Saturday, January 15, 2011
Full Dark No Stars Review
I’ve often admitted on this blog that Stephen King is the only modern author I really enjoy, and to be honest, the only one I can read these days! It surprises even me, to be honest. I mean, I read and enjoy James Patterson too, but most other modern authors’ books are left half-unread. I struggled through the Girl with Dragon Tattoo books (I tried so hard) for instance, and I actually find most modern books to be fairly plotless and unexciting and style over substance. (I know it's just me.)
Yes, I do think Stephen King has gone off the boil a bit. I think he’s still trying (needlessly) to be accepted, and he’s trying to be more ‘serious’, so some of his books have become a bit too abstract.
I’ve just finished ‘Full Dark, No Stars’, and he’s done it again. I devoured it in less than a week. Now that’s the sign of a good book. Absolutely stunning.
It’s a series of 4 short-ish stories, and it starts with ‘1922’. I couldn’t stop reading this story - just couldn't put the book down. (Please note, I won’t spoil things, but I will mention things that might sound like spoilers, but they happen really early on in each story, and I won’t spoil the really juicy stuff). 1922 is about a farmer who lives with his awful wife and his young son, and the farmer and the son commit a murder and try to live with that and get away with it. It’s absolutely delicious. It’s great to watch the farmer get into all sorts of scrapes and get questioned and see how he copes with it etc. And you just don’t know which direction the story is gonna go in. I was wrong in my guesses, but the events were no less nasty and horrific – in fact, there really is a lot of nastiness in this story and a lot of disturbing things going on. The best thing though, is that the main narrator, the farmer, is actually pretty stupid, and he doesn’t realise it. He does some very silly things, and makes some very wrong judgements, and he has some very wrong opinions – and he has no idea. It’s a fascinating character study.
Next up is ‘Big Driver’, possibly my favourite of the stories. It starts up about a middle-aged female, a gentle soul, who writes tame murder mysteries. You immediately get a sense that something nasty is going to happen, and you think ‘gosh, how can it happen to this woman?’. But happen it does, and wow, again, utterly impossible to put down. And I definitely don’t agree with some of the decisions the protagonist makes, and it’s actually a bit frustrating for that reason, too, but it’s another very juicy, shocking, meaty, satisfying story.
‘Fair Extension’ is the shortest of the stories, but doesn’t feel like it, as so much is packed in. It’s about a terminally ill guy who makes a deal to save himself – and it looks at the ramifications of that. It’s very nasty indeed, but it’s so much fun!!
Finally, there’s ‘A Good Marriage’, which, again, showcases a ‘nice’ middle-aged woman, who makes some shocking discoveries about her husband. Again, it’s another story where you just keep guessing where the hell it’s gonna go – and even when it doesn’t take the turns you expect it to, you still love King for the whole thing. And what I like about this one (and the others) is the humour – the silliness, the fun, the attention to detail which shouldn’t be funny but it is.
I love Stephen King. I actually think I want to marry him. He has a God-given gift. He’s a pure storyteller, and that is very rare in this day and age. To be able to get inside people’s heads, to create a psychology, to make you interested in the story, to be utterly gripped – that is so powerful. And the other amazing thing – these stories are so simple. They’re almost obvious. They make you think ‘why didn’t I come up with that?’.
Good old King.