In the old days, I never cared for short stories. It seemed like just as I was getting into the characters and plot, it was over. This changed when I read George R.R. Martin’s Dreamsongs collections, and I realized that short form was actually a great way of exploring themes and situations without the full blown commitment of a novel (for either writer or reader).
Full Dark, No Stars only serves to demonstrate the punch that short stories can carry (although not all of the collection are true short stories–one at least is novella length or longer). Here we have five or six stories that, by King’s own admission, explore the depths of darkness and evil. The title is apt indeed. While many of King’s stories are dark, these push even further. I can’t think of anything I’ve read that that so clearly portrays the reality of depravity and evil. Yet at the same time that darkness is not glorified, for which I am thankful, and there seems to be a line of hope in most of these stories.
King’s effective characterization shines. From the farmer who reads the Greek classics, to to the writer who imagines and projects the voice of her cat, King’s characters ring with a peculiar believable quality. Combine this with good research about time periods and occupations (1922, advertising, coin-collecting), and these stories ring true.
My only serious complaint has to do with the ending of the story Fair Extension. It has a great premise and development, yet to me, the ending fails to deliver.
Rating: 8.8 out of 10.
Content: R, at least. As all the above implies, Full Dark, No Stars pulls no punches in its depiction of evil. It contains graphic violence and sexuality, and is not for the faint of heart. Reader, be ye warned.