Sunday, May 1, 2011

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

About the Book: "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.

First lines:
1922: My name is Wilfred Leland James, and this is my confession.
Big Driver: Tess accepted twelve compensated speaking engagements a year, if she could get them.
Fair Extension: Streeter only saw the sign because he had to pull over and puke.
A Good Marriage: The one thing nobody asked in casual conversation, Darcy thought in the days after she found what she found in the garage was this: How's your Marriage?

My Thoughts: The 4 stories in this collection had this Constant Reader up late two nights in a row. They aare dark tales. I found these to be especially creepy fare because they were, for the most part, about human nature rather than monsters and the supernatural. The main characters were, as is King's want (and as he stated in his afterward) ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances, they are easy to relate to. Who hasn't been afraid of getting a flat tire on a lonely road? How awful would it be to find your spouse was keeping a DARK secret?

My least favorite of the four was the story "Fair Extension." It was the only one that had any real amount of the supernatural, the man selling his soul to the devil. Well he didn't sell his soul, he paid money. When reflecting on this I decided it was my least favorite in part because there was no good guy to come out on top. The bad guy got it all. I didn't feel for the main character at all. he was filled with hatred and greed because he was jealous......of his "best" friend.

The most heart pounding one was "A Good Marriage" which King based on the BTK serial killer. The first part of it was rather bland, what a great set up for what came next.

The one that hit home the most was "Big Driver." In this one we find Tess, an author of cozy mysteries, stuck on a back road with a flat. Raped and left for dead, she seeks revenge. The ending was predicable and satisfying. One time I had a flat in the middle of the night on a stretch of road that was deserted and unpopulated in the early 80s, a time before everyone had a cell phone. While nothing bad happened to me it was really scary.

I'm going to rate this as an A for all you Constant Readers, suspense, and horror fans. If you read true crime 3 of the the 4 may appeal to you. I'll save this one and reread it sometime.

Rating: A

1 comment:

Teacher/Learner said...

I also ate this right up. Different Seasons is still my favourite collection of Stephen King's short stories but this one was well worth it. Ironically, we thought the same about Big Driver and Fair Extension.