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Book: Full Dark, No Stars

January 9, 2011
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I really love a good classic Stephen King novel. Carrie, Christine, IT, The Shining, The Stand, Pet Sematery, ‘Salem’s Lot. I also liked Bag of Bones quite a lot as well. But most of his recent (last 10-15 years) novels I haven’t loved. And you all know how I usually feel about short stories, so I’ve missed almost all of his.

Still, Full Dark, No Stars has been getting decent reviews so I thought I would give it a try. These are four “long short stories” — each shorter than a novella (or maybe not — how long is a novella?), but longer than the usual short story, so I actually felt like I was reading something (as opposed to my usual experience of reading short stories, where I feel like I’m reading the equivalent of a commercial or a magazine article.)

And… well, not too bad. Better than I expected, and still completely recognizable as Stephen King. My favorite was Big Driver, the second story. A 30-ish writer of cozy-mysteries is driving home from a speaking engagement, when suddenly she gets a flat. Someone stops to help her… and things go bad. Very bad. But then, she decides to get mad AND get even. Awesome.

The first story, 1922, I found haunting and horrific. I think this was the ‘worst’ of the stories. Graphic and scary and disturbing. Yeah, okay, I liked it. Well, I’m not sure “liked” is the correct word, because what happened was awful, but it was a good read. I genuinely enjoyed Big Driver. The last two I sort of skimmed over — I feel like both of these stories have been told before, and they weren’t particularly surprising or scary. Still awful, but not riveting.

So, a pretty good start to 2011. Nothing earth-shattering, but a decent book by an author I generally like (although I will never forgive you for the dead-boring Needful Things — I needed a damn good Stephen King novel when I read it, and I did not get it. I hate that book.)

You know, it’s funny. There are still a few King books I’ve been “saving” for myself over the years, because sometimes I really, really want to read a good Stephen King book and I don’t ever want to run out. I haven’t read The Tommyknockers, The Dark Tower, Firestarter, Night Shift, The Dead Zone, Danse Macabre, The Talisman, or The Green Mile.  I haven’t heard anything about Under The Dome, although I love big books, so I don’t know if I will read that. I won’t read Cujo (Pet Sematary was bad enough with the dead pet thing). There are also quite a few other King books I have no interest in — I’ve read enough of his bad ones to know that they are horrific for a reason other than the author intended. But the ones that I love, I really love, and they are good re-reads too. I must have read Christine at least five times. Enough times that I still get nervous when I see a lone classic car parked in the dark.

When I was in high school, I absolutely adored Through The Eyes of the Dragon. I can barely remember it now, but I read that a few times and got really attached to it for some reason.

So, all in all, I would file Stephen King under “favorite authors” although he’s not in the top 5 or anything. His good books more than make up for the bad ones, and I like him as a person from what I’ve read. I’d like to read his On Writing, too. I have an itty-bitty desire to write something someday, although I have no illusions that it would be anything any good. But it sounds fun. I’ve never done any creative writing, but I would like to take a class sometime and see what happens.

Anyway. If you like Stephen King, this collection is worth reading, but don’t go expecting Carrie or ‘Salem’s Lot. It’s a good, grim, collection of stories about what happens when bad things happen. Real-life bad things. And what people do in response.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2011 6:37 am

    I got this for Christmas and have added it to my little pile of unread King books, though might bring it near the top because of the good things I’ve heard about 1922.

    have you read Lisey’s Story? I really liked that one…

    • January 9, 2011 10:31 am

      No, I haven’t read that one! I will have to go find it. 1922 was very good. Big Driver was kind of fun. The other two I didn’t love as much.

  2. January 9, 2011 6:51 am

    I remember hearing good things about Gerald’s Game when that came out, but it was in my King draught so I never got around to reading it. Have you?

    I really, really liked Under the Dome even though I thought the high-concept ending sort of failed. But the last thirty pages of a really, really good, really, really long novel didn’t ruin it for me in any way, not when there was so much really fantastic (read: horrifying) stuff in the vast majority of it. Seriously, could not put it down.

    I know what you mean about Christine, too. I reread it last year for the first time in ages and remembered why it’s just so good. ‘Salem’s Lot is another one of those for me too, and I loved Through the Eyes of the Dragon when I was younger (coincidence?) I just wish I could have been more responsive to the Gunslinger series since it seems like everyone else loves it.

    • January 9, 2011 10:33 am

      I haven’t read that either! There is a lot of recent Stephen King that i haven’t read. I will check out Under The Dome; if you liked it, that says a lot about it. I’ll add it to my “yes” pile of mental King books. I haven’t read the Gunslinger ones yet either, so can’t comment, but it’s funny that we both liked Dragon so much!

  3. January 9, 2011 10:33 am

    ive never read any stephen king. and now, there are so many stephen king books that i dont know where to begin.

    • January 9, 2011 6:58 pm

      Begin at the beginning: Carrie! And then ‘Salem’s Lot. I can recommend some for you. Those two plus Christine are excellent to start with…

  4. D'Arcy permalink
    January 9, 2011 6:40 pm

    I liked Needful Things!

    Anyway, I recommend The Tommyknockers, if for no other reason than he named a character Alberta Edmonton. I’ve read Cujo, and it’s nothing like Pet Sematary. I don’t recommend it, though – I hated the ending. The Dead Zone didn’t do much for me, although I think at least part of the movie was filmed not far from my parents’ house.

    • January 9, 2011 6:59 pm

      No you didn’t! We agreed it was stupid. Or maybe I just agreed it was stupid and you disagreed with me.

      I have zero intention of reading Cujo. Yuck. I do want to read the Tommyknockers.

      Who would ever film a horror movie in Peterborough unless it involved lift locks?

      • D'Arcy permalink
        January 9, 2011 7:14 pm

        You know what? I might be mixing it up with Nightmares and Dreamscapes, which I read when I really needed to just zone out for a bit. I loved it. I thought I liked Needful Things, though. Did we read it in Finland?

        The yuck part of Cujo, for me, was very different from most Stephen King. It wasn’t supernatural or anything. I think that’s why it was so awful – it was something you could totally see happening, as opposed to the events of, say, Christine or Carrie.

        And the movie was actually filmed near Orono, I believe. Which really is a dead zone, even more so than Peterborough.

        And you’re from PHILOMATH, for heaven’s sake!!!!!!

  5. D'Arcy permalink
    January 9, 2011 7:17 pm

    Just checked IMDb – the whole movie was filmed in Ontario, most of it within an hour or two’s drive from Peterborough. NO COMMENTS ABOUT MY HOMETOWN/REGION BEING A DEAD ZONE!!!

    It totally is, I know.

    • January 9, 2011 9:23 pm

      It IS! Philomath at least has, like, Bigfoot sightings and stuff. Right? Uh, right. And loggers. And rednecks. And, yeah. WAY more exciting than Peterborough-land. (just kidding)

      Yes, we read Needful Things in Finland. I remember we were both so disappointed with it. I remember that especially because it was the first King that I was totally *bored* with. I haven’t read Nightmares and Dreamscapes, so probably that was better.

      Cujo: exactly — I think I read the first chapter once, and decided it was too awful. No killer dogs! Enough sad dog books in this world — don’t need a killer dog one too. I’m sure the dog dies in the end, horribly. No thanks.

  6. January 10, 2011 4:00 am

    I’ve never read Stephen King. Ever. Does that make me the only one in the world?

  7. January 10, 2011 8:43 pm

    I haven’t ready Stephen King either…am I a total loser?

    • January 12, 2011 7:23 pm

      Not a loser… but maybe missing out on some good storytelling!

  8. January 11, 2011 11:14 am

    James really liked this one too. I think he also liked the second story best, at least that’s what I gathered from his telling me about the book and all he kept talking about was the second story 🙂

    • January 12, 2011 7:23 pm

      🙂 It was my favorite too. The first was pretty heavy, and the other two I didn’t love.

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