Saturday, January 15, 2011

CBR-III: Book #1: Full Dark, No Stars

I finished the book three days ago.
Everyday I come home I know I should write the review, this review, but I dread it.
I dread it because I’m a huge fan of Stephen King.
I dread it because I’m a huge fan of Stephen King…and I’m about to tear him to fucking shreds.

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of short stories. Four, to be exact. “1922,” “Big Driver,” “Fair Extension,” and “A Good Marriage.”

In the afterword King says, “The stories in this book are harsh. You may have found them hard to read in places. If so, be assured that I found them equally hard to write in places.” See, the thing is Stevie boy…they weren’t harsh.

I hate to say it (because I love the guy), but I think the King is done. He says the stories were harsh and hard to write, yet none of them had the detestable qualities of Desperation. They didn’t have the soul crushing agony of It or The Long Walk. There was no mystery like in Christine. No macabre horror like in Misery. No suspense like in “The Ledge.“ Instead, what I was treated with, was a bag of cliché tricks. Full Dark, No Stars brings absolutely nothing new to the table. You can see the plots of the stories coming a mile way, some of them even recycled. The characters fall flat and are genuinely uninteresting. Sure, he gives us our little hints into the King world that the fans understand and appreciate…even then I almost felt cheated. I devour King’s books…it took me two days just to finish the last story.

The story takes place in 1922, on a rural farm. Cue the typical family. The hard working, loyal, dependable husband. The former rich girl wife who hates her simple life and dreams of bigger and better things. Their teenage son, who makes good grades, does as his father tells him, and respects his mother and God. When the wife’s father dies she is given his land, adjoining land to our poor farmer, and a lot more of it. He wants to tack it on to their property, give themselves a bigger spread. She wants to sell it to a rich company, take the money and run to the city where she can open a shop. You can imagine how that works out. And, ala Dolores Claiborne, somebody ends up down a well. Soon the poor farmer becomes convinced that his wife is tormenting him with rats (“Graveyard Shift”), shit goes down hill. The tale was boring, really, because you couldn’t even care about the main character. The son? At first he’s just a whiny little bitch, then he’s just the annoying anti-authority teen. His story, however, is the only slightly decent aspect of “1922,” so I’ll leave that one for you.

“Big Driver”
I really wish you could have just heard my audible sigh. “Big Driver” is a revenge story. Plain and simple. Tess, a mildly successful writer, mid-30’s, attractive, single woman, is raped one night after a speaking engagement and left for dead. Does she go to the police? No. Despite being an intelligent person who actually writes detective stories (albeit a freelance detective knitting circle group), she decides to get revenge on her own. Why? Because she wants the satisfaction, and she doesn’t want to have to deal with the public humiliation of being raped. You heard that right. A semi-celebrity…who could actually do some good by coming forward…doesn’t want to embarrass herself. So she tracks down the ginormous dude who raped her. It’s cliché. King even mentions The Brave One, the movie with Jodie Foster, in the fucking story. Tess watches it for “research.” Once again characters fall flat. You can’t care for Tess. Because of who she is and how she handles things, I never really adopted any sympathy for her. I mean, for fucksakes, the lady stumbles to a gas station after the rape and calls a goddamn limo to come pick her up. The plot seemed more of a ploy to show that King, who is notoriously technology retarded, decided to show that he’s figured out these things called gps and the internet.

“Fair Extension”
Dude dying of cancer sings a deal with the devil to extend his life. Using a kind of “pay it forward” principle, getting rid of the cancer means he has to give it to someone else (oh, and he has to give the devil a percentage of his yearly income). Who does he choose? His best friend. Why? Because his best friend is the guy that got everything. The high school stud, the college success, the guy who became filthy rich, had the amazing children, and the trophy wife. Oh right, the trophy wife who used to be cancer dudes girlfriend. So…go ahead and tell me what happens. The best friends life falls apart (really badly. I totally would have killed myself), Cancer-Free dudes life moves on the up and up, and through it all…Cancer-Free dude never gives a shit. Totally. The entire time he was happy to fork over that yearly percentage, and happy at seeing his friend decline and lose everything. Boring.

“A Good Marriage”
The story asks this question: If you’ve been in a loving, successful, idealic marriage for 25+ years, and you find out your husband is a serial killer, what would you do? Let me just say, like Tess in “Big Driver,” Darcy (the wife) can’t stand the thought of what this would do to the kids/her if it broke out to the world. I’ma leave it at that.

I think you’ve lost it Stevie. You no longer have that inventive world. You no longer have characters that I can believe in, characters that I want to love. You’re not surprising me anymore. Worst of all? You’re not scaring me anymore.

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