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Book Review – Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Description:

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 “1922,” the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. 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 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 Dave 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 films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.


Speaking as a King fan who wasn’t too impressed with his bloated (and dragging) last novel Under the Dome, I’m happy to report that with this four-novella collection Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King has his writing mojo back! Yes, the Kindle edition is a bit expensive at $14.99, and yes, it would have been nice if it was at least the same price as the paperback, but I’m pretty happy with this one. Full Dark, No Stars is a more-than-solid effort from Stephen King, with King once again excelling in telling us stories about ordinary people who find themselves in pretty horrifying situations (that we all hope & pray we never have to deal with ourselves. Ever).

What I’m most impressed with is how authentic and distinctive each voice is in the four stories. A farmer recounts the unravelling of his life after he commits a murder in “1922“. In “Big Driver,” a cozy mystery author, who is raped and left for dead, exacts revenge from those who wronged her. A dying man makes a deal with the devil in “Fair Extension” and in “A Good Marriage“, a wife discovers that a monster lurks within her loving husband of 30 years. All four stories are richly detailed and superbly characterized with very real characters that will have you cringing or shuddering with them as they face their hells on earth. The strongest stories for me were “A Good Marriage” and “Big Driver” – maybe because they featured strong women characters who I liked and could sympathize with, whether or not I agreed with the choices they made. If I were to pick the weakest, it would have to be “Fair Extension” which ended on an IMO unfinished way – I just figure that deals with the devil ought to always result in some personal bad consequences 😉

For those worried that the stories are too scary, I wouldn’t really describe them as outright scary. They’re gruesome and grim and can be creepy – but not the type that makes you scared of the dark afterwards. Like I’ve said, I thought that Stephen King really delivered in showing us the dark side of humanity in this book, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Full Dark, No Stars to both the longtime King fan or to new readers who have yet to read him.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition ($14.99), Hardcover ($15.17), Paperback ($9.99) or Audible Audio Edition ($23.95).

The eBook is also available for $14.99 on B&N Nook, Sony eBookstore. Kobo Books has the book listed at $16.29.

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  1. buffy522
    February 14, 2011 at 1:22 am

    I almost put the book away with “1922”. I did not care about any of the characters which is so unKing like. Good morality tale, but really flat. Love Big Driver and Good wife. They had strangely real feelings and satisfying if not happy endings. Different in some ways from Kings novels. Fair Extension was interesting and had no real moral closure. Kind of a guilty finger pointing at our selfishness maybe? Once I plowed through 1922, I enjoyed the rest. And be sure to read the note to the reder at the end. Another “no apologies people” form the master storyteller!

    • February 14, 2011 at 2:59 pm

      Yeah, good point, I always read King’s afterword since he explains where he gets his ideas from/ what he’s thinking when he was writing.

  2. March 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Nice review. I liked Full Dark, No Stars as well, although like buffy522 I liked “1922” the least. Actually a big part of what I liked about “Fair Extension” was the ending. It’s a nice spin for there not to be any karmic comeuppance. Comedy black as pitch – I love it.

    Altogether, I’m not sure whether I enjoyed this volume as much as I enjoyed the shorter tales in Just After Sunset, but you’re absolutely right that it’s miles better than Under the Dome.

    • March 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! Hmmm, I get what you’re saying about Fair Extension – I guess I kinda needed the Karmic return!

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