For Stephen King fans the count down is on to the release of his newest novel titled 11/22/63, later this year in November.
In honour of that exciting release (book nerds unite!), I thought I’d share my experience of reading his most recent book: Full Dark, No Stars, published late 2010.
I should admit now to a little bias. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors and I’ve been corrupted by his pop-fiction since the tender age of 11. I have a tendency to like ALL of his books, regardless of if they’re simply good or really brilliant. I read so much Stephen King when I was 11 and 12 that by the time I started high school, I was afraid of the dark.
Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars is certainly enough to make you afraid of the dark as an adult. Rather than the usual sci-fi and supernatural concepts to frighten his readers, King uses the dark side of human nature to scare the pants of us. There are still some horror aspects for long-time fans, but the most disturbing (and I mean disturbing – I couldn’t read this book before going to sleep) is that the awful things that play out in his stories could also happen in real life.
Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four novellas. All carry the theme of revenge and retribution, and all the folly it can bring along with it. I’ve haven’t kept my reading rate up with the publishing rate of King’s most recent books (much to my own disgust) and I do have a fondness for his classics (Carrie, It, Misery, The Stand), and if you’re the same, you may find Full Dark, No Stars starkly different, but also refreshing. Some of the elements for which Stephen King is famous; a penchant for graphic, often grotesque details of death and mutilation, and a fast-paced story, are still there, but there is distinctly less horror. Full Dark, No Stars offers horrors of other kinds, those which humans create all on their own. The stories are classic King page-turners, but to plagiarise his own words; ‘the stories in this book are harsh’.
The first, the chilling 1922, is a self-penned confession from a Nebraskan farmer who murders his wife after a long-standing argument over land, and subsequently sets his beloved son on a path of self-destruction.
The second, Big Driver, is the tale of a fiction author who, while travelling back from a speaking engagement, finds herself a victim of one of the worst crimes against women, and embarks on a mission of revenge.
The third, Fair Extension, deals with a man and his jealously of his friend, whom he believes has it all. He makes a deal with the devil, and watches his friend’s life unravel.
The final story, A Good Marriage, tells the story of a wife who finds out her husband is not the man she thinks he is, and finds herself doing unimaginable things to protect herself.
I’ve purposely left out a lot of the details of the stories because I don’t want to give the twists and turns away. It’s best to go on the journey yourself; while each story has a common theme, they are all distinctly different.
You might also find yourself a little changed after reading these stories. What? I hear you saying. They’re just stories. And that’s true. It is fiction. But when you read King’s afterward, you’ll see that each story has its root in real life, and some even echo details of those awful tales you see on the news each night. They make the reader think about life in a deeper way. To use King’s own words - it’s all about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. If you can read a book, and it changes the way you think about life, even just for a day, a week or a year, surely that’s worth being afraid of the dark for just a little while.
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