I have several other Stephen King book on my shelf awaiting a read, but after reading Duma Key and Under the Dome, two of his latest books I was craving more. I heard of another new book coming out last year, so I researched it and decided to go for reading these four long prose stories first in the book Full Dark, No Stars. You never can really tell by the jacket of his book if it will be horrifyingly scary as of his earlier days or if it will be a more exploratory scribe into the depths of the human psyche. I prefer this latter. I believe he is truly at his best when he is delving into more psychological thrillers. I jumped in the book head first (not literally of course!) to see which it was.
I was horrified, in an emotional sort of way, by the first story (1922) about a family in the pre-depression era Nebraska farming town and the husband’s love of his land so much that when the wife causes him problems about it, he and his young son formulate the idea to kill her. King’s character building and the detail really do make you feel like you are a fly on the wall, that you have some vested stake in the story and seem to be a part of it. I think that is what sometimes makes me so scared inside while reading, and with this story I felt the same. Sometimes murder can get out of control, away from the original plan that characters (and humans) sometimes concoct in their head that seem so easily done. This story was very graphic, very bloody, and very scary. It was one of those stories where he was classic King and as the characters sunk more and more into total psychosis they start talking to the dead body or themselves, or seeing things, or hearing things that may actually just be in their own mind. What happens in this story really made my skin crawl and once I saw it was so much in the character’s mind…how an experience can make you “see” things…I was shocked. The ending was instrumental and amazing. This story also dealt with the fact that when we do a bad thing, and when we bring someone else into the situation (in this case his young son) it can totally change that person’s life for the worse as it messes with their mind.
The next story, Big Driver, riveted me to the core. It hit me emotionally hard in the belly. It starts soft with a young thirty-something writer of puffy crime dramas for old ladies accepting the call to be a back-up presenter at a library. With the librarian offering to give her a faster way home, and a back way at that, the authors life is changed when she is brutally raped and thrown in a culvert for dead. Being a victim of rape myself, and an avid women’s liberator due to rape, sexual assualt and domestic violence, I was proud of Mr. King for writing this novel. He certainly got into the character’s head to show her fear, her shame and her determination. Again, her “plan” didn’t go so smooth and finding things out along the way led to even more fun turn and twists in the story. Sometimes a horrific crime as such happened to the young woman sends one on a certain cycle of investigation and revenge that is truly deadly. This story wasn’t psychologically scary, just emotionally deep and draining. I felt she was justified by the end however, and though a life is a life, sometimes some don’t deserve to live. Like rapists and their accomplices. One more note on this book, King certainly rings true to his psychological style once again with the character’s mind talking to things like tomtoms, their pets, dead bodies….hahahaha. It seems so absurd, but clever way to get us into the mind of the character and make the revenge or killing somewhat comical!
The story, Fair Extension, is short but the proverbial make a deal with the devil story based on a relationship that most of us have with someone we know in life, the person who always gets the fair break, the woman, the perfect life. A man is dying of cancer and he agrees to pay the creepy man to take away his cancer and also in return for his friend’s life (who used him his entire life and got all the breaks) to be destroyed. It makes you think too how fast your life can turn around, for the good or the bad, and how we shouldn’t focus (covet) on what others have and be more happy with we have in life so that we don’t turn into bitter-ridden and revenge-driven people.
The final story was my favorite and it was called A Good Marriage. In the Afterward, King mentions that he writes this loosely based on something true that happened in the news, the serial killer Dennis Rader (BTK killer) and his wife who was married to him for 34 years and claimed she did not know. He stated that many people commented that they didn’t see how she could not know all that time living with him. King writes the story from the aspect of the wife of a serial killer that doesn’t know he isone and how this might happen. He really develops the character well from the mind of the main character (the wife) and we can see how she might not know but truly feel she has a good marriage and truly loves her husband. In the story, she discovers his secret and it unravels from there as he immediately knows that she knows and wants to start over. He promises not to ever do this awful bondage and biting and killing again, blaming it on the ghost of his dead childhood friend, but she knows better. When the opportunity arises, though she loves the husband she knew, she pushes him down the stairs instead of turning him in to save their two children from a life of “my dad was serial killer media-hype.” It was an emotional and sad story that really delved into the emotions of how a woman might feel if ever having to deal with something like this happening. Her total disgust with what he had done knocking up alongside her true love for the man she knew causes her to mourn with double intensity. With this story and Big Driver, I am really proud of King for reaching deep into the mind of a woman and emotionally gripping us with their characters.
I left theentire book feeling emotionally drained in a way. He is so detailed and so good at bringing you into the character that I think you sometimes feel you have gone through what the characters have gone through. The stories do bring real raw emotions to the forefront and deal with the true emotional nightmares that do scratch this earth and the mind of many.
In the afterward I was surprised to see him write that as I reader I should feel that these might leave me emotional as these raw feelings were harsh and stemmed from the dark surfaces of the human mind. King mentioned that he himself had moments of having a hard time dealing with some of the emotions while writing the book. I am thankful that he wrote the afterward and explained his thoughts behind some of the stories. I love how he is so creative when he writes and plays with the names of characters (turn around rats or devil) and the locations, his game of repeating slogans and words for effect. This also makes the reading tempo go quickly.
These stories are a gripping, amazing ride through human nature and pysche. I was impressed and totally recommend this read to anyone who can tuck themselves away for a day or two to read this title. Believe me, you’ll want to keep reading till you finish.