Monday, September 23, 2013

Button, Button: Uncanny Stories

Button, Button: Uncanny Stories by
Richard Matheson

First Sentence
"The package was lying by the front door - a cube-shaped carton sealed with tape, the name and address printed by hand: Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lewis, 217 E. 37th Street, New York, New York, 10016."
Publisher's Description:
What if every time you pushed a button you received $50,000...but someone you didn’t know died? Would you still push the button? How many times?
"Button, Button", which inspired a memorable Twilight Zone episode, is just one of a dozen unforgettable tales in this new collection by Richard Matheson, theNew York Times bestselling author of I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come. This volume contains a number of stories that were adapted for television, as well as a new introduction by Matheson himself.
This collection of stories features "Button, Button," soon to be a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden.

Dear Reader,

I started this book awhile back but only to read one of the stories, Button, Button, which was made into a movie The Box (I never ended up watching) and was based on a Twilight Zone episode (which I have also never seen). I read the story at Borders (R.I.P.) during my many casual trips to kick back, drink some coffee and browse/read through some books. Yes, I am one of those people... but before you judge, I did end up buying this book to finish it in the end. Although, this time I changed the format to audio-book and I ended up enjoying it that much more. I've never been a short story fanatic but I do love a REALLY good one and Matheson brings us a couple that really brought it. On the flip side, a few seemed a little lackluster. I think I'll break it down for you (hopefully staying clear from giving too much away).

Button, Button: Matheson starts off with the story that this book is famous for, the one made into a movie. The premise is simple, a couple is offered a chance to obtain fifty thousand dollars but the catch is they have to push a button that will kill someone they don't know. Matheson does an excellent job creating a great short with huge psychological ideas behind it. What would you do? You would hope everyone would be the kind, non-greedy person that wouldn't even dream of pushing that button. BUT we all know the world isn't filled with unselfish, considerate human beings... there'll always be some that wouldn't blink, or more interestingly fight their inner self with what society tells us is the right thing to do. I think this is a story everyone should read, even if you don't read the whole anthology.

Girl of My Dreams: This story also follows a couple, a woman with psychic powers through her dreams is involved with an abuse con-artist who exploits her ability for money. We see through the eyes of the con-artist how horrible and manipulative he is, which gives an excellent chill knowing that people like that are out there. Matheson really does such a great job creating nasty characters from the armpit of the human race. Another excellent story but really disturbing to read.

Dying Room Only: Another story revolving around a married couple (some kind of theme starting?). I was listening to this on the way to work and let me tell you... it really got to me. By the time I finished, I had just pulled in the parking lot to my job and I had to sit in the car awhile before I went in. A couple on a road trip stop at a diner in the middle of nowhere when strange things happen. We've actually heard this story all before, without giving much away, but Matheson does such an amazing job with it... I would highly recommend this one along with the first two stories.

A Flourish of Strumpets: Now we start to see Matheson definitely has a theme for this book because this story ALSO involves a couple. This went a little more into science fiction and the stories seem to be flowing that way, which is nice that Matheson thought of each story and placed them accordingly. One day, a couple is interrupted one night with a knock on the door. Who is it? I'll let you read this one to find out, this was another one I highly recommend because it had some humor and a cute little twist at the end.

No Such Thing as a Vampire: Can you believe it? Another married couple, this time set in Romania (if I remember correctly). The wife wakes up one day to find marks on her neck dripping blood. Her husband realizes what this could be and tries to protect his wife at night whatever way he can. This story was solid enough but didn't seem to have that special something that the first three did.

Pattern for Survival: Matheson finally walks away from his "couples" theme. This involves a writer who sends his new story out for publication. I wasn't a huge fan of this story and don't have much to say about it.

Mute: This was the longest story in the collection and could be considered a Novella. A child is orphaned after a house fire, he is then adopted by a neighboring couple who had lost their own child awhile back. This child is very different, he doesn't speak. Why? Read the story because I know you'd NEVER be able to guess why.

The Creeping Terror: A story so crazy you can only laugh at it. What if Los Angeles became a virus that started taking over the rest of the world? Yes, I know how that sounds and if you want to know more... you should read this story. If anything, he gives you such crazy detail on the stereotypes of L.A. that you find yourself with a belly ache from laughing so much. 

Shock Wave: This story was unmemorable for me and I really can't even remember what it was about, that says something.

Clothes Make the Man: Strange story about a man who couldn't function without dressing fully. This story was one of my least favorite, maybe a bit too bizarre for me.

The Jazz Machine: Another unmemorable story, which is funny since it was towards the end and should be fresh in my memory.

'Tis the Season to be Jelly: See above. I wish I could tell you more but really the last few stories didn't really do anything for me. The other stories outshine these ones and if they didn't, my rating would have been lower.

If you don't want to commit to this whole anthology, just pick up the book to read the first three stories, the rest starts to go downhill a bit and unfortunately the ending stories really take a slide. However, if you look at it this way... Matheson actually gives you a ride downhill and most of the stories are pretty excellent if not entertaining, even the worst story of this group isn't terrible. I did give this 4.5 stars which gives you an inkling of how excellent the "good" stories overshadowed the "okay" ones.

Happy Reading,

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