Full Dark, No Stars--Stephen King

I received Mr. King's latest opus as a Christmas gift and finished it this morning.

The book lives up to the title, and one can only hope that it serves as a form of therapy or hope for Mr. King, for if not, the darkness is very dark indeed. For the most part, it is fairly standard King fare, rats (hearkening back to very early work in his first short story collection, which in turn hearkens back to H. P. Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls"), a tale of rape, near-murder and revenge, a story about a marriage--with secrets, and a Needful Things extension, which is, perhaps the ugliest and most deeply disturbing story in the book.

Indeed, it was this tale that actually caused a gut-churning nausea--not because of the details--which, in fact, were mild in the realm of Kingian detail, but the very concept of the story was deeply disturbing to me.  It truly exemplified Roethke's famous line, "Dark, dark my light and darker my desire."

All  of the stories in the book are dark, darker by far than much of what Mr. King has produced before.  One might say that the outer darkness so prevalent in much of Mr. King's fiction has through time undergone a transformation to a deep inner darkness.  In some cases, this darkness has been provoked by incidents beyond the perpetrator's control.  But, and this is what makes "Fair Extension" so deeply disturbing, Mr. King has come to the realization that some of us choose deep darkness and evil and choose it willingly.  And Mr. King is very, very Aquinian in his understanding of this choice--no one chooses darkness for darkness, but they choose darkness because they see good.

These stories are good, well-written, haunting in the best sense of that term.  For me the most haunting being the dark choice of "Fair Extension" and the good that plays out from it--good for one--not so much for another.  Again, not a new theme for Mr. King, think Thinner.

What is refreshing is to see a distinct lack of excess, a deliberation and a control that I had thought had long since left Mr. King's command.  Also refreshing is the relative lack of political diatribe that has polluted some of the more recent (and very fine) work such as Duma Key.

For fans of this master of dark tales, highly recommended.  For those who have not yet entered the pale, you might be well advised to keep away--this form of nightshade is less poisonous, but highly addictive.

****1/2

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