Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Full Dark No Stars Full Dark No Stars
by Stephen King
Hodder And Stoughton

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Mel Duncan

I don't like horror. I don't generally like short stories. Other than the first few Dark Tower books, I've never read Stephen King. I rarely watch the movies made of his books, and only then with the lights on, a cushion to hide behind and reassurances that I wont have to stop half way through – there is less chance of the monster coming to get me if it's already been beaten before I have to go to sleep. I have no idea why I thought reading Full Dark, No Stars, a collection of long-ish stories by Stephen King was a good idea.

But I survived, unscathed, through a plague of rats wielded by Wilf James' murdered wife. I escaped Big Driver, the demented rapist, with Tess the mystery writer. I sure wouldn't have made a deal with man selling life extensions, but Harry Skeeter did – I'll leave it to you to see how he fared. I was not at all sure, though, that me and Darcellen Anderson were going to survive finding that particular keepsake in the garage.

Having not read them, I can't tell you how they compare to other Stephen King stories. But these are not stories with twist endings, not deep metaphorical stories, not stories with monsters lurking in the shadows. The monsters are front and center, and probably narrating the story. These are small, intimate stories, that build up characters until you're pretty sure you've met this guy, and you're worried, because Wilf seemed pretty nice and normal to his neighbours too.

I liked "A Good Marriage" best. Probably because I liked Darcellen best – she was reasonable and sensible, cautious and normal. Despite the best efforts of King, I had trouble really understanding the mindset of everybody else. Which is not to say I didn't understand where they were coming from. Each character's motivations, their hopes and dreams and their internal logic are clear in these short stories. Clear, and terrifyingly true to life.

The stories are described as being linked by the theme of retribution. I wouldn't have guessed that from reading them. I'm not sure that Kings description of them, as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, fits particularly well either. They're all tales of people who had an option – to deal with their situation in the safe way, the legal way, and the way that would lead to intense social repercussions. Or to deal with it the other way. How and why they chose their path is the interesting bit.

Despite being outside of the target audience, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the realism, I liked the lesson in applied human psychology. I enjoyed the modern references – although "the monsters are googling me before they come to get me" is another worry I didn't need. And I very much liked returning to my own life once the book was finished, which is a much nicer place the Stephen King's imagination.

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