Top critical review
Not his best anthology by a long shot.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 7, 2015
It is much easier to write a review of THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS than it is to assign it a numerical ranking. This is because several of the short stories in this anthology have already been released, not only in whatever periodicals they originally appeared, but also as Kindle singles, and three of them (MILE 81, UR, and DRUNKEN FIREWORKS) are (arguably, I suppose) among the best of the lot. Another couple of the stories (BLOCKADE BILLY [truly forgettable] and MORALITY,were previously released (2010) in an inexpensive hardcover print and/or other editions, and one, DRUNKEN FIREWORKS, a typically wonderful, straight-up no horror or supernatural rural SK tale was released last year as in audible only format) and another, THE LITTLE GREEN GOD OF AGONY, a great King horror short, was published in a 2011 anthology by several horror writers (A BOOK OF HORRORS). That leaves 13 other entries, two of which were poems. Of the remaining 11 (and I am pretty sure that most of them were also previously published in periodicals and possibly other multi-author anthologies that I have not seen), my favorite was OBITS (that reminded me a lot of, and used the same Maguffin as in KIng's THE WORD PROCESSOR).
If you have never read any of these stories before, then MILE 81, UR, LITTLE GREEN GOD OF AGONY and DRUNKEN FIREWORKS alone are, I am confident to say, worth the price of admission, and this anthology deserves an Amazon rating of 4 or 5. But if you have already read only 2 or 3 of them, as most die hard SK fans like myself have, then the rating drops markedly, based only on what's left after all the winners have been discounted. I have rated this a 3, which, except for BLOCKADE BILLY that I rated as a 2 (my lowest rating for any SK novel, short story, anthology or non-fiction and I have read most of them), which ties for the lowest rating I have given to any review of anything King has published.
I am NOT one of those who say stuff like "Back when he could write..." or "His best days are far behind him." or any horse feces like that. All one has to do is read 11/22/63, JOYLAND, DOCTOR SLEEP, REVIVAL or either of the two BILL HODGES TRILOGY, all published in 2011 or subsequently, to know that King is still one the best writers of fiction around. And, it could even be argued, that he is a better writer now, more polished at his craft and more mature, than he he was as an (alcoholic, coked-up but who cares, it was the 70s and 80s and he already had money and accolades enough for a lifetime) astoundingly successful young writer in his prime, from the mid 1980s through his near-fatal accident in 1999.
And for God's sake, those who rate this anthology poorly (as I guess I sort of do) , but say it's because he is writing for money - that really makes me lol. The guy is worth something like $400 million. If YOU had $400 million, would you want to risk your reputation simply to make another lousy $20 million? Neither would I, and neither, I am sure, would Stephen King.
I think what happened with BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS was, in large part, due to the relatively recent (about 8 years since first introduction) advent of electronic publishing in the form of Kindle singles. Prior to that, if one did not see one of SK's shorts in the original periodical that published it, one had almost no chance to read it (or even know about it) until it was collected into an anthology. But by the late 2000's, the Kindle and kindle reader app for all platforms allowed SK to publish gems like MILE 81, UR (a really great SF novella centered on the early Kindle that only SK could write), and DRUNKEN FIREWORKS as e-book singles, rather than holding them back for 10 years or so until he had accumulated enough for another anthology that might have been comparable to NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES, EVERYTHING'S EVENTUAL, JUST AFTER SUNSET or some of his others.
So, in summary, if you've not read any of the stories in this anthology before, I would give it a solid 4 stars. Not 5, because some of the stories are weaker than average. But given what is left over after removing from consideration those stories that most of his "Constant Readers" like me have already bought and read, and going solely on the remaining short stories (and two very weak poems), I am sad to say that I think a 3 star rating is actually pretty generous.