Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
H&S Fiction
Paperback - C Format
November 2010
352 pages
Thriller / Suspense

On the heels of the stunning success of Under the Dome, Hodder's bestselling Stephen King title this decade, comes a collection of four brand new, darkly riveting and intimate stories.

'I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger...' writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up '1992', the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerising tales from Stephen King, linked by the theme of retribution. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife Arlette proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness. In 'Big Driver', a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger is along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face to face with another stranger: the one inside herself.'Fair Extension', the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Harry Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It's a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends 'A Good Marriage'.Like DIFFERENT SEASONS and FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT, which generated such enduring hit films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, FULL DARK, NO STARS proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.


Stephen King has written some forty books and novellas, including CARRIE, THE STAND and RITA HAYWORTH AND SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION from the collection DIFFERENT SEASONS, BAG OF BONES, ON WRITING and most recently CELL, LISEY'S STORY and DUMA KEY. He wrote several novels under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, including BLAZE 'June 2007'. He won America's prestigious National Book Award and was voted Grand Master in the 2007 Edgar Allen Poe awards. He lives with his wife, novelist Tabitha King, in Maine, USA.


I was excited to hear that King had another quartet of tales coming out this year, hot on the tails of Blockade Billy and Under the Dome. The consistency of King’s shorter stories and novellas has always been strong. While some critics just love to put down everything Stephen has published since It, I have enjoyed all of his recent books apart from Lisey’s Story (which I just couldn’t get into no matter how many times I started reading it).

Full Dark, No Stars has four stories; 1922, Fair Extension, Big Driver, and A Good Marriage. The first two are the longest of the four stories, with A Good Marriage being the shortest story of the four.

1922 is a well written story about greed and how it consumes a person until there is nothing left to enjoy. The main character is a husband and father who plot to kill his wife for her share of the newly inherited farm adjacent to their existing one. The story runs along smoothly and in the typical King style, where the backdrop and characters are well and truly set in place before the twist comes and smacks you over the head halfway through. The element of supernatural is nothing more than the madness brought on by the actions of a money hungry farmer. It is well written and definably going to be made into a movie, no doubt about it.

Big Driver, the second tale, is a horrific story of the rape and its unsettling impact on a young woman. While I tend to like King’s female driver main characters less than his other stories, this one did read as believable. Most male authors should steer clear of writing a first person, female driven story, especially one about topics such as rape. I don’t think a man can fully understand how this sort of thing would affect a woman. Big Driver was an exception to this. The main character did have some flaws apparent from being written by a male, but the overall story covered this downfall quite well.

Fair Extension reminded me of King’s earlier novel, Thinner, but from the other side. I enjoyed this story about seeking salvation at the expense of another. The start of the story was a bit vague and I wasn’t quite sure what the plot was until a few pages in. Once the scene was set, the story was quite enjoyable, yet sad.

A Good Marriage, the final tale in this quartet, was very thought provoking. Just how well do you know the person you live with? King explores this in true style, and while not the most original plot, it was executed with excellence.

Overall, great set of stories with no real weak links or tales that you’d skip over. All four are well written and worth the read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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