One of the great things about his repeated use of this particular theme is that he does it differently each time. You never know if the writer is sane or not, if the antagonist is real or not, and if the perception of reader is true or not.

Secret Window, Secret Garden starts with the known and the true tightly wrapped, and then slowly unfurls it, building the truth behind story piece by piece. The result is both expected and not, but always tense and discomforting. My only issue might be with the ending. The Epilogue spells out the closure to the story, but honestly, the less defined place we are left without it is perhaps even better.

The Library Policeman - 4 stars

Childhood trauma reawakens to feed a real life, if completely supernatural, monster. Slaying the monster requires taking hold of repressed memory and fear and bringing it fully to life.

The imagery in this story is shocking and frightening (and possibly too graphic in parts for some readers), the characters rich and as real as any person you meet on the street. Among other things, a good reminder that we don't know the story of every person around us, the battles they fight, and the monsters they strive daily to vanquish.

The Sun Dog - 5 stars

My favourite story of the four. There is something about mechanical recording devices, be they tapes or film or a Polaroid camera, that lends itself to the mysterious. The idea of a horror attaching itself to you and drawing itself into being is among the most basic and continually frightening precepts. As usual, King dresses this idea in the most ordinary of clothes and makes it uniquely terrifying.

The writing is particularly good here, capturing the very essence of small towns and big characters. The ending is perfection, and only makes this excellent story even better.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,803 reviews795 followers
February 5, 2019
This isn’t my favourite King collection but it does have some spectacular stories despite that! I love the first three stories and I think they each stand out for very different reasons. They’re all very unique stories but I think The Library Policeman has to be my favourite out of the four, mainly because I actually used to have nightmares about getting arrested for not returning my books when I was a kid so it provides a bit of a nostalgic scare for me. The Sun Dog is definitely the story I enjoyed the least, I thought it was so predictable and unnecessarily long. I just wanted King to get to the damn point with that one and it’s why I can’t give this collection 5 stars, it drove me nuts!
Profile Image for Jamie Stewart.
Author 10 books163 followers
October 3, 2020
Welcome to nineties King!!!! Yes, I’ve made it to 1990 in my reread of Kings’ work. Four Past Midnight is a collection of four long novellas that if they were released today probably would have been published separately due to their length and the horror industry boom in novellas.

The Langoliers - 3 Stars

The first and longest novella in the collection The Langoliers comes across as a horror adventure tale that explores the myths behind the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon concerning disappearing aircraft, except in King’s story it occurs on a flight from LA to Boston. Ten passengers wake up to find everyone on their flight has disappeared including the pilots, leaving behind all their belongings such as wedding rings, pacemakers and even a dildo. Yes, that’s right.

First of can I say that I actually found this to be refreshing after his last two books The Tommyknockers and The Dark Half. I think that’s down to the fact that I have good memories of reading this story as a teen and I discovered that more less the story is as good as I remembered. That being sad it boosts the worst ensemble cast King has ever written. The ten passengers that wake to discover the empty plane are at least four too many, because of this a few of them feel pointless and the majority feel one dimensional. There’s literally one person in this whose only contribution is to complain he is hungry. Also there’s an eleventh character who sleeps through the entire story only to wake up at the end of the event to deliver a punch line to a joke you can see coming for a mile. I think it would have worked more effectively overall if the small character traits these pointless individuals had been wrapped on into one person. However, there is an aloofness to the story that makes me think this was intentional. What saves it is characters like Nick Hopewell, a British spy, Albert, a violinist going to college, Brian Engle, a pilot, Toomy, an insane stock broker and Dinah, a blind girl with shining abilities, though she’s never referred to as such.

The premise of the story is interesting that of a group of people that find themselves outside of time and they must find away back before the creatures that eat old time, The Langoliers, come after them. And there are some fine moments such as Albert surviving a gunshot because the effectiveness of the gun has been dampened or the ending, which is one of King’s most joyful. It’s all held down by that aloof theme that makes it feel like a farce, as if King’s real intention was to write his version of Airplane!

Secret Window, Secret Garden - 2 Stars

There’s a small introduction note before this story in which King’s writes that this story is an exploration of similar themes that existed in Misery and The Dark Half. Where this sits, in terms, of quality is in the middle if you were to rank these three. He also writes that this would be the last time he would write about writers and this type of tale.


Not only did King not keep to his promise, but he also wrote two other stories set in similar settings such as Bag of Bones and The Rat. Yes, Secret Window, Secret Garden is the story of Mort Rainey, a writer whose hiding out at a cabin in the woods. And where in those stories King brings something new, he doesn’t here. This was spoiled for me on account of how identical the movie version is to this, enough to the point that while this is a first time read for me it felt like a reread. The difference is the ending, which was a surprise until the over description in the epilogue.

The Library Policeman - 3.5 Stars

One of the enjoyable surprises with doing this reread is encountering stories I haven’t read by King and this was one of those for me. The Library Policeman is story of Sam Pebbles and Naomi Higgins and Dave Duncan and it’s the best story in this collection, certainly the most harrowing by miles. You see Sam has been asked to perform a speech for the local Rotary Club and in order to so seeks the help from the local library, through Naomi’s encouragement, where he encounters a creepy old woman by the name of Ardelia. What happens after is a chain of events that leads Sam and Naomi and Dave not only fighting for their lives, but also to find redemption in confronting their past.

King remarks in the beginning note that this story was originally supposed to be a funny tale that took a dark turn as he was writing it and it shows. The first third Sam spends focused on embarrassing himself about the Rotary Club speech. It’s not until he gets to the Library that things begin to darken and boy do they go dark. Yet, as far as the story goes it never feels unearned. So if you want to read this novella I’d suggest going in with caution, but to do so also introduces you to one of King’s creepiest and freakiest villains.

Libraries. Safe havens for people that love to read and get lost in other worlds. Not anymore.

The Sun Dog - 3 Stars

This is the classic story of a seemingly ordinary object that enters into someone’s life only for them to discover it holds sinister ramifications for them. In this case the seemingly ordinary object is a type of Polaroid camera. King tends to recycle and this story is the second in his career that features a evil dog. It’s also the poorer version. No matter what the camera takes a picture of the polaroid that is expelled shows a nameless fanged dog slowly getting closer and closer to the camera.

Yes, instead of Cujo, a good dog turned bad, we get a nameless mutt. Does it matter? Not really as The Sun Dog isn’t really a story about a camera, dog or its owner. It’s a story about Pop Merrill, cruel son-of-bitch who rules King’s fictional town of Castle Rock. When Pop hears about the camera he steals it and this gives King the chance to write about what he really wanted to write about, Pop. It’s like he had this great character in this head that has this presence in a town featured in many of his novels, but could never find the story to show him off in. Which makes this story painfully long beyond reason.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Leo ..
Author 2 books382 followers
October 11, 2017
This is a great book. The Library Policeman scared the shit out of me. Thinking about that nasty man with the lisp sends a shiver down my spine!
Profile Image for Morgan Stewart.
60 reviews1,817 followers
September 9, 2021
Wow that took a while! I’d rank them:

1) The Sun Dog
2) The Langoliers
3) Secret Window, Secret Garden
4) The Library Policeman
Profile Image for Alex.
59 reviews73 followers
October 22, 2019
The Langoliers: 4 stars
Secret Widow, Secret Garden: 2 stars
The Library Policeman: 5 stars
The Sun Dog: 2 stars
Profile Image for Melissa Chung.
904 reviews326 followers
December 12, 2019
YAY! It took 6 months to finish this beast of a book, but I've finally done it. No I'm not that slow of a reader and no it wasn't awful that I couldn't pick it back up....I'm what you call a non-mood/random reader where I pick up book randomly and read half of it then put it down and pick up another book. All of the books that I have on my currently reading shelf is about half way done. I have a problem with reaching the end because I like a lot of books and it scares me to end them. *cough Dark Tower cough* Giving this super awesome short story collection 5 stars.

Typically when I'm reviewing a short story collection it has many stories and I pick my favorites out and talk about those. In this book 'Four Past Midnight', there are only 4 stories so I'll talk about all of them.

Langoliers is the first story in this collection. I LOVE THIS STORY. I read it back in high school ages ago..... okay it was twenty years ago and to some that isn't necessarily ages, but to me I sometimes feel ancient, so there you go. Langoliers is about a plane going from L.A. to Boston. It's a red eye flight and it's pretty full. At the beginning of the story, we find the passengers that had been sleeping... they are awakened by a screaming girl. When all are awake, they find there are ten still on board. The passengers are scared and confused. Where did everyone else go? Why were they left behind. When I first read this story the Langoliers where creepy furry creatures. When I watched the movie they were metal balls with razor teeth. I, of course, don't want to give away any of the story, but I loved it.

The next story in the collection is 'Secret Window, Secret Garden'. Our main character is an author of thrillers and has just gotten a divorce from his wife who was caught cheating. They owned two homes the one in the suburbs and the one in the country. I guess it's more of a Lake house. Anyways, one day our author meets a strange man accusing him of stealing/plagiarizing his story. We get to see what the author does about this knowledge and if he can convince the author of said story is wrong. Again another great movie and story.

The third story is called 'Library Policeman'. This one threw me for a loop. Part vampire, part boogieman, this story really kept me on edge. Especially the way it brought you back to earth with the stories of our main characters past and the alcoholic homeless man's backstory. King always gets it right when he is coming up with characters and their backstories.

Lastly there is 'The Sun Dog', about a young teen boy who gets a Sun 660 Polaroid camera for his birthday. The thing that makes this Polaroid camera unique is that it doesn't take pictures of what is in front of it, but of a place unknown to the family. This place features a white picket fence and a shaggy mutt of a dog. The story takes place in Castle Rock and features a lot of characters that you may have read about in Needful Things.

Overall great great collection of short stories. If I had to put them in order of best to worst (which none of them are worst) it would be Langoliers, Library Policeman, Secret Window, and then The Sun Dog. If you haven't picked up King yet, please know that he doesn't write "horror" like people think "horror" ought to be. It's not all blood and gore and mayhem. King writes mostly supernatural, paranormal, weird fiction. They are almost always character driven. If you like character driven stories with a little bit of weird then you'll love these short stories.
Profile Image for Eliasdgian.
413 reviews116 followers
September 6, 2022
Θεότρελη ιδέα, από τις πολλές που κατεβάζει η κούτρα του: “πειραγμένη” Polaroid Sun 660, αντί να απαθανατίζει τον κόσμο γύρω της, φωτογραφίζει συνεχώς το ίδιο τρομακτικό σκυλί που, μολονότι στην πραγματικότητα δεν υπάρχει, δείχνει ικανό, ανά πάσα στιγμή, να πάρει σάρκα και οστά και να σκοτώσει επιτεθεί. Κι εδώ απέναντί του δεν είναι παρά ένα δεκαπεντάχρονο παιδί. Αν δεν ήταν ο King, μια ιδέα σαν και αυτή θα εξαντλούνταν στις σελίδες ενός διηγήματος (το πολύ). Αλλά επειδή πρόκειται για την Αυτού Εξοχότητα, το Σκυλί της Πολαρόιντ έγινε πανεύκολα μια ακόμη (συναρπαστική) νουβέλα τρόμου και αγωνίας.

Δεν είναι Κούτζο, παρότι του φέρνει, ούτε και Needful Things, έστω κι αν το μαγαζάκι του Ποπ Μέριλ της ιστορίας θυμίζει εκείνο των Χρήσιμων Αντικειμένων. Αλλά είναι τίμιο, δεν κάνει “κοιλιά” και εν πολλοίς δικαιώνει τις προσδοκίες του αναγνώστη του.
Profile Image for Silod.
120 reviews4 followers
January 12, 2013

Four Past Midnight is a collection containing the following "short" stories:

1. The Langoliers (233 pages)

2. Secret Window, Secret Garden (146 pages)

3. The Library Policeman (195 pages)

4. The Sun Dog (149 pages)

Generally speaking, Stephen King begins with amazing concepts that are soon dragged down by poor execution. To make it more fun, look for the following the next time you read a King novel and see how many you can find:

- FLAT, IMPARTIAL TONE. Whether he is describing the main character's morning routine or the final climactic moment where he or she is on the verge of death, battling a fierce supernatural creature, King just takes it all down like a courtroom stenographer. He sprinkles in some flashy similes, occasional pop culture references and, rarely, a few words of truly good writing, but these bits and pieces stand out against a bland background. It is easy to picture him coming up with one such gem suddenly in the shower, at the only moment when he isn't actually trying, and racing across the house, naked and soapy, to jot it down before he can forget it again.

- REDUNDANCY. After rinsing and drying off, King lovingly coddles his favourite inventions. He uses and reuses words, phrases, references, and concepts among his books and there's nothing wrong with that, per se, but he will also use the same word or phrase multiple times in a paragraph or even in a sentence.

- SELF-REFERENCE. It might not happen in every story, but King tends to reference his own works a fair bit. You can decide for yourself whether this is actually witty or just egotistical.

- UNREALISTIC DIALOGUE. Spoken ideas are not constructed the same way as ideas that are written down... unless you're a character in a King novel. King's character dialogue is more or less just like the surrounding narration, which makes his characters sound scripted.

- STORY ABOUT A WRITER. King's books are almost always about authors. If the main character is not an author, another significant character will be.

- UNECESSARY MONSTERS. King loves to invent monsters for his stories, but they aren't usually necessary. It is much more thrilling to imagine familiar creatures and objects acting strangely or violently than it is to watch monsters, which one would naturally expect to behave that way. It is also disruptive because King's monsters tend to be complex, sparsely-described, and in a constant state of metamorphosis, making it extremely difficult to form a mental image of them.

- KNOWLEDGE WITH NO LOGICAL SOURCE. Rather than take the time to construct a path for the characters to obtain knowledge in a reasonable way, King relies almost completely on intuition and gut feelings, psychic connections between people, the influence of supernatural objects or beings, and tremendous leaps in logic.

- DEUS EX MACHINA. When it looks like all the character's problems are about to be over, but you're only halfway through the book's length, hold on to your pants - a supernatural force is about to seize control and knock the story back on track. On the other side of the coin, if it all looks hopeless for the characters, then someone is probably about to win the battle by spontaneously obtaining knowledge, as mentioned before.

- RAPID AGING. Being a character in a story falling under the genre of thriller or horror is understandably stressful, but King's characters take it especially hard. Watch for characters whose hair turns white or grey overnight or who otherwise display outward signs of having had several years taken off of their lives during the course of the story due to trauma.



The following reviews contain examples of the above listed, spoilers, and a fair bit of bashing.


The writer in The Langoliers is Jenkins and he is also the main character gaining knowledge with no logical source. Jenkins explains just about every aspect of the characters' situation with theories based on his experience in writing mystery novels. Fact and fiction collide every time he opens his mouth but, for the most part, the other characters buy right into it. The only thing more maddening than their incredible suspension of disbelief is how Jenkins always manages to be right, even though most of his ideas seem to come from nowhere and can hardly be justified by the "I've written a lot of stories" excuse. Dinah also knows too much, coming to a variety of her own conclusions using intuition or by spontaneously gaining knowledge. She can also hear the langoliers long before anyone else can, can look through other people's eyes, and appears as an apparition because, in this story universe, being blind apparently gives you superpowers.
Overall, it is difficult to take The Langoliers seriously. The dialogue isn't bad, for a King novel, but the character relationships, the plotline, and the actual premise of the story are heavily contrived. The story generally lacks substance and contains two especially painful bits. The first is that Albert has an imaginary alter-ego - Ace Kaussner, the fastest Jew west of the Mississippi. This could have been cute if the character were a little kid with a vivid imagination, but why is a seventeen-year-old, college-bound individual who is sound of mind and described as being "fiercely bright" wandering around leaking out so much cheese? The second is a bit of stumbling prolongation: after successfully passing through the rip in space-time, one would expect the characters to find themselves back in the normal world. Instead, King forces the suspense to pointlessly continue several more pages with the justification that time somehow hasn't caught up with the characters yet. It is as if King could tell the story was lacking something and was afraid to end it, but didn't know how to fix the problem.
The langoliers, themselves, are King's typical difficult-to-imagine, vicious-without-a-cause critters. Their nature is largely explained by the only character in the story who isn't of sound mind. They aren't terribly impressive to read about and the story would probably have been better without them.


Secret Window, Secret Garden was easily the best story in this collection. Perhaps it was only a fluke, but King managed to compose a story that was thrilling without involving a steaming pile of surreal fantasy and bad logic. The writing was very tight. Every aspect of the story is explained, though the reader still must suffer a minor touch of deus ex machina: just as Mort is about to kill Amy, Evans seems to appear out of nowhere to rescue her. His reasons for being there are later explained, but it is still a bit thin, especially when you consider that he made himself known at the last possible second and not before, allowing Mort to do some serious damage. This point aside, King ties up all the loose ends quite nicely. The main character is still a writer, but the characters aren't bad, the dialogue could be worse, and there is an utter lack of poorly-constructed monsters. Secret Window, Secret Garden was actually a good story, though King was one-upped by the movie version, which had a much-improved ending - it made more sense, it was cleaner, it cut out the dull epilogue, and it was both creepier and more memorable.


Sam is the writer in this story - the reason he visits the library in the first place is to check out some books to help him compose a speech. Fortunately, the speech is not included in the story, which is dull enough on its own. The real meat of it is contained in the forty pages or so that Dave spends explaining everything. Even though he was apparently completely sotted the entire time he was interacting with Ardelia and even though his knowledge of what she really was is extremely limited, Dave manages to give a very detailed account of his dealings with her and is absolutely certain of what's going to happen next. After Dave is finished pulling (correct) explanations out of his hat, Sam defeats the monster, relying entirely on intuition. His method and its origins are completely outlandish, but the best idea to defeat a monster in a King novel is apparently to just have no idea what you're doing while you're doing it. Basically everything surrounding Dave's story and Sam's face-off with the monster is filler. In addition to being difficult to form a mental image of, the monster turns out to be a pretty big let-down, since the creature receives a very great deal of build-up for how brief the final battle is and how little it manages to fight back. This story probably would have been better if King had invested more in the library policeman and the idea that it could be a real being and less in Ardelia. These were really creatures of two different stories who somehow got thrown in together to fight over the spotlight.


The Sun Dog starts off as being downright chilling, but starts to go downhill when the dog in the photographs begins morphing unnecessarily into yet another poorly-described monster. The dog monster's origins and motivations remain completely unexplored throughout the course of the story and this is no great loss, but the final show-down between Kevin and the monster is awkward, at best. Rather than having the dog lunge spectacularly out of an image, King dives into a bizarre metaphor for child labor. In the process, he melts a camera, kills a man in an indeterminate way, and stretches the size of a photograph far beyond the limits of the reasonable. Kevin defeats the monster thanks to a little dose of sourceless knowledge - after a series of nightmares, he knows that Pops still has the camera. He doesn't have a hunch or want to check to soothe his nerves, he just KNOWS, even though he destroyed the camera, himself. After finding that Pops does, indeed, still have the camera in his possession, Kevin knows exactly how to defeat the dog monster with no explanation at all. The predictable ending to this story was for Kevin to take a picture of the dog monster to return it to the Polaroid world and then destroy the camera. For once, it was a let-down to see a story behave unpredictably. When Kevin takes the monster's picture, it randomly turns to stone and then falls back through the photograph it was born of, which smolders dramatically away into nothing. Father and son share a mushy moment of poor dialogue and then we get a painful epilogue in which a completely unrelated electronic device threatens Kevin, telling him that the dog monster is alive and well and angry. Wow.
Profile Image for Pantelis Andreou.
275 reviews58 followers
February 2, 2022
Almost perfect set of stories!

The Langoliers - excellent piece of sci-fi horror!

Secret Window, Secret Gardern - mesmerized by this one too!

The Library Policeman - Nightmarish, disgusting, nail biting! Incredible!

The Sun Dog - now here is where King kind of lost me. The premise is so interesting but to make it a 200 page story out this.. it was a bit much..

Overall: 4,5/5
Profile Image for Cody | CodysBookshelf.
739 reviews228 followers
February 15, 2017
There is an old Family Guy cutaway which depicts Stephen King meeting with his publisher to pitch his next novel. Obviously desperate for an idea, King quickly looks around the office and grabs the publisher's desk lamp. "So this family gets attacked by . . . a lamp monster! Ooooh!" he waves his hands, trying to convey the scariness and shock of his laughably bad offering. Of course the skit is satirizing King's prolificacy. The publisher sighs, defeated, and asks when he can have the manuscript.

Four Past Midnight feels a little like that. None of these stories quite plummet to the lows of an evil, murderous lamp come to life . . . but this is not King on his A-game. These stories were written in the late '80s, when SK was getting off alcohol and drugs; that can have a huge impact on a person's life — especially a person who has to live up to the expectations of millions. King once said of this time period that everything he wrote "fell apart like wet tissue paper," and that self-consciousness and unease is very evident here. The writing is clunky and oft-uninspired; few of the characters come alive. The excellent characterization is why I pay the price of admission. Even if the story gets bloated and the ending disappoints, King's characters are typically reliable. Not so here.

In essence, it feels like King studied what worked best earlier in his career and incorporated those elements into the novellas, with diminished results. We have the small band of survivors fighting for life against an apocalyptic setting a'la The Stand and The Mist (The Langoliers), a psychic child (again, The Langoliers), the tortured writer (Secret Window, Secret Garden), repressed childhood memories/using the innocence of childhood to fight a shape-shifting monster (The Library Policeman) and a boring-as-shit Castle Rock tale about a murderous dog (The Sun Dog). All of these stories feel like they're stuck in tired, been-there-done-that territory; I almost never accuse King of repeating himself, but this collection is nothing but reheated leftovers of plot points from earlier, better novels and novellas.

My ratings for each story are as follows:

The Langoliers: 3
Secret Window, Secret Garden: 4
The Library Policeman: 3
The Sun Dog: 1
That puts the average at 2.75, which rounds up to 3. This is a totally average book. Secret Window, Secret Garden is easily the best of the lot; I don't care to ever reread the others.

King Connections

The Langoliers features a shout-out to The Shop.

Secret Window, Secret Garden partially takes place in Derry; The Sun Dog takes place in Castle Rock. Both towns are, of course, very important to the King universe.

Favorite Quote

“'I'm not taking that,' Mort said, and part of him was marvelling at what a really accommodating beast a man was: when someone held something out to you, your first instinct was to take it. No matter if it was a check for a thousand dollars or a stick of dynamite with a lit and fizzing fuse, your first instinct was to take it.”

Up Next

Needful Things
Profile Image for Sadegh Davoudi.
7 reviews10 followers
July 10, 2007
This book is consisted of 4 short stories (app. 200 pages each) and as all of King's works, the super-natural has a very important role in them.
1) The first one is called "The Langoliers" and is about a group of people who wake up in an deserted plane. Your in an unknown world where you don't know the rules. Fascinating. (I give it 4/5)
2) The second one is called "Secret Window, Secret Garden". I found this story somehow boring. It's about a writer which someone accuses him of stealing his story. (I'd give it 2/5)
3) The third story is called "The Library Policeman". This was a story I couldn't put down. The writing was magnificent. As the years go by, I find it harder to find books which you can't stop reading. It's about a guy who borrows two books from the town library but fails to return them on time and the librarian sends the library police to him. (I give this one 5/5)
4) The last but not least, is a story called "The Sun Dog". I can clearly say, this is by far the scariest story I've read. King has put in some very detailed paragraphs which gives you the goosebumps all over you. This is a story which I'm ashamed to say, gave me a nightmare. It's about a camera that takes pictures of some unknown place.(5/5 is my opinion)
At the end, my average grade is 4/5 for this book
5,870 reviews130 followers
October 19, 2021
Four Past Midnight is an anthology of four novellas written by Stephen King. It is a collection of four horror novellas, which deals with time. The four novellas are tied together via subtleties that relate to time: 1 to 4 past midnight, where each novella is numbered in order of appearance.

The Langoliers (★★★★☆) centers on pilot Brian Engle, who immediately after a difficult flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles, learns that his ex-wife Anne has died in an accident in Boston, and he boards a red-eye flight to Boston as a passenger. A flight attendant speaks of an unusual phenomenon over the Mojave Desert that resembles an aurora, which is actually a time rip that has sent the plane into the past.

Secret Window, Secret Garden (★★★★☆) centers on novelist Mort Rainey, who is one day confronted by John Shooter who claimed that Mort plagiarized a story he wrote. Mort vehemently denies ever plagiarizing anything. Shooter leaves, but not before leaving his manuscript, "Secret Window, Secret Garden." Mort throws the manuscript into the trash can. When Mort's housemaid recovers the manuscript – thinking it belongs to Mort, he finally reads Shooter's story, discovering that it is almost identical to his short story "Sowing Season." The only differences are the title, the character's name, the diction, and the ending.

The Library Policeman (★★★★☆) centers on Sam Peebles, who is asked to give a speech to his local Rotary Club. An office assistant directs him to the public library to check out books that might help with his speechwriting. At the library, he receives a library card and assistance in finding books from an elderly librarian, Ardelia Lortz. Having noticed a series of disturbing posters in the children's section, including one featuring a frightening "Library Policeman" character, he discusses their appropriateness with Ardelia, but soon learns that Ardelia Lortz have been dead for two years.

The Sun Dog (★★★☆☆) centers on Kevin Delevan, who receives a Polaroid camera for his fifteenth birthday and soon discovers that there is something strange about the camera: the only pictures it produces are of a malicious black dog which seems to move closer with each shot as though to attack the photographer.

For the most part, these novellas were written rather well. With these novellas King returns to the familiar ground of horror that he is infamous for. The pacing is great for most of the novellas, but they are all suspenseful reads as the collection strikes a nice balanced between science fiction and psychological horror. In this anthology King writes in the genres of dark fantasy, thriller, and horror.

All in all, Four Past Midnight is a wonderful collection of novellas that shows the reason King is revered as the "King of Horror".
Profile Image for Helen.
562 reviews33 followers
July 28, 2012
The Langoliers: Twilight Zone type scenario, only more horrific. Not for those with a fear of flying, or you don't have aerophobia, you may well develop it after reading this. That,and a perfectly logical fear of toothy existence-devouring beasties!

Secret Window, Secret Garden: Having already seen and enjoyed the film adaptation, I wasn't sure what to expect from the original novel. I found the story to be more intense and claustrophobic, one of those rare tales that stays with you and gets under your skin; you ARE poor Mort, slowly but surely losing his marbles as his grip on reality loosens. Think I may have preferred the film ending though, that was (unusually for Hollywood) somewhat darker.

The Library Policeman: I have a feeling this will be my favourite story in this collection! Not so much about the scare-potential of libraries and librarians (though I can see how both can be quite creepy), and more about the deepest childhood fears we all have.
That said, the way Ardelia Lortz draws on these fears is BLOODY SCARY! And remember kids, renew or return your books in good time, or the Library Policeman just might pay you a visit!

The Sun Dog: Cameras are sort of strange. Even when you know the technology behind it, the idea that a moment, a place, a person can be frozen in time is still almost other-worldly (if you ponder such things for long enough, I guess). But what if this wondrous creation turns against you, manipulates you and tries to take on a life of its own? And what if the malevolent creature within is a monstrous dog-beast? A select few residents of a small town find out. And I never was much of a 'dog person', anyway ...

Overall, a great collection. My personal favourite was The Library Policeman.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,204 reviews1,329 followers
October 11, 2020
The Langoliers
The longest and probably the best known of the collection (due to the 90's mini-series) has such a cool concept.
Ten sleeping passengers on a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Boston wake to find everyone else in the flight has disappeared, including the pilot!

This is a nice little Sci-Fi horror from King, it has a strong Doctor Who vibe about it so I should have liked it more.
But it's quite telling that a page count longer than some of King's novels was included in this collection.
Ideas of an aircraft without a pilot and a deserted airport are creeply effective, but it just seemed to lack something especially with the large group of characters.

Secret Window, Secret Garden
Another that I'd known through the adaptation (starring Johnny Depp) where King tackling a familiar topic of the writer.
This felt very similar to a few of the other novels he wrote around this time, though the main focus is plagiarism.

Successful novelist Mort Rainey is accused of copying John Shooter's story, needing proof that his tale was published first soon ensues a little mystery to the precedings.

It's an interesting take on where authors get their inspiration from.
King talks about Dracula being an inspiration for 'Salem's Lot in the introduction as an example.

Like many mystery novels once you know the Whodunit it can take away much of the enjoyment, which I also found to be the case here.

The Library Policeman
Who knew that Library's could be creepy places?
It's of course true that kids loved to be scared, you can thank Goosebumps for my love of horror.
So it makes sense that the threat of an overdue book could lead to more than a fine.

It's the librarian Ardelia Lortz who warns Sam Peebles that he must return the books on time.
She's such a great character and one of the most memorable of the collection.

For the most part this was quite a fun read, but the darker tones of suppressed trauma ended up what I'd thought would be an oddball novella into something much different.

The Sun Dog
Talking of both plagiarism and Goosebumps, did R. L. Stine use this story as inspiration for Say Cheese and Die?
This story features a Polaroid camera that develops odd pictures...

This had such a cool concept as 15 year old Kevin Delevan received the camera for his birthday, but with each snap he soon starts to notice a black slowly getting closer and closer with each picture.

It's always enjoyable to have stories set in King's Castle Rock, with a few familiar characters popping up helps move the plot along.
But like the other three novellas in this collection it's just too long.
All four stories would have benefited with being shorter.
Profile Image for Wayne Barrett.
Author 3 books107 followers
January 13, 2016
Actual rating; 3.5 stars
A collection of four short stories:
The Langoliers
Secret Window, Secret Garden
The Library Policeman
The Sun Dog
This collection doesn't quite stack up to the King quartet; Different Seasons, but it is still classic Stephen King.
Profile Image for Jason.
206 reviews73 followers
July 14, 2018
The Langoliers - *****
Secret Window, Secret Garden - ****
The Library Policeman - ***
The Sun Dog - ****

I always get a bookgasm when King introduces a story with a short intro on how the story came to be. Too much info?

Overall - 4 stars
Profile Image for Liz • りず.
66 reviews18 followers
July 28, 2023
“I still believe in the resilience of the human heart and the essential validity of love; I still believe that connections between people can be made and that the spirits which inhabit us sometimes touch. I still believe that the cost of these connections is horribly, outrageously high... and I still believe that the value received far outweighs the price which must be paid.”
The King of Horror (get it?) strikes again with this collection of wildly imaginative and spine-chillingly creepy novellas.
In these four horror stories, jet passengers become trapped in a time-warp while pursued by ravenous Lovecraftian beings; a psychopath accuses a writer of plagiarism, stopping at nothing to get even; a man with an overdue book confronts a demonic librarian, and a boy's polaroid captures images of a gigantic and vicious beast, drawing ever closer.
In each tale, King seamlessly blends nostalgia, existential dread, and visceral fear with his iconic tongue-in-cheek humor, giving us an experience that is as fun as it is unsettling.
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