Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of five long stories that do a fantastic job of demonstrating the breadth of King's talent.
The first story, 1922, is vintage King - dark, disturbing, and something that could very well have come from the tabloid archives. As he does so often, King plays with the traditional family dynamic, pitting husband against wife, and placing their son directly in the middle. It's no surprise that murder is the result, but this isn't a story about murder, it's a story about guilt, remorse, and consequence. There are some wonderful touches of the macabre, along with some truly gruesome moments, and an ending that you know is coming . . . but which hits hard all the same.
Big Driver, the second story in the collection, is an extremely dark tale that reminds me of King's era of Gerald's Game, Dolores Claibone, and Rose Madder (an era I didn't like at the time, but suspect it may be time to revisit). It's the story of a mystery writer who falls prey to a serial rapist. It's a graphic tale, and one that's likely to disturb some readers, but it's also probably the best of the bunch. Tess is a wonderfully strong heroine, and the way in which she transforms is as powerful as it is empowering. Here we get a talking cat and a talking GPS to help alleviate some of the tension (courtesy of Tess' fractured psyche), and a mystery that's almost more horrifying than the rape itself.
As a huge fan of King's earliest collections, Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, I absolutely loved the third story, Fair Extension. It's a relatively short story, relating a new twist on the old deal with the devil. Every time you think King has pushed things far enough, though, he pushes them even farther. It's a cruel tale, but also one that leaves you giddy with shared euphoria. If you've ever had that 'perfect' friend you love to hate, you'll find the ending cruel and heartless, yet happy at the same time . . . absolutely classic King.
The last story, A Good Marriage, is so twisted I'm not sure where to begin. It's a story of secrets, confessions, more secrets, and repercussions. Somehow, in King's hands, being a bondage obsessed serial killer is actually something to be pitied . . . and being a faithful wife, one who wants to believe there's still a good man insider her husband, is something to be very scared of. The scene where Darce images her own daughter bound to the kitchen table, ready to become Daddy's next victim, is one of the most chilling scenes in the whole collection. As for the ending, you kind of see it coming, and know it's how the story deserves to end, but somehow it still surprises you.
If you happen to pick up the paperback, we also get a very short bonus story in Under the Weather. This one is sad and creepy and entirely too disturbing. You suspect from the very first page what's really going on, but want so desperately to be wrong. When the end comes . . . well, it's a fitting end for a night spent in Full Dark with No Stars to light the way.
Paperback, 560 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Gallery Books