four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
50-Jan-Feb-2011
By: 
Stephen King
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0

A-Full Dark No StarsProlific horror writer Stephen King has received numerous awards--including nine Bram Stoker Awards, five British Fantasy Awards, and a National Book Award--for his novels and short stories, several of which have been adapted to film and television.

The Story: In these four sinister novellas, ominous forces and eerie twists of fate push ordinary people to extremes. Nebraska farmer Wilfred James confesses to the murder of his wife and describes its horrifying aftermath in "1922." "Big Driver" features Tess, a writer of genteel mysteries who takes justice into her own hands after she is raped and left for dead. A cancer patient reaps unexpected benefits after making a pact with the devil in "Fair Extension," and, in "A Good Marriage," a suburban housewife discovers that her husband, a coin-collecting accountant, hides a terrible secret. Each is forced to confront the darkness within--and without.
Scribner. 384 pages. $27.99. ISBN: 9781439192566

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 4 of 5 Stars
"Some of the descriptions are so graphic and disgusting that they threaten to send the entire story over the top, into the realm of laughable kitsch. But as with the best Stephen King fiction, the gruesomeness is wedded to an extraordinarily insightful psychological portraiture." Christopher Kelly

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"As its title suggests, the work is bleak, with an Old Testament-like sense of affliction and retribution, an assurance that every sin must be repaid. ... For all King's interest in the supernatural, he is at his most acute when he deals with human evil, the depravity of which we are capable and the lengths to which we will go to convince ourselves that we are good." David L. Ulin

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Mr. King's Full Dark, No Stars has a lot of straight-up horror. ... Whatever the length at which he writes, Mr. King leaves readers with a simple, one-word message: Gotcha!" Janet Maslin

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"For a writer whose books need a big stage, Stephen King also can turn out shorter stories just as gripping as his epic novels. ... Uneven in length, they also are ambiguous in morality, which is one of the delights of this book." Amanda St. Amand

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"At fulldarknostarsbook.com, King laments that people have fallen out of love with the short story, claiming we're too lazy to bother anymore. But it takes no effort to read Full Dark, No Stars. The pages practically turn themselves." Carol Memmott

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Through his mastery of detail and his deceptively effortless narrative voice, King transforms this disquieting material into a disturbing, fascinating book." Bill Sheehan

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"At 63, with more books than years behind him, King still has the power to stun readers, to make them look up from the page to summon courage for the next sentence. But when [Satan] complains, ‘The souls of humans have become poor and transparent things,' he could be assessing the stories in this collection." Daniel Dyer

Critical Summary

Although the critics couldn't agree on which story was the best of the collection, most concurred that "the most wonderfully gruesome man on the planet" (USA Today) has returned with another spine-chilling addition to his already massive oeuvre. Despite some recycled plot twists and scare tactics, these ghastly tales hurdle along at such a fast pace that readers won't notice road signs they may have passed before. While his finely honed, unconventional characters explore the deepest recesses of human depravity, King uses precise and straightforward prose to intensify his graphic descriptions of violence and mayhem. A spooky and unsettling page-turner, Full Dark, No Stars will cause readers to leave the lights on long after they've finished the book.