Anybody who knows the least little bit about my interests on the pop culture spectrum knows that I love the horror genre, in almost all its permutations. For most of my life, I’ve even been a pretty vocal fan of Stephen King. I don’t know the exact count, but I think I can safely say that I’ve read, at the very least, forty of his titles. This, of course, includes the King classics Pet Sematary, The Shining, and The Stand, but also some of his more obscure, not-so-popular titles such as Duma Key, Cell, Under the Dome, and my favorite, Bag of Bones. I think King is probably one of the stronger, if not the strongest, of the modern, prolific storytellers. I add the “prolific” qualifier because there are some very fine authors out there who have written but a handful of books, but each one stands as a sort of testament to genius and gorgeously seductive prose. But, as has been said before, King may very-well be the 20th and 21st century Dickens, or Poe, or Mark Twain. His writing is varied, his characters are some of the most relate-able in modern fiction, and the guy, like him or not, can make you turn some pages… fast!
Sometimes, though, his darkness discourages me. It’s not that I’m chiding his darkness, for we all have our shadow selves, and Mr. King has been a master at invoking his Shadow Stephen to great effect throughout his career, but the four tales that make up Full Dark, No Stars are specifically meant to be explorations into the dark side of the animal human. And boy does it get rough. I can’t say this is an actual review, because I haven’t yet finished the fourth story, though I’m nearing the end game. How it will play out, I’m not really sure. One thing these stories haven’t been is predictable. I will say, though, that in true King fashion, the guy is not the greatest closer around. I mean, he can write an ending, but for me, he rarely makes an ending SING. And, oddly enough to some, I guess, I’m okay with that. For me, the great joy in reading is all about the build-up, and the getting to know the characters, and watching everything coalesce. It is not, however, all about the resolving actions directly after what may or may not properly be called “the climax”. So, again, King gets a pass there.
What I can’t forgive about this collection is how unrelentingly dark it is. How pessimistic, how very ugly and almost nihilistic in tone. The pop psychology theorists would probably state that this is a book of novellas that properly reflects the psyche of the American and Western European mind right now, what with the fair amount of civil and monetary unrest we are collectively experiencing. Call me a pussy, but, sometimes in “hard times”, I’d just rather read something entertaining, even if it is a bit on the side of fluff. And please don’t misunderstand, I LOVE a good scare. But this goes below and beyond that. This is true, murky, dirty darkness. This is grotesqueness on parade, like a drag show comprised of talentless trannies on heroin. And ya wanna know what the real kicker is? It’s WELL-WRITTEN and compulsively readable. GRRR!
Stephen, I love you and I hate you… but mostly I love you. 🙂