Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mini book review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

As I've probably mentioned, I'm a Stephen King fan.  I own many of his books and tend to reread them often.  I think he has a gift for creating characters and their environs, particularly small towns; I think his dialogue usually rings true; and while he may tend to write too much, man can tell a story.  My favorites are The Stand, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining and his short story collections.  I love his short story collections, which affection I will conditionally extend to his novellas. 

Full Dark, No Stars is the latest entry into his shorter works, consisting of four longish stories too short to be novels.  "1922" is set in Omaha, Nebraska, and follows how Wilfred James's life falls apart when his saucy wife Arlette decides to sell the family farm.  I found this lead-off tale dull and overlong, and the prose seemed stilted, as though doing a period piece was not King's bailiwick that day.  "Big Driver" is, to put it bluntly, a rape-revenge tale.  King has had instances of sexual assault in his works before - this one's just ugly.  "Fair Extension" was my favorite of the bunch: King's twisted sense of humor comes out in this deal-with-the-devil tale.  The last story, "A Good Marriage," is about the end of one of those, when a wife finds her husband's secret stash in the garage and discovers that sometimes you really don't know the person with whom you're sharing your life.

Funnily enough, for a book where two stories have spouses killing spouses and three stories have a fair amount of human violence against women ("Fair Extension" being exempted from each of these), King dedicates Full Dark, No Stars to his wife: "For Tabby.  Still."  This is not King's best showing, and will not be listed among my favorites; I wonder if maybe it's because in these stories he has largely veered away from the boogeyman and made the monsters people.

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