Full Dark, No Stars is the first short story collection of Stephen King’s I have ever read. Actually I would not call it a short story collection, more of a novella collection as there are four stories, each ranging from about 80 to 100 pages. This book has one of the most descriptive titles I have ever read, because it captures the core of each story, utterly and completely dark. And when I say dark, I am talking the complete absence of light in the purest sense. This is not anti-hero dark, this is you have lost everything and there is no hope dark.
As I mentioned there are four stories in Full Dark, No Stars; “1922″, “Big Driver”, “Fair Extension”, and “A Good Marriage”. I read them all in order (which is not something that I always do when reading short story collections), except for the last two. I read “A Good Marriage” before I ending the book with “Fair Extension”. I am not really sure when I did this other than the concept of “A Good Marriage” struck my fancy at the time. This worked well for me as “Fair Extension” seemed like a good ending for the collection. If you wanted to attempt to end this collection on a high note, I think the story “Fair Extension” is about as close as you are going to get.
I am not going to summarize the stories because I think that takes some of the fun away from the reader and spoils the experience. I will say that my favorite is probably “Big Driver”, as it is a story of revenge, and who does not like a good “getting what they deserve” tale, but as with all good King stories, there is a twist. I would definitely label these stories as “horror”, no doubt about that, but of the psychological kind more than the “monster/evil entity” type. One story had some of latter but was still heavy on the psychological bent.
King picks at the scab until it bleeds. He uncovers the monster in all of us. That was what I found most disturbing in these stories. These were ordinary people, placed in extraordinary circumstances (the hallmark of King’s style) and we the reader sit back and watch the events unfold in utter fascination (or should I say horror). The scariest monsters out there are not demented clowns, vampires, or possessed cars, we are the scariest. A fact these stories drive home.
I found several covers to Full Dark, No Stars, but I think the most powerful is the overhead view of the woman with her arm outstretched and covering her head. It looks like she may be trying to push someone (or something) away and protect herself. I think this captures that essence of these stories. The sense of helplessness while being engulfed by darkness.
I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone looking for something “different” in their horror. The psychological bent to these stories really worked for me and I am hoping to find more like this as I read more of King’s work.