Stephen King is perhaps the greatest living writer of any genre working today. His “Hearts in Atlantis” was the best the book of short stories I’d read since Joyce’s “Dubliners” and now “ Full Dark, No Stars” puts him in serious contention for being the being the Poe of our time.
“Full Dark, No Stars” is four stories with various levels of horror attached but each story is so very plausible the horror elements don’t seem contrived or impossible. The first story “1922” is a very visceral story of murder and it’s after effects. You can feel every ounce of creepiness the characters are experiencing. Some of the action may make you want to shrink away from the story but King‘s writing makes a reader a literary addict needing the next word, sentence, paragraph, hungry to see what happens next.
King wastes no elements in these stories, he explores every dark avenue of the story to it’s fullest. “Big Driver” demonstrates this very ably. It’s about a writer returning home from a book signing and is raped and left for dead after getting a flat tire. At first I thought King was going to get bogged down in every little detail of the aftermath, but it never happens, and King stays away from every cliché of the genre (whichever genre he may be writing in) but the action leads so naturally from one action to the next you think you’re witnessing it unfold in real time.
King also reveals his mastery of the story not only does he show you what he wants you to see, but like any good magician he reveals things only when he’s ready to reveal them, and when he does in “Fair Exchange” you realize the clue was in front of you all the time and King just moves the curtain aside ever so slightly to reveal what you only intuited was there.
Each story is loosely connected in theme that there’s an unknown self in all of us that can push us over the edge into the unknown. King doubles up on this theme in his last story “A Good Marriage.” We see this from the point of view of a woman who discovers the darkest of secrets about her husband, and her reaction to it. It’s a story that’s going to make wives think twice about looking around their husband’s workbench for spare batteries when the TV remote goes out.
I don’t want to resort to the reviewers cliché of saying the author really keeps turning the pages, but in King’s case it’s an addictively true statement. Each story in “Full Dark, No Stars” is like enjoying a full and satisfying meal and you may want a little time to digest what you’ve read but you’ll find yourself pulled back to find out what happens next.
Jim Cherry is the author of The Last Stage, www.jymsbooks.com