Long Live The King

No, we're not talking Elvis here. The King I'm referring to is Stephen, and I've just finished his latest short story collection, Full Dark, No Stars. Whether you love his writing as I do or hate it (possible, I guess, as taste is subjective, although hate is hard to imagine if you've read him), I think you would still have to concede that the characters he creates are relatable, "Ordinary people put in extraordinary situations", quoted from his afterword in this book (and if you're one of those people who skip forwards and afterwords in books, please don't skip his. They are almost as entertaining as the books themselves).


 From Publishers Weekly

Eerie twists of fate drive the four longish stories in King's first collection since Just After Sunset (2008). In "1922," a farmer murders his wife to retain the family land she hopes to sell, then watches his life unravel hideously as the consequences of the killing suggest a near-supernatural revenge. "Big Driver" tells of an otherwise ordinary woman who discovers her extraordinary capacity for retribution after she is raped and left for dead. "A Good Marriage" explores the aftermath of a wife's discovery of her milquetoast husband's sinister secret life, while "Fair Extension," the book's most disturbing story, follows the relationship between a man and the best friend on whom he preternaturally shifts all his bad luck and misfortune. As in Different Seasons (1982), 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.

I loved all four stories, but I would have to say "Big Driver" was my favorite. Not only is the protagonist a woman, she's a writer. I found myself asking, "What would I do?, throughout her nightmarish experience with a serial rapist. A close second was "Fair Extension". About half way through I thought I knew exactly what the outcome would be, but I was pleasantly surprised from both a writer's and reader's standpoint. 

This collection is raw and honest. Let it never be said that Mr. King doesn't tell it straight.


Caroline said...

Stephen King has a fabulous gift for creating real characters. It was what first made me a fan of his, and it's been a big inspiration to me in my own writing.

I am head over heels for The Stand. There's no reason on earth a bible-sized horror story about a plague, a dusty devil surrogate, and the end of the world as we know it should attract me. It wouldn't except for the fact that it's about "my friends" Stu, Frannie, Larry, Glen Bateman, Nick Andros, and M-O-O-N -- that spells Tom Cullen. They're real to me.

The real people/real world vs. extraordinary circumstances concept has always been attractive to me. It's one reason I loved E. Nesbit's fantasy novels.

I haven't read this latest collection of stories, but I'll definitely check it out.

Rogue Mutt said...

I've read only two King books (plus "On Writing") and they were both pretty good, but horror isn't really my bag.

Emily White said...

I'm so silly. I thought I was already following you!

I'll have to check this out. I've always been a fan of King, especially his short stories.

Kari Marie said...

I love King. Thank you for this review. I had been hesitating to purchase this one, but I think I will give it a try.

Hart Johnson said...

I adore King. I don't like all his novels--he is a pantser, and once he had enough fame, he hasn't always cleaned up to have decent endings, but the first 2/3 are always great (character, situation, tension), and when he nails an ending, they are great books. I haven't read anything short of his for a long time, but a few of his short stories still haunt me (Childen of the Corn?).

So thanks for the review! I will have to look for it.

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never read anything by Stephen King--I guess it's about time I did!

Lisa Potts said...

Caroline, for all of my SK love, I haven't read The Stand. I have it at home, just haven't gotten around to it.

RM, I actually like his non-horror stuff just as well.

Emily, you're not silly, just busy like the rest of us, but thanks for following!

Kari, these characters will definitely stick with you.

Hart, my favorite story EVER by Stephen King is The Long Walk (actually published as Richard Bachman). If you haven't read it yet, it's brilliant.

Golden, I would start with one of his short story collections. They usually offer a little bit of everything.

Mara Nash said...

I adore Stephen King for the same reasons you mentioned, though I really don't like horror and don't read his horror work. I just don't like all that icky stuff so squirreled so intimately into my brain where I can't get it back out once it's there.

My all time King fave is the Dark Tower series. Roland is one of those characters who really sticks with you. On Writing is interesting and insightful. And I'm about to start The Dome.

Lisa Potts said...

Mara, I haven't tackled The Dome yet, but the cover art is amazing.

mshatch said...

I've been a SK fan for a long time and recently read Under the Dome, which I loved. Very few writers do 'ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situation' as well as he does.

Amie Kaufman said...

I'm simultaneously in awe of his writing and absolutely terrified of him. I saw the movie of Misery at a very formative time -- the recovery was long and slow! Perhaps it's time to dive back in, especially now I'm reading like a writer, these days.

Lisa Potts said...


That's one of the best things about his work, IMO. Reading as a writer has come close to ruining some books for me, but with his stories I get terrified and amazed without ever being aware of the writing.

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