I almost did not read this book because of baseball.
Seriously, I fail to understand this sport (my European-born brain must be lacking a baseball neuron, I suppose)¹. 'Twilight' pseudo-vampires engaging in this American pastime did not help this sport win credibility with me, so you can at least partially blame Stephenie Meyer, I guess.
¹ Seriously, my facial expression when people start discussing baseball around me is akin to the facial expressions of my American colleagues when I started singing praises to biathlon during the Winter Olympics.
My feeble attempts at garnering enthusiasm (Hey, it's skiing and shooting! It's USEFUL!) were met with carefully blank stares. See below.
The best approximation of abovementioned facial expression that internet could provide.
Whatevs. The greatness of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is clearly not for everyone.
But then I thought - hey, it's Stephen King writing about baseball, and that combo somehow worked amazingly for me in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and I should be open-minded, and why the hell not?
I needn't have worried. Baseball is just a backdrop in this very short story and could have been replaced by any sport that has major televised coverage. Even though ice dancing as a backdrop may have not been quite appropriate for the tone King is trying to set.
This story for Stephen King's Constant Readers is nothing new - but there's nothing bad about that. It's more psychological than horror, as we came to expect from Uncle Stevie. It has trademark brilliant narrative voice slowly creating an uneasy atmosphere - because King is excellent at believable and relatable narration that makes you feel that you're siting around a campfire listening to a bit of carefully crafted spookiness. The ending is actually a bit subdued as far as King goes, but manages to hold its own.
Where this story does shine is characterization - something we may not necessarily expect from a short story *this* short (the page count is a bit inflated by including excerpts from King's Talisman and Black House). By the end of it you *know* Dean Evers - in a way he wouldn't want you to know him, surely. His loneliness and sense of loss and - of course - inner ugly monsters lurking under the seemingly ordinary shell. As he watches a parade of people from his life on the TV screen - those people all dead, by the way - and is reminded of the ugliness that was always present in his life, you get a nagging feeling that despite superficial similarities, there will be no saccharine-sweet ending of A Christmas Carol, nossir.
All in all, it was an enjoyable short read. Bring on more baseball stories! (Ok, I may be kidding here, I'm not yet ready for that).
3.5 stars. Good. Not amazing, but good.