Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Hazel

Full Dark, No Stars

Recommended Posts

I reckon that Stephen King should just give up writing novels. Yes, I added novels to the end of that sentence just in case some books snobs paraphrase me. His last full length book, Under the Dome, I found bloated and similar in oh-so-many ways to most of his previous books. I gave up on it. But I still have fresh in my mind his excellent short story collection, Just After Sunset, so the warm buzz of that persuaded me to give his new collection, Full Dark, No Stars a go.

 

This collection comprises of 4 stories, 2 rather long, 2 short: 1922 is 124 pages long, Big Driver about the same, followed by Fair Extension and A Good Marriage. The book also has a short afterword by Mr King which notes how he came up with the ideas for his stories within but mostly a 'harumph' at book snobs and the literary fiction/genre fiction divide. His main point is that literary fiction is about extraordinary people in ordinary situations and that genre fiction is ordinary people in extraordinary situations, which is what he'd both rather read and write about. I agree to some extent except to add that literary fiction can also be about ordinary people in ordinary situations. But ultimately, who cares what you read really? A long as you enjoy it, you shouldn't have to feel compelled to justify it.

 

Anyway, to the stories. I can say without reservation that I thoroughly enjoyed every single story here, there isn't a weak one in the collection and to be honest a couple of them downright scared me. It's always the worst luck that you read a scary story in bed, and then something trivial but unusual happens that very same night that leaves you rigid with fear. After reading the first story, '1922', in this collection, a poster slowly peeled off from my son's bedroom door when I was drifting off to sleep and bloody hell, I broke out in cold sweats, eyes fixated to my closed bedroom door, wondering who the hell was in my hall making such a terrific noise.

 

1922 - Wilfred James begins a confession from a dingy hotel room, confessing to the events of 1922 when his life went awry. His wife had inherited 100 acres of rural land, adjacent to the James' farm. She wanted to sell it to a corporation who would turn it into beef cattle for the food industry. Wilf doesn't want to do this so with his son reluctantly and manipulatively involved, he plots to kill his wife and retain the farm and all the land.

 

After killing her, a bungled job, he throws her down a deep well on their land. Slowly things start to go wrong for Wilf and Hank (their son). Rats begin to infest and infect their lives. Hank turns from a sweet-natured boy to a wilful, silent, brooding boy whose life turns tragic. He gets his teenage girlfriend pregnant and when she is sent away to 'deal' with the pregnancy, Hank goes after her and their lives on the run are short-lived.

 

Wilf meanwhile struggles to keep the farm whilst being haunted by rats, one in particular is very difficult to get rid of. All the while he can't get the picture out of his head of his wife at the bottom of the well, slowly decomposing. And it is in these images that the most horror and scares come. King is the...king...at the horrific description and really can paint quite a vivid picture to scare you. One displaced jaw and I was scared.

 

Big Driver - Tess is a writer (what else?) and she does speaking engagements every so often in order to pad out her pension. She writes cuddly, cosy mysteries around a Knitting Society who also solve crimes in their spare time. At the last minute she is asked to do a gig a few hours away as another writer has pulled out. They promise extra money and off she goes leaving her cat behind. But she has Tom - her GPS for company.

 

The gig goes well and before leaving, the organiser, a big woman, tells her to take a shortcut home that will shave 90 minutes from her journey time. She helpfully programs the route into Tom. And off Tess goes.

 

But she gets a flat. (You know where this is going don't you? It's inevitable really). In a deserted area with an old and unused gas station. Luckily, a recovery driver comes along, and he seems really nice, very helpful. Until he rapes and brutalises her then leaves her for dead in a culvert. When he is safely gone, Tess opens her eyes and notices that she is not alone. She struggles to get to safety and when she does she has to think. Should she report this? Can it do her career harm? Will there be more lasting public interest because she is famous? How intrusive will the police and press be? But what about the other women? Was there a child in that pile?

 

Inspired by a recent viewing of Jodie Foster's film, The Brave One, Tess decides to deal with things her own way and a Death Wish-type story evolves. But life conspires against Tess and what seemed to be a straightforward act of vengeance proves to be more difficult than planned.

 

Fair Extension - A deal with the devil type story here. Streeter has terminal cancer and during a drive home he comes across a roadside seller offering Fair Extensions. Extensions to whatever you want. His name is Elvid (see what Stephen did there?). Clearly, what Street needs is a life extension but for that he has to pay the price. He has to give his misfortune to someone he really hates. He picks his best friend Tom. After all, Tom stole his girl in high school, got a loan from Streeter's bank for a risky deal which went North and made Tom a millionaire, he has successful and beautiful kids and is still happily married to Streeter's high school sweetheart. Who could Streeter hate more?

 

Life changes immediately. Streeter's cancer disappears, reappearing in Tom's life. His wife dies, his children suffer great tragedies, he loses his house, tradegy ad infinitum. But does Streeter have buyer's remorse?

 

A Good Marriage - Surely she must have known? The premise for the last tale in this collection. When a serial killer is discovered people wonder about the partner - how did she not know? She must have colluded. How did he hide it for so long?

 

Darcy marries young to Bob, a nice man, not outstanding in anyway, but a kind and loving man. They have 27 long years of happy marriage, fair, full of compromise and care, with 2 beautiful and happy children. She really couldn't have asked for more. They prosper financially and emotionally. Bob works his normal job but they both run a coin collection company specialising in obtaining rare coins for collectors. This means that Bob has to be away a couple of times a month - but that's ok, it's something they share, the company and the desire for it to do well.

 

One such trip and Darcy runs out of batteries, but Bob has a stash in the garage. Looking for them she finds a box of catalogues - her catalogues, Bob's attempt to curb her mail-order spending. But buried below them is a bondage/fetish magazine. Shocked, she manages to rationalize it, and shoves it under the table. Clunk.

 

She returns sometime later to that 'clunk' unable to get it out of her mind. She finds a box, one she gave Bob as a gift a long time ago, and in it 3 cards belonging to a woman: a blood donor card, a bank card and a driving licence, all bound in an elastic band. The name is one she recognises from the news.

 

Further investigation reveals her husband to be a serial killer, Beadie, one that the police have been searching for for a very long time. In the midst of her panic, Bob phones and she manages to cover her upset. Until he returns home that night unexpectedly. Does she collude? Does she tell the police? Or does she deny?

 

I guess it's rare to get a collection of shorts that are all as good as each other, when it's only 4 there's got to be one that's not quite as good, but here I'd be hard-pushed to pick a weak one. Each story is pretty gripping, a couple to the point of being scary and while you think they are going to play out as you expect, King keeps things twisting and you just don't know what will happen.

 

We can only hope and pray that King sticks with the shorts and gives the novels the short-shrift.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i really like full dark, no stars. It was diffferent for King. I think his latest book joyland was a bit of a letdown. Its a crime story about a young man who takes a summer job at a carnival to forget about a girl who broke his heart. Its quite slow to get into and the ending isn't that thrilling as you kind of guessed the killer half way thru. I'm looking forward to his next book Doctor Sleep which is the sequal to the shining which is my favourite king book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Doctor Sleep might be interesting, too.  The Shining was a very good book.  I'm not a huge Stephen King fan, but I liked that one enough that I'm looking forward to Doctor Sleep.  Might have to re-read The Shining before reading it, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i really like full dark, no stars. It was diffferent for King. I think his latest book joyland was a bit of a letdown. Its a crime story about a young man who takes a summer job at a carnival to forget about a girl who broke his heart. Its quite slow to get into and the ending isn't that thrilling as you kind of guessed the killer half way thru. I'm looking forward to his next book Doctor Sleep which is the sequal to the shining which is my favourite king book.

I am reading Joyland just now and enjoying it. SK is very good at setting his scene. I have Doctor Sleep on pre-order and am very much looking forward to receiving it this week.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By lunababymoonchild
      I'm a die hard Stephen King fan and I've only ever started one of his books and decided that I didn't like it (The Gunslinger, part one of the Dark Tower series) and I've been reading him for a very long time. I have started a few that I decided were too horrific for me to read! That said I enjoy his horror fiction most but had to stop reading that as it was affecting my personality, or so my brother told me.
       
      The Institute isn't horror fiction, not by my definition of an SK horror, but it's engaging anyway.  It's about children who are kidnapped, their parents killed and the children locked in an institute where they are tortured and then used to kill, with their minds. When they are used up they die and are cremated.  This, apparently, has been going on for some 50 years or more. One of the kids escapes and that leads to the climax of the book.
       
      I enjoyed the book as far as it went but it felt very familiar so I may have read/seen something similar in the past.  It's the only Stephen King book that I'm not keeping so although I enjoyed it, it's not a keeper - either that or I'm jaded.
       
       
    • By Hazel
      Stephen King’s latest book is a novella of just 132 pages. Whilst I love his doorsteps, I often think he is at his best with shorter novels and short stories. Elevation is the tale of an ordinary man who has something extraordinary happen to him, as often is the case in King’s books. Scott starts to lose weight rapidly - the scales show a 2-3lb loss every day but his size and frame and importantly, his clothes don’t change. He realises that the loss isn’t going to slow down and the book is his reckoning with “zero day”. 
       
      Yes, I am a die hard King fan so I am always going to be a bit biased about his books, but this is truly a lovely story. I finished it on the train and I struggled to keep my emotions in check. 
    • By Hazel
      I think Stephen King stopped being classed as horror a long time ago but still this is where people would expect to find of his reviews. This is his most recent collection of short stories - I will say straight off the bat that it's not as good as his last two collections but it is still full of dark treats. What sets this collection apart, is that King gives a little intro at the start of each story telling his constant readers where the inspiration came from for the coming tale. Given that On Writing is so good, these little intros are a delicious bonus.
       
      The stories within are each fantastic little reads but stand out stories are Obits and Drunken Fireworks. Obits is about a journo who writes the obituaries for a little publication. As a joke, he writes the obit of his boss in a pique of frustration but when she dies the next day, he finds he has a terrible power. Dangerous but becomes more so when it gets exploited. Drunken Fireworks is a rather amusing tale of one-up-manship on July the 4th. Living on a river, is a relatively poor family who bought their shack when property was cheap. Across the river, on the other side, is a mobster who owns a massive mansion. Each year they try to outdo each other with fireworks. it becomes a famous battle in the neighbourhood and so begins a worldwide search for the ultimate firework.
       
      I love Stephen King, I love his stories so I am pretty easy to impress. When he's good, he's great - this collection isn't that but it's still head and shoulders above most who try to emulate the Master.
    • By Hazel
      Stephen King gets a lot of stick and Stephen King fans bear a fair amount too but I am a happy-to-be fan. What I like about reading Stephen King is that you are guaranteed a story. Yes, one that the plot takes precedent to prose, but that's why we humans read and have a history of story-telling. But you are guaranteed a story. You are also guaranteed characters that you immediately 'get'. His characters are steeped in the ordinary, normalcy and therefore you buy it, allowing King to introduce the extraordinary which you automatically accept.
       
      Revival is no different. The extraordinary in the ordinary. Jamie Morton is a small boy in the 60s. A new pastor comes to town and Jamie and Charles immediately strike up a friendship. One that will take them to old age, despite themselves. Charles has a hobby - he loves electricity. Think Tesla in a tunic. He plays with electricity and one day, cures Jamie's older brother using a sort of DIY electroshock therapy.
       
      Then one day something horrific happens and Charles suffers a devastating blow that shakes his faith in God. When he delivers a rant at church, he is asked to leave and Jamie doesn't seem again until they are both older.
       
      Cue a carnival and Jamie - ex-Rock star, junkie, washed up has been - sees and older Charles perform. He is now doing a strange electricity show where he 'cures' people with his magic rings. They come into contact again and Charles turns his curing power to Jamie's drug addiction and hooks him up with a job with a previous 'patient'.
       
      But these people Charles cures - what becomes of them? What are the side effects of their cure? These are the questions that begin to haunt Jamie and he tries to get the answers. Ultimately Jamie finds himself in a situation of both wanting and hating Charles' power.
       
      I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Spanning a long period, I felt immersed in the story and the characters at all times. Being a bit of a fan of Tesla, I especially liked the subject matter. I found the use of electricity being the 'horror' with the mad scientist who used to be a religious person, quite fascinating. Highly recommended.
    • By Hazel
      A man drives a Mercedes into a people waiting in a job queue. As Mr King is wont to do, he introduces us to a couple of the soon-to-be bumper-fodder before he introduces the bumper of the Mercedes. A desperate man. A young mother with her baby.
       
      Bill Hodges retired cop is haunted by this unsolved crime. He leads sedentary, junk food-filled daily existence until he receives a letter in the post from the killer laughing at Hodges' inability to catch him. Hodges ignores the claim but begins to put the case together. The owner of the stolen Mercedes, the murder weapon, dies some time after the crime was committed and Hodges doesn't think this is a coincidence. With his IT literate neighbour and the sister of the Mercedes owner, this little band of people flung together begin to chase a killer. Just as he chases them.
       
      King has announces that this book is the beginning of a trilogy featuring Bill Hodges and I am really pleased to hear that. I enjoyed this very much - as a straightforward crime novel it is very good. King is always...well, king at drawing his characters and the extraordinary predicament they find themselves in.
       
       
×
×
  • Create New...