Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Full Dark, No Stars

Full Dark, No Stars is another collection of short stories by Stephen King. You may be wondering why I'm spending time on America's best-known horror writer. Not much science here, but I continue to find that elements of faith are there for those with ears to hear. Nothing organized but something universal. Has horror become the place to write about sin? Because this is Stephen King, the stories are not truly short (at least one is longer than the last novel I reviewed here ...) , and they come with moments of shock and grossness that are nearly unbearable, but that is the point. King's universe is not devoid of love or even justice, although they can be hard to find. They are that much better when found.

Two of the stories are really "ghost" stories but not in the campfire sense, more in the G.K. Chesterton sense. The first, "1922," is far and away the best. If you have time for one ghost-ish story, read this one. King's attention to detail in historical fiction and his ability to put it together into a suspenseful sequence that rings true is remarkable. This story is good like his recent novel about the Kennedy assassination was good.

He's writing several female characters in this, and I don't find them entirely convincing, but it's nothing that gets in the way of the story by any means.

I continue to find a substrate of goodness, or at least yearning for goodness, in all of King's stories (even in the shorter, "quick" one). With all the repellant detail they remind me of Old Testament stories in parts. In "A Good Marriage" I believe he acknowledges this. In the Afterword, King says (I listened to the audiobook after all): "If you're going into a very dark place ... then you should take a bright light and shine it on everything." I think C.S. Lewis even said something kind of like that. As King has matured as a writer, he's focused more and more not on the obviously supernatural -- the vampires, the mists of monsters, the telekinesis -- and more on the not-so-obviously supernatural, that is, the dark recesses of the human mind. I really can't take more than one or two of these a year, but in that kind of dose his writing is bracing, and I would argue worthwhile.

(One more word: listening to the audiobook adds an element of suspense to the mix because you don't know when the story ends. I may prefer King this way.)

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