Whether you think he is the captain of creepy, or the master of the macabre. If you love him, hate him, or are totally ambivalent. No matter how you feel about him, there is no denying Stephen King is a literary icon. In this work’s title, Full Dark, No Stars, the “full dark part” is quite apropos. This is the darkest stuff King has written in years.
It would be natural for people to compare it to King’s previous collection of novellas Different Seasons, but that would be unfair. Three of the four in that collection were made into movies: Apt Pupil, The Shawshank Redemption, and Stand by Me. This work needs to be judged on its own merits in today’s times.
There are four mesmerizing stories in Full Dark, No Stars: 1922, Big Driver, Fair Extension, and last but not least, A Good Marriage. It’s a bit disingenuous to call them all novellas, as “Fair Extension” is more of a longish short story - which is not to disparage the piece; it is just the right length to tell the story without it feeling overly padded or overstaying its welcome.
In this unabridged audio edition, the stories are alternately read by Craig Wasson (who has narrated work by James Ellroy, John Grisham, and Stephen King’s Blockade Billy) and by Jessica Hecht of Breaking Bad fame. Both do a good job with their respective stories. But if you have a male and female narrator – why not use both for each story? Sounds like a natural move to me. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The quality of the audio is superb with excellent production values.
As for the stories themselves, King fans used to lighter material will probably not be used to such heavy themes as rape and graphically detailed murder. But, in my humble opinion, if you are going to go down that dark alley, you might as well go all the way. If he was not going to please those fans anyway, he could have gone a step further. Not so much as to be over-the-top, and not more bloody or graphic, but a small step in the direction of realism.
In Full Dark, No Stars, King delivers the goods big time. From the unraveling of a family over land (and murder) in 1922, to Tess the cozy mystery writer who is raped and exacts revenge in Big Driver, to the sinister reason for the good luck and misfortune between two friends in Fair Extension to a wife finding out her husband’s secret in A Good Marriage. In this collection, the master has found his muse. That each story is confined to novella length makes each one a great listen.