Thursday, December 9, 2010

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

About ten years ago Jenn and I went on a vacation to Maui. While were were there we went on a tour of a lava tube near the town of Hana. It was really cool walking around under ground and seeing how the lava had carved out a path through the earth. At one point on the tour the guide took us to a little nook in the tube and had us turn off all our lights so we could experience the full dark of being under ground. Let me tell you, it was odd and a little freaky. I couldn't see a thing, even my hand right in front of me. Stephen King's new book, Full Dark, No Stars is darker than this cave.

I'm not saying it was scary, not at all really, basically King is exploring the darkest parts of the human heart and mind. Only one story actually had a supernatural element, too. Any of these stories could happen and King takes you on a journey of what it might be like to live through them.

The first story, 1922, takes place on a farm in rural Nebraska owned by Wilfre and Arlette James. Actually, the story is in the form of a confession written a few years later, but this is where the story takes place. Wilfred is a born and bred farmer, his wife didn't care much for the farming life, and finds out how far he will go to keep farming and also to keep the big corporate farmers out away from his land. 

We find out early that Arlette is willed 100 acres of farm land that is right next to their current farm. She wants to sell it and move to the big city of Omaha. Wilf wants nothing to do with city life and ends up enlisting his son to help him kill Arlette and hid the body so the deal that she signed with the Big Farm falls through. But that is only the beginning of the story. The rest is made up of the disaster his life turns into because he didn't want to move. I won't say much of what happens, but it's one thing after another that leaves him ready to commit suicide. All because he didn't want to move to the big city. 

Big Driver is a revenge tale. Tess is an author who ends up getting raped and left for dead on the way home from a book group meeting. Eventually she ends up tracking down the rapist, his mother, and brother and taking them all out as she deduces, possibly correctly, that they were all in on it. She wasn't the only victim, by the way. The culvert she was left in contained the decaying bodies of other women. Tess decides it's best to take things into her own hands and not get the cops involved. I found myself rooting for her. 

Fair Extension is the one story with a supernatural element that I mentioned earlier. Basically, it's a deal with the devil story. Dave Streeter is in the near final stages of terminal cancer when he notices a guy on the side of the road selling Fair Extensions. The man, George Elvid, offers a life extension, but obviously there is a price. Streeter has to pay him 15 percent of his salary for the rest of his life, but also has to help to  balance the negative weight that is lifted off his life. Streeter has to give Elvid a person to shift this negative weight to; someone Streeter hates. After some thought he gives Elvid his best friend since grammar school. A guy he has helped with all his school work, lost his first crush to, and a man who just seemed to fall into money by running a garbage business. 

As you can expect this man's life falls apart and Streeter gets to see it first hand. As more and more misery falls to his friend, the more his friend comes to Streeter and says how he is glad Streeter has been there for him. Streeter doesn't necessarily enjoy it, but he doesn't try to stop it. Not the best story of the bunch, but it's a quick read. 

The last story is A Good Marriage. What would you do if you found out your husband led a secret life? What if that other life included him being a killer? Not a cool secret agent operative killer type, but a cold twisted serial killer? Would you tell anyone? Would you be able to stay if he said he'd stop like he did for 16 years after you were first married? Would anyone believe you if you said you didn't know? Yes, that is a lot of questions, sorry. But those are all the things, and more, that Darcy has to work through. I won't say much more about the story, but I was satisfied with the ending. 

None of these stories are super original, but here is another book where King does the deep character study type thing that he does so well. As I was reading I wondered if asked himself what he would do if he was the main character in each story. I know that authors do that most times, the thing is, what were his answers? What are yours? 

Yes, if you couldn't tell, I recommend this book. Just make sure you are in a good mood when you start. You don't want to be depressed before you start reading this book. 


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