Published 2010, My edition – Pocket Books, October 2011, 560pgs
Rating: 7.8 out of 10
If you have read much Stephen King you know he doesn’t shy away from blunt, gritty, unpleasant events. His books depict all the gruesome violence and nastiness that real life offers, with quite a few supernatural twists thrown in and a liberal assortment of happy and almost-happy endings in which the bad guys do eventually get stopped, somehow, or at least they are made to go away for a while. Good, in Stephen King’s world, does eventually prevail, mostly, but it is a never-ending battle and some days it seems as if evil wins, at least temporarily. Some days no one wins and the good guys are happy to settle for a draw.
Well, if it is any indication, Full Dark, No Stars has an afterward in which Stephen King addresses the questions and comments that arise along the lines of “How can he write such awful scenes and stories?” If you are avoiding trigger-stories about murders, rapes and tortures, don’t pick this book.
But, in every story in this book, evil does in fact lose. The murderers do get what they deserve in the end, and the victims, if they live, discover stronger, more powerful sides to themselves that allow them to prevail in the end against their enemies. In King’s raw, brutally-real way, his stories in this book are actually empowering and optimistic. But it takes a reader willing to see the harsh realities, to get to the power of the survivors and the good side in general. So many of King’s books do seem to be drawing out this struggle of good versus evil, and at least in this book the stories are short, so there are fewer pages where evil is winning, before you get to the bits where the good side can gain some ground. Of course, there are a few stories that end in a draw, or maybe even a bit of a win for evil, but a sinister, sly win that would maybe not even be noticed as such if it happened in real life.
Did I like this book? Yes, of course. With the way I grew up and the world I grew up expecting, King’s harsh reality seems pretty realistic to me, and I like his underlying themes that suggest that good can and does prevail, that even when things are very bad, there is still hope that things can change for the better somehow. Would I recommend this book? Maybe. I have a lot of friends who would be so overwhelmed by the bad stuff in these stories that they would never really notice the good stuff, and for them there are other, less traumatizing books. But these are very well crafted short stories, and if you are the sort of person who can read King’s style of bad stuff and not be overwhelmed by it, you’ll love this book.