Sunday, June 26, 2011

REVIEW: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Wow, has it already been 7 months since Full Dark, No Stars was first released? I bought it as an e-book the day it came out, and read the first story (which covers the first third of the collection) that weekend. I loved it, but I find Stephen King to be one of those authors whose books I want to physically hold in my hands. Maybe it's nostalgia, or maybe it's just more fitting for the stories he tells, but I find the feel and the smell of a real book allows me to sink deeper into his stories.

So, on that note, I picked up the paperback Friday night . . . and finished it today!

The first story, 1922, is vintage King - dark, disturbing, and something you suspect could very well have come from the tabloid archives. As he does so often, King plays with the traditional family dynamic, pitting husband against wife, and placing the son directly in the middle. It's no surprise that murder is the result, but this isn't a story about murder - it's a story about guilt, remorse, and consequence. There are some wonderful touches of the macabre in this one, along with some truly gruesome moments, and an ending that you know is coming . . . but which hits hard all the same.

Big Driver, the second story in the collection, is an extremely dark tale that reminds me of King's era of Gerald's Game, Dolores Clairbone, and Rose Madder. It's the story of a very nice mystery writer who falls prey to a serial rapist. It's a graphic tale, and one that's likely to disturb some readers, but probably the best of the bunch. Tess is a wonderfully strong heroine, and the way in which she transforms is as powerful as it is empowering. Here we get a talking cat and a talking GPS to help alleviate some of the tension (courtesy of Tess' fractured psyche), and a mystery that's almost more horrifying than the rape itself.

As a huge fan of King's earliest collections (Night Shift and Skeleton Crew), I absolutely loved the third story, Fair Extension. It's a relatively short story, relating a new twist on the old deal with the devil. Every time you think he's pushed things far enough, he pushes them even farther. It's a cruel tale, but also one that leaves you giddy with shared euphoria. If you've ever had that 'perfect' friend you love to hate, you'll find the ending just as cruel and heartless, yet happy at the same time . . . absolutely classic King.

The last story, A Good Marriage, is so twisted I'm not sure where to begin. It's a story of secrets, confessions, more secrets, and repercussions. Somehow, in King's hands, being a bondage obsessed serial killer is actually something to be pitied . . . and being a faithful wife, one who wants to believe there's still a good man insider her husband, is something to be very scared of. The scene where Darce images her own daughter bound to the kitchen table, ready to become Daddy's next victim, is one of the most chilling scenes in the whole collection. As for the ending, you kind of see it coming, and know it's how the story deserves to end, but somehow it still surprises you.

If you happen to pick up the paperback, we also get a very short bonus story in Under the Weather. This one is sad and creepy and entirely too disturbing. You suspect from the very first page what's really going on, but want so desperately to be wrong. When the end comes . . . well, it's a fitting end for a night spent in Full Dark, with No Stars to light the way.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I got started on Stephen King back in 1992. LOVE his books. I have this one, haven't read it yet. My TBR pile is obnoxious & secretly breeding. I may have to go dig & find this book.

  2. I've been meaning to read this since it came out, sounds great!