New York: Pocket Books, c2010, $9.99. ISBN 9781439192603
ATTENDING THE OLD SCHOOL WITH STEPHEN KING: FULL DARK, NO STARS SETS A HORROR STANDARD
by KC Redding-Gonzalez
by KC Redding-Gonzalez
For those who wrote Stephen King off in the 1980’s after one too many made for TV movies, it’s time to come home to Horror. I confess I drifted away, feeling as though the genre was not keeping up with the depth of life as many were experiencing it. But this work – now on many remainder shelves and so at a discounted price – is worth every penny of the original price.
Consisting of four novellas (“1922,”“Big Driver,” “Fair Extension,” and “A Good Marriage”), King is helping to bridge the gap between the current trend in short fiction works in the genre and the 1970’s genre boom in novels. For writers, this is a worthwhile read if only to see how novellas should be done and to understand that sometimes nebulous territory between short fiction and the first novel. For readers, this is vintage King, but more in the vein of his works such as Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne – because in these works he explores the prickly horrors within our own natures. Each novella in its turns asks the question “What would it take to make an otherwise ‘normal’ person commit murder?”
The first story is a view to what happens when an otherwise lackluster marriage is challenged by potential financial gain in the selling of the family farm – against the desires of one of the partners. The second story tackles what happens when an otherwise nondescript knitting expert survives a near-fatal rape that she discovers was no accident. In the third, the protagonist weighs his moral options when struck with terminal cancer; in the fourth a housewife discovers her husband’s porn collection and more – the circumstantial evidence that he’s also a serial rapist…
King’s exploration of the human psyche is unsettling, his descriptions as disturbing in their unvarnished language as seen in other of his works. He even apologizes calling the stories “harsh” to read as well as write in the Afterword to the book. But regardless as to where you prefer to fall on the Willies Scale, this one is a page-turner…a definite cousin to contemporary thrillers and true crime, but brutally honest the way only Horror writers conceptualize it.
Five tentacles are waving in the air for this one. Do not miss it.
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