It's not often I struggle to finish a Stephen King. You always bank on a few duffers in his short story collections, but this is chock full of them.
His latest in what must now be dozens of "the picture mysteriously gets creepier" tales is a low point - the guy gets an exercise bike and paints his basement wall as a country road, but is chased slowly by personifications of his metabolism whom he's put out of work. Or something. They don't even bother to kill him! Rubbish.
The one about 911 sucks, there are two boring ghost stories where railway stations are the afterlife, and one about curing disease in a Green Mile style which is remarkable in being completely unmemorable.
There are a few passable stories - one about a woman who gets captured by a serial killer, one about a middle aged couple and a bad dream, one about a party that gets interrupted in the worst way possible, and a pleasingly gory one about a bad cat
But....there are two tales here I did really enjoy. A Very Tight Place, about an unpleasant encounter in a portaloo, and N., about obessive compulsive disorder, madness, suicide, and unspeakable horror from beyond the stars. NOT inspired by Lovecraft King has been keen to point out - he claims he's ripping off Arthur Machen - but the tale gives me those HP goosepimples I love so much. Two cracking horror stories from different ends of the spectrum.
So, I don't know. Maybe after prematurely blowing his load over the Dark Tower he's kind of at a loss. I think he needs a new project. I'd like to see him do a bit more of the old cosmic horror. N., From a Buick 8, glimpses in Under the Dome, way back to the Mist - I want more. Pick up that Lovecraft mantle! Call it the Machen mantle if you must!
Just no more stories about paintings coming to life.