Wednesday, 26 April 2017
Devouring Stephen King: Full Dark, No Stars
It's a bit much, is what I'm trying to say, but it's also a bit excellent.
There are essentially 4 novellas in this book, although I would argue that the third story is really just a short story at about 30 pages. Still, let's call it a novella for the sake of ease, and go through each story one by one, shall we?
1922- A man wants to keep his farm and his general way of life. His wife wants to sell the farm and move to the big city (pretty sure the big city here is Nebraska, but there you go). In order to get what he wants, man convinces his son that the best thing to do is to kill his wife, and from there everything turns (quite predictably) to shit. This was definitely not my favourite story in the collection because mehhhhh historical fiction can you just not, but it was extremely dark- there are no moments of light (as discussed) even before he murders his wife, but its after that that everything becomes fully terrible. It's maybe the most graphic of the novellas, and it's also very good.
Big Driver- This maybe was my favourite story in the book, even though it was incredibly difficult to read at times. A semi-famous novelist takes a shortcut home after a reading and ends up being subjected to a horrifying rape and being left for dead. I did not so much enjoy reading her anguish (like I say, so. Much. Darkness.) but everything that happens after this is jaw dropping and exciting and kind of made me want to punch the air with righteous retribution (cause that's a thing...) This is, in a way, a detective story as the novelist explores her own attack, and is so twisty and turny that I think I genuinely gasped at points. It's all very good, and very disturbing stuff, so obviously I highly recommend it.
Fair Extension- In many ways I feel as though this was the story that I found the darkest, or maybe just the one which upset me the most. A man who is dying of cancer essentially makes a deal with the devil (-ish) to take the bad stuff away from him and give it to someone he hates- and the person he names is literally his best friend. This deal being established, the rest of the story is essentially a recitation of all the good things that happen to the man who made the deal, and all the bad things that happen to his best friend in return. It's not so much the things that happen that disturb me (although they are genuinely horrible) but more that the man who made the deal feels no remorse. He doesn't try to take it back, he doesn't care that his (supposed best friend) has all these troubles, and at the end of the story, he basically has everything but is still quite literally wishing for more. It was just a way of thinking that I found really disturbing, and even though this book deals with SO MANY upsetting things (see the next story for evidence) it was this that really struck me, I guess because it's kind of how I believe a lot of people view the world. Disturbingly human, and also just plain disturbing.
A Good Marriage- A Good Marriage is, probably unsurprisingly, a really very dark story. It's essentially based around the idea that you can live with someone, marry someone, believe you know someone and then realise that, actually, you kind of don't and can't. Tale as old as time, I hear you cry, but in this instance, it involves a wife's discovery that her husband is actually a terrible, and terrifying criminal. The real strength in this story lies in the struggle of the wife between discovering these terrible things about her husband and trying to reconcile them with the man she (thinks she) knows. This is done so well, for instance, when she has just found out the terrible thing and her husband phones and she kind of hates him and is disgusted by him but he is also just the sweet guy who cares about her. It forces you to face the uncomfortable truth that, if you found out something similar about someone you loved, they would remain the person you loved AND the person who did the bad thing, and how does a person reconcile that? This story doesn't necessarily have an answer, just an exploration.
Just to reiterate, this story collection is not for the sad or pessimistic reader. I consider myself a fairly optimistic person and by the end of these I pretty much needed a giant hug and a drink. This doesn't mean that they're not worth reading and actually I feel like I've come to a really good patch of King-writing, it's just a bit intense and sometimes a bit much. Maybe don't read them all in one day like me, and break them up with some happy reading, but please definitely read them.