Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book Rec: Full Dark, No Stars

Full Dark, No StarsFirst of all, I love the title of Stephen King's latest, and that's the primary reason I picked it up.  The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is one of my favorite novels ever, but I'm not usually a big horror reader. Okay, I admit Apt Pupil seemed like a pretty good story, but I put that one down once I caught a hint of tortured cats. There are some things I just can't handle in my horror.

But I saw the title, Full Dark, No Stars, and I saw the gorgeous-disturbing-stark cover, and fine. I'll give it a shot. After all,  there's no denying King is one hell of a storyteller.

Full Dark, No Stars contains four long stories. In "1922", there's a man who kills his wife, convincing his young son to help with the murder and disposal of her body, only to find themselves "hainted". That story was disturbing, but effective. Even though the protag in 1922 is unsympathetic, it's still heartbreaking to see the damage unfold around him.

"Big Driver" was a hard story for me to read, about a woman who is brutally raped and left for dead - and then seeks revenge on her own. Brilliant characterization and pacing. The only fault I found was a few instances of word choice that pulled me out of the story thinking, "Okay, definitely a man writing from a woman's perspective." But even though I looked up numerous times during this story to ask MJ why I was reading about people being hurt - like the news isn't depressing enough - I thought this was a fantastic story. My favorite of the four.

"Fair Extension", the third and shortest story in the book, didn't work all that well for me. It's about a man who makes a deal with the devil, saving his own life - and allowing him to watch his best friend suffer instead.  I had a hard time accepting the characterization in this one - the guy who seems like a sort-of OK type at the beginning gets far too much enjoyment out of the unrelenting misery of others.

On the other hand, "A Good Marriage" was very, very good indeed, even if the marriage itself wasn't. What would you do if one day you discovered your spouse of twenty-odd years was, in fact, a notorious serial killer? That's the question Darcy faces... along with the serious face of her husband, promising he'll never, ever do it again. Really.

The stories are interconnected in that they explore the darkest side of human nature - the "stranger within us all", and I think perhaps that's part of why "Big Driver" and "A Good Marriage" resonated most with me - the two protags in those stories were the most sympathetic and relatable to me. I could put myself in their shoes, making their same choices.

Recommend for the horror fan, but also for the writing student - I think it's interesting to see how Stephen King does what he does, what makes him so effective as a writer even when he's breaking the rules - whether horror is your bag or not.


Old Kitty said...

Oh I want this book!!! I'm on amazon now to order it asap!! Thanks!!!

p.s. Reading your blog headline I thought you were giving a book called Full Dark- a no star rating!!! LOL!! Silly me!!

Take care

Anonymous said...

Nice bit of text I have to admit. Well penned and extremely valuable, thank you!

Anonymous said...

It seems interesting. I'll check it out. I haven't read King in a while.