Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Posted January 25, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 4 Comments

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Full Dark, No Stars

Full Dark, No Stars

by Stephen King

Publisher: Scribner on November 9, 2010
Genre: Crime, Horror, Short Stories, Supernatural, Thriller
Target Age Group: Adult

Rating: ★★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

"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 definitely 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.

 

You don’t have to like Stephen King to appreciate his skill as a writer.  While I tend to prefer his fantasy, I have to admit, he has a way of pulling the reader deep into his story, whether you want to be dragged in or not.  When it comes to the gruesome horror, I don’t really want to be dragged in… but I’m a glutton for punishment and he’s a master storyteller – what can I do?

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four short stories.  And this is King, so “short” is a relative term.  King’s short stories tend to blow up into successful films (see: The Shawshank RedemptionChristine, and Secret Window for instance) and they’re worth reading.  Also, I’ve never read any of his short story collections before, but Full Dark, No Stars has been in my Audible collection for 5 years collecting dust ever since it was a $4.95 Daily Deal back in 2015, so it seemed about time to listen to it.  Nothing like listening to a creepy story in pitch black while driving to work in the morning, am I right?

The first story in the collection is “1922”.  Coming in at five hours long, this is the longest “short” story here.  Immediately, I was turned off by the characters’ behavior, racist comments, sexist comments… historical fiction, particularly raw unapologetic historical fiction like King writes, gets like that sometimes.  As always, these comments felt purely like the very incorrect assessments of the characters and not part of King’s agenda (King is notoriously good about this – if anyone wants to call him out on racism or sexism we can have a nice long chat about Susannah Dean) but man they do make me uncomfortable.  Which is good, I guess, because he’s not sugarcoating.  Stephen King does not sugarcoat, which is one of the things I like about his writing.

Which brings me to how deeply disturbing “1922” is.  I don’t read a lot of horror on purpose.  I get nightmares.  I’m a child – I get it.  But there is absolutely NO doubt in my mind that Stephen King is the King of Horror and if you’re going to have nightmares… you may as well get them from the King.  Descriptions here are bloody and gruesome and haunting.  And so, so well-written.  “1922” has a lot of elements of interest – greed, murder, romance, suspense, bank robberies, friends to enemies, a haunting… it’s really well-done.  I’m also glad I’m done reading it because now I worry about two-foot-long killer rats.  So that’s nice.

The second story, ‘The Big Driver’, is about a woman who is raped, and then her murder attempted, but failed.  This one was very difficult for me to read, but at the same time, I was ready to jump on King for writing in the voice of a victim of the opposite sex, but honestly, I thought his narrative was respectful, considering the situation.  I appreciate King giving the issue a headline, because I believe that folks with a platform should use it for good and spread awareness. Regardless, it was hard to listen to this one.

And here, again, is one of the times where I would like to remind you, dear readers, that Stephen King is a horror writer and these stories are unsettling.

Okay, story #3 is ‘A Fair Extension’, and it’s the shortest of the bunch, coming in at just over an hour.  Stephen King readers know that is really short for him.  This is the type of story that felt like it really could have been extended, as it’s a typical ‘deal with the devil‘ story.  I enjoy those, but this wasn’t the best one that I have read.

Finally, ‘A Good Marriage’ deals with something I think about a lot – the secrets people close to us keep that we couldn’t guess.  I think everyone has secrets, right? It’s little horror and a little thriller and it was a good story to leave this collection on, because I keep thinking about it after the fact.

All in all, this is an incredibly well-written collection of stories with a lot of the deep, darker side of human nature.  Also, it prompted me to repeatedly ask my husband to please not kill me because that was getting to be a theme in the stories so YAY (don’t worry, he promises, lol).  It is very dark.  King himself admits it after the collection is finished, so you really have to be careful treading into these tales. They are graphic and disturbing, but well-scribed and excellent examples of the genre.

Honestly, I expect no less from King.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2

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Have you read any of King’s other short story collections?  Full Dark, No Stars is my second venture into his short stories (The Wind in the Keyhole was the first) and I tend to enjoy them.  Tell me your favorite short story in the comments!

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4 responses to “Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

  1. Holy crap, the new look of your blog is fantastic! I’m in love! 😍 I have this short story collection, but I haven’t read it yet. I’ll admit the only King book I’ve read was Cujo, and that was almost 17 years ago. I have more of his books on my shelf, but I’ve just never gotten to them. I’m trying to read from my shelf a lot this year, though, so maybe I’ll get to them!

    A Darker Shade of Rosie recently posted: My Favorite Books of 2019!
    • Amber

      Ahhh thank you so much m’dear! I wanted to rebrand with something bold and colorful and magical and actually include a phoenix for once. 😛 King takes a certain amount of patience, I think. Cujo’s not even on my list, to be honest, nor is IT. There’s both … just … huge. Do you have Misery? Misery was good! … Also I really like his Dark Tower series, but it is NOT for everyone. Are you participating in #StartonYourShelfathon this year as well?

      • The books I have by him are Under the Dome (LOL probably will never read that massive one 😝), Carrie, Cell, and The Dark Half, plus Full Dark, No Stars. I didn’t sign up for the #StartonYourShelfathon…but maybe I should? I’m doing the ‘Tackle Your TBR’ challenge, though!

        • Amber

          Under the Dome is another HUUUGE one – you’re right! I don’t mind large books, but I know with him it’s often a lot of unnecessary filler that he gets away with because he’s so successful. 😊 I bet ‘Tackle Your TBR’ is pretty similar to #StartonYourShelfathon – it’s a yearlong challenge to read the books you own. Of course, since it originated over at The Quiet Pond, there’s this adorable backstory about stargazing as well. 💜 ‘Beat the Backlist’ is similar as well – I think the community’s goal this year (every year lol) must be to read what you own. 🤣 If you wanted to join though you could probably double up on reads!