December 12, 2010, - 5:01 pm
I have ambivalent feelings toward “Full Dark, No Stars,” Stephen King’s latest novel. It’s different than most of his books, in that there are four lengthy “short” stories, rather than one. So, in that respect, I guess it’s not technically a novel. But that’s not why I have mixed emotions.
While I couldn’t put this book down at times, it was just soooo dark and depressing. And the book is graphic in its grisly murders and assaults (not to mention, explicit language). Plus, the one victim in the book who takes just revenge feels guilty about her vengeance and wants to tell the world. Such a liberal. And King’s anti-Christian, anti-religious worldview is evident, in that at least two characters shout to you–or rather, King proudly shouts on their behalf to you–that they don’t believe in G-d. Still, perhaps I am wrong about that, since at least one of those who doesn’t believe in G-d gets his in the end. And, in three out of the four stories, murderers pay in a poetic justice only G-d could mete out.
This is the first Stephen King book I have ever read, but the author indicates in the book’s postscript that this is the darkest stuff he’s ever written. Longtime readers of his will know better than I if this is correct. But each story–even the one that doesn’t involve deliberate acts of murder–is very dark. The one story in which the vengeance I applaud, takes place is also dark and empty. And even then, as I noted, King seems to voice–through his brutalized victim who perpetrates the vengeance–a sort of liberal guilt, liberal lack of confidence that she is doing the right thing, which makes you hate her a little bit.
As I noted, there are four stories. The first takes place in the early part of the 20th century on a desolate Midwestern farm. A man and his son plot to murder their respective wife and mother because she is bent on splitting up their farmland by selling to a large hog slaughtering company. They plan to do what they have to, to keep their peaceful farm, which has been in the family for a long time, as is. This is probably the most graphic and grisly of the stories. And perhaps the most depressing and dark. It’s also the longest and least interesting story in the book and has the most slow parts in it. But it has echoes of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Telltale Heart.”
Then, there is female authoress who is brutally attacked in a setting that takes place in current times in New England, using the latest in technology. I sort of figured out what was going to happen–and who was responsible for it–toward the very beginning of this one. But it’s a fast read and it’s the one that involves the vengeance and heavily-worn liberal guilt. This one, too, is pretty grisly and parts of it are very hard to read. The coincidence at the end is a little too neat and tidy and not very credible.
The shortest of the stories is about a man who has the average, happy middle class American life with a wife and kids he loves. Still, it’s not enough, and he covets what his best friend–his life-long rival–has. And he makes a wish to change the course of things. Again, this one is extremely depressing. It’s the one without murder, and it is the least graphic. Still, it is more fantasy and “Twilight Zone” than the other stories. And it actually seems like a TZ episode I’ve seen, but lacking in the “just desserts”/poetic justice that the Rod Serling series always so sharply delivered.
And, finally, there is the story of a woman who discovers something very horrible about her husband . . . something that will change the course of her marriage forever. It’s based on a true story that was in the news not too long ago. And it’s the most believable. I liked this story the best of those involved. And this is the one I could most see as a movie. I especially liked the clever, avuncular character who visits the wife at the end. He’s typical Hollywood stuff and endearing.
The world is full of horrible people, especially those reflected in this book. I fear people who read this might get ideas . . . the bad kind. But it’s not like there aren’t explicit murder novels filling library shelves. I just happen to be of the school of thought that the best thrillers and mysteries don’t need blood and gore to get your heart pounding with desire to reach the last page. And that’s kind of my view here.
If you like horror and suspense thrillers mixed with a large dose of the graphic and bloody and an equal dose of the dark and depressing, this is your book. If you’re looking for a more uplifting wrap-up to a deep, dark ride, this is probably not your book. The title is 100% accurate.
“Full Dark, No Stars” is exactly as advertised. There’s no light. But, like I said, it’s filled with suspense that makes you want to read on.
Tags: Book Review, Book Reviews, Full Dark No Stars, novel, short stories, Stephen King