Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

One cannot write as many books as King has written without putting out a few stinkers. But he also has a habit of dropping a book from time to time that serves to remind us that he is a master. To me, Full Dark, No Stars is King's most perfect book since Gerald's Game, and I admit that I didn't or rather, could not, finish Duma Key or Lisey's Story. I wanted to, but couldn't. This collection of four novellas is so strong, I am floored.

King's best works tend to be novellas and short stories. Not to say that he hasn't created masterpieces in some of his novels, probably a dozen or so. I knew that King had some dark, brutal material in him, as his recent collection Just After Sunset includes such material. This new collection, Full Dark, No Stars, contains work stronger than that within Different Seasons, and like that book, has three masterfully written pieces and a fourth very solid entry. I loved all four.

The first within the collection is a classic King tale, set in Nebraska, a place in which King has never lived! 1922 is a first-person period piece, with that bumpkin-on-a-porch narrative at which King excels. King wanted to tell a story set in an isolated rural family environment, before the world was connected by phone lines. The plot revolves around a father and son who murder their wife/mother in order to save the farm which she owns. This dark and tragic story is the weakest of the four in the collection, but still a great read.

The second novella is a painfully hard-to-read rape revenge story entitled Big Driver. I cringed hard at some of King's language describing the rape scene, but I believe that his intentions here are good. This tale is ranked among King's other feminist-themed works such as Rose Madder and Delores Clayborne.

The third entry is a mean-spirited dark comedy called Fair Extension. This is not a new or original tale, but damn is it ever well-written. A man dying of cancer can purchase the cure, but must curse the friend of whom he's been jealous his whole life. I laughed out loud multiple times while reading this one, but geez, was this ever a mean story.

The last story in this collection is a really cool horror tale entitled Good Marriage. The story involves Darcy, who after twenty-seven years of marriage, learns by accident that her husband is a serial killer. King really nails this one, showing his skills by creating amazing suspense and tension for several pages of having the truth be revealed.

This collection is a must-have for King fans, and for fans of horror who think that King has lost the magic touch. This one brings it for sure.

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