...Mr. King has gone short-winded with Full Dark, No Stars, a set of four spooky moral tales. Two of our most dependably prolific and popular authors have both switched gears ...has a lot of straight-up horror. The sheer size of its rodent population is enough to stamp it with the horror label. But it will serve as a page turner even for the reader who is aghast at some of the whisker-twitching particulars, especially in '1922,' the opening story ... What’s most interesting about this story is not the terrible secret that the wife will uncover. It’s that Mr. King, who seems able to write compact tales or gargantuan ones with equal ease, can invest a bland, coin-collecting accountant with any kind of frisson at all.
His new book, Full Dark, No Stars, is the latest instance. 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 ... This theme of intimacy gone wrong runs throughout the collection ... 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 ... Such a double vision marks many of King's novels, from The Shining to Desperation to Bag of Bones.
Nor will there be any complaints from those quarters about his new collection, Full Dark, No Stars, which consists of one short story and three novellas. They’re all accomplished pieces of genre thriller writing ... Each of the novellas deals to some degree with characters who are seeming Dr. Jekylls on the surface, but deep within hides Hyde, a monster who would as soon take a carving knife to you as shake your hand ...only problem is that this might be one of the more artful pieces of deflection by someone who has been substituting unbelievable human behavior for the way people really act for much of his career, which is what has made him more entertainer than artist ... It’s all good genre stuff, but it doesn’t find that middle ground between literary writing, which King eschews, and shining light on the world.
...if the stories in Full Dark, No Stars are hard to read, it isn't because they're violent, gruesome or dark, all of which they most certainly are. It's that King himself hasn't taken this particular job very seriously –– not if that responsibility includes the creation of believable characters and plausible situations, even within the kind of inherently implausible universe King regularly conjures up ... In his best work, you feel that King has his chummy arm around you even while he's trying to make you wet your pants. Here, King can't get out of his characters' way: The banal observations, the petty gripes, the clumsy asides are not just distracting but annoying ... Full Dark, No Stars isn't a horrifying development. But it's a little worrisome.
The stories in Full Dark, No Stars, whose lengths range from 30-some pages to well over 100, are for the most part only lightly supernatural and deal, instead, with the unlovelier aspects of merely human behavior ... It’s grim stuff, but that’s what readers expect of Stephen King. After all, he’s been in our faces for 40 years ... He’s essentially the same grab-you-by-the-lapels literary showman he was in the pulpy, punchy horror stories he used to peddle to men’s magazines and, a bit later, in his early novels Carrie and Salem’s Lot ...that’s the case with Full Dark, No Stars, which starts with a good story called '1922,' loses its way for a while — in 'Big Driver' and 'Fair Extension' — and then winds up with another pretty strong one, 'A Good Marriage.'
...swimming in his newest book, the story collection Full Dark, No Stars, are fairly generic fish of the horror fiction variety ... But his latest collection contains three uneven novellas and a short story ... 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.
He can take the relationship between husband and wife and turn it into the most monstrous — and in some cases bloodiest — affair imaginable. It's what he does in Full Dark, No Stars, a collection of four longish short stories...is an ugly story of almost indescribable violence although King does quite a job of describing it in excruciating detail ...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. Not so unusual for a King book where weirder things always happen.
How many distinct personalities are contained, floatingly, within the authorial nimbus that we currently know as 'Stephen King'? A deeper Kingologist than I might be able to put a number on it, but I can tell you that four of them, at least, are on display in the story collection Full Dark, No Stars ... 'Fair Extension,' the shortest and, in some ways, the nastiest of the stories, is a showcase for King the jester, the gargoyle, the upside-down moralist... This being a book by Stephen King, it goes without saying that the stories –– with the possible exception of '1922,' which suffers from a distracting instability in the language –– more or less drag you along by your hair: Like them or not, you're going to finish them. Are they horrible? They are quite horrible.
Now, almost 20 years after Four Past Midnight, comes Full Dark, No Stars. When it was published, King was on a roll, returning to his full powers after health problems in the early 2000s and what he described as another dry patch that left him feeling like he’d lost his knack for short stories. But now, he was coming off a string of massive books ... Each of the main characters has a secret that twists their lives out of shape ... Full Dark, No Stars also represents a moment when King broke with supernatural horror ... But with three out of his four stories in this book straight up tales of suspense, it marks the place where he (temporarily) starts pushing the supernatural into the background.
... in the evening of his immense career, we get Full Dark, No Stars, a final set of four novellas. (At least, it is easy to presume that this is the final set. It is also perfectly conceivable that King, 63, who talks about retiring and laying down his pen, but for whom ceasing to write seems unthinkable, will bring out another set 20 years from now) ... There is a hint of the supernatural in it, although the borderline between a haunting and madness here is a hairline fracture, and one that King exploits elegantly all the way to the end ... These are stories of retribution and complicity: of crimes that seem inevitable, of ways that we justify the world to ourselves and ourselves to the world. Powerful, and each in its own way profoundly nasty.
Full Dark, No Stars is Stephen King’s fourth novella collection, and as always, the form suits him: not too long for over-writing, but just long enough to explore the nooks and crannies of familiar worlds ...is more about finding unexpected variations on familiar themes, and examining how ordinary people handle a sudden influx of strangeness into their lives ...the key to enjoying the volume as a whole; there are occasional shocks, and King still knows his craft well enough to hook readers with even the hoariest clichés, but the real pleasure here is in the curious texture of each successive novella ... Altogether, Full Dark, No Stars is a book of satisfying, modest pleasures, like an average bottle of wine aged to just the right amount of bitterness.
To the list of failures, add Full Dark, No Stars, another novella quartet that is, with one lone exception, startlingly unpleasant ... That exception is 'Big Driver,' in which Tess, a mystery writer in considerable demand on the book club circuit... King's other three novellas suffer in the talkative TomTom's absence ... However, King adds, he has believed from the very start that 'the best fiction was both propulsive and assaultive. It gets in your face. I have no quarrel with literary fiction ... (but) I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers.' Mission accomplished, boss.
Full Dark, No Stars, King’s latest foray into literary third-world territory, finds the august writer back at the top of his game. While the stories aren’t as varied as Kings 1982 collection, they are as tightly wound and as sharply honed ... King throws in lots of supernatural gruesomeness, by mixing a bit of Poe and EC-comics-style horror... King is the perfect amanuensis of our particularly twisted zeitgeist. And Full Dark, No Stars is his latest, perfectly chilling, perfectly thrilling and decidedly unsettling report from the trenches.
These are the tales in Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars – a title that matches the mood in this grim but captivating collection. As these stories demonstrate, at age 63, King keeps getting better and remains frighteningly prolific ... King is happy to pile on to what is already a staggering nightmare, adding in illusion, delusion, and the odd savage rat bite for good measure ... Before the fireworks begin, King does what he does best: He sets up an ordinary character in ordinary contemporary American surroundings for a hellish ride into traumatic, extraordinary events ... The final two stories in Full Dark are shorter, but offer little in the way of sunny skies.
There is no denying that each of these four short, chilling stories plumbs the depths of darkness of the human condition, but each also shines in its own macabre radiance as four mere humans struggle with events that forever alter the course of their lives ... King steers clear of the supernatural this time out, depending on how the reader sees the little man in 'Fair Exchange.' He offers the idea that there is the potential in each of us to kill, not only in immediate self-defense, but with diabolical cunning, if the situation warrants ... In Full Dark, No Stars, he explores these reasons through the eyes of otherwise ordinary people.
None of the narratives have previously been published, and all are apparently recent. The first, best and longest is '1922,' a richly detailed ghost story about a Nebraska farmer whose wife wants to sell land she’s inherited and move to the city... 'Big Driver' concerns an implausible plot against an author speaking to a book club, and the toll her revenge takes on her... 'Fair Extension,' the shortest, is a fable about a terminal cancer patient who experiences a miraculous remission following a transaction with the devilish Mr. Elvid. 'A Good Marriage,' is, of course, a title dripping with irony, with a wife of more than 25 years discovering devastating secrets... A collection of page-turning narratives for those who prefer the prolific tale spinner at his pulpiest.
Eerie twists of fate drive the four longish stories in King's first collection since Just After Sunset... As in Different Seasons, King takes a mostly nonfantastic approach to grim themes. Now, as then, these tales show how a skilled storyteller with a good tale to tell can make unsettling fiction compulsively readable.