I’ve said it before and I will say it again: some of Stephen King’s best works are his shortest. It was with that in mind that I picked up Full Dark, No Stars sometime last year, but it sat on my bookshelf since. Now that I basically have nothing but time on my hands–being both a graduate and unemployed–I finally got a chance to read it. Let me tell you, it was certainly worth the wait.
Full Dark, No Stars is an anthology consisting of four novellas, each one dealing with the theme of retribution. 1922 is the first of the bunch. It is set in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, and it follows a father and a son who commit a terrible crime motivated by greed and pride. Their crime does not go unavenged–it is a Stephen King story after all–and things go from dark to pitch black really quick. I’m thinking 1922 is my favorite story of the bunch, although they’re all good.
Next up in King’s collection of horrors is Big Driver, where a mystery writer gets a great deal more than she bargained for after a speaking engagement when she runs into the titular Big Driver on a lonely stretch of road. If 1922 was brutal, Big Driver takes things to another level; I found some parts difficult to read, fair warning.
The next story, Fair Extension, was the weakest of the bunch in my mind. A man with cancer comes across a mysterious stand near an airport, where a strange man sells “extensions”. It’s less gory than the preceding novellas, but in its own way it is still rather gruesome. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that jealousy can get the better of anyone, even the best of men.
The final story in the collection was A Good Marriage. A house wife learns the hard way that sometimes, monsters can lurk behind even the kindest of faces. That, and that you can never truly know the inner workings of another person, no matter how close you become to them. I should add that this story is very much inspired by true events; King himself says as much during the epilogue.
King was very much in the Bachman state of mind when he wrote Full Dark, No Stars; that is to say, normally King’s works end on something of an up note, but not here. The title is apt as these are four of the darkest pieces King has published under his own name. They’re true as well, as true as fiction can get at any rate. If you want to see the master of horror at his best, give Full Dark, No Stars a look. You won’t regret it.