Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Review: Full Dark, No Stars (2010)

Believe it or not, I'm an avid reader.  Especially when it comes to Stephen King.  I've read all of the books he's written (save for the Dark Tower series, which I just can't into) and I own most of them, although they're currently residing in my parents' attic in upstate New York.  A Manhattan apartment doesn't bode well for the bibliophile.

Anyway, when I was in graduate school, I really got off track with my reading.  It was just too hard to keep up with reading articles and textbooks for school, along with pleasure reading.  But alas, I've gotten my degree and now I have more time for reading.  I also got a Kindle for Christmas, which I'm totally obsessed with, and the reason I got to read Full Dark, No Stars.

Although I love King's longer works (a la The Stand) I do think he really excels in the novella length story.  Full Dark, No Stars reminded me of Different Seasons both in the length of the stories, and the darker, dramatic, and non-horror-esque feel.  And let me tell you, this book is DARK.  It was hard for me to read at some points, and I saw a lot of reviews on Amazon complaining about the subject matter.  This is definitely a bit of a departure for King.

The first story is 1922, which is a story of a family living on a farm in the 1920s in Nebraska.  The wife, searching for a better and richer life, wishes to sell the land, which belonged to her father, and move to the city.  Her husband is not having this, and conspires with their teenage son to kill her.  Although they are successful, haunting and terrible bad luck results.  One thing about this portion that made me really sad is animal suffering,  I know that sounds strange, but I am a crazy animal lover, and lots of animals have issues in this book and that made me kind of blue.  But overall, this was a great story, with King's classic weaving style.

Second we have Big Driver.  This was sort of an interesting twist on the rape-and-revenge story, which focused on a female writer traveling to a nearby town to do a presentation at a library.  On the way back, the library's director leads her to a shortcut, which unwittingly puts her right in the hands of a serial rapist.  She survives the attack, and instead of going to police, plots her vigilante revenge.

Third is Fair Extension, which profiles a father and husband who is rapidly dying from cancer.  One evening on a drive on a quiet road, he comes across a man selling wares.  Further investigation yields that man sells extensions -- on penis size, height, love, and even life.  The payment?  15 percent of his yearly salary for the rest of his life, and a small token from the house of his enemy.  As it so turns out, the man's enemy is his best friend, who stole his girlfriend in college and married her, has more beautiful children, is rich and successful and has a generally better life.  Thinking that 15 percent of salary is a small price to pay for life, the man is cured and goes on to keep living.  But little does he know the price that his friend/enemy will pay.  I found this story to be the most disturbing, and really sort of sick in a way.

Finally, we have A Good Marriage.  I really thought this was a pretty awesome for a story.  A woman recounts the history of her marriage, from the time of meeting her mild-mannered accountant husband, and spending 25 years of her life with him.  But one fateful day, she goes looking in the garage for batteries and comes across some questionable magazines.  Further investigation reveals evidence that could point to unspeakable crimes.  I don't want to reveal too much more and give it away but it's a pretty wild ride of a story.

Overall, I really liked Full Dark, No Stars.  However, I have to make the observation that I held back on when reading Under the Dome.  Mr. King has fallen out of touch with the times a bit, and he's a little out of practice with how anyone that's not his age thinks and talks.  In Under the Dome, it was the teenagers, who he scripted in an unbelievable manner that seemed like he's never met a teenager before.  And being a woman, I found the inner dialogue in Big Driver to be a bit bizarre, and inaccurate to how a "real" woman would think.  And then just random things, like the woman walking home from the rape who couldn't get cell phone service.  She walks to a pay phone to call a car service.  If I approached a pay phone nowadays, I would not even know what to do with it.  But apparently this woman has her calling card number memorized.  Calling card number memorized?!?!?  The last time I even had a calling card in my possession was Spring Break 2005, when my mom made me bring one to the Bahamas and the damn thing never worked anyway.  I'm nitpicking a bit, but you get what I mean.  I love you, SK, but catch up with the times a bit, and maybe sit down and have a conversation with the subjects of your story before writing a book about them. /endrant

In conclusion (finally, sorry) I really liked this book overall.   I flew through it and it was definitely a page turner.  I recommend.


SheReads said...

I agree with you, I enjoy SK's writing but believe that he has lost something along the way.