Customer Reviews: Full Dark, No Stars
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VINE VOICEon November 15, 2010
Stephen King's latest collection features two novellas, a real long short story, and a pretty long short story. In the first, "1922," a farmer goes to extreme lengths to keep his wife from ruining his ideal homestead. In "Big Driver," a woman is raped and left for dead...and rises from the ashes to seek her revenge. In "Fair Extension," a man dying of cancer makes a deal with...well, someone with sharp teeth. In "A Good Marriage," a woman must come face-to-face with the fact that the man she's been married to for 25 years isn't who she thought he was.

These are all fairly cliched ideas, let's face it. The genius of Stephen King is that, even with the most tired-out story, he finds new ways to make it interesting (he pretty much reinvented vampires in 'SALEM'S LOT, and haunted houses in THE SHINING). These four novellas aren't King at his best, but they're King at his most introspective: digging deep beneath the surface, looking at how (to paraphrase his "Afterword") ordinary people react in extraordinary situations.

The clincher? Are these stories dark? Yes. Perhaps not as dark as some of his earlier stuff (some of the "Bachman Books" are downright horrifying, and I'm not talking about quality), but certainly dark AND personal. These are stories that are lived in, because we've been there, to an extent. Who hasn't wondered if we truly know our other halves? Who hasn't felt a special longing for home, when we see it wasting away? That's King's gift: he creates fantastic stories rooted firmly in reality. FULL DARK, NO STARS is no exception.
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on November 13, 2010
Dear Kindle owners,

Contrary to what you may believe, other Amazon readers do not care why you are or are not purchasing this book. How you choose to spend your money is your business, not ours. The whole purpose of the rating system is for other readers to be able to check out reviews of the content - not the price - of the book. We can see for ourselves how much the book costs. If you are angry you should contact the publisher, not bog down the Amazon review pages with your pointless, self-absorbed complaining.
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on November 19, 2010
for all of the one star reviews regarding the price and hating Amazon: please note the clear distinction that Amazon does not price this book. there was a very public battle regarding this after Apple released the iPad and allowed publishers the ability to price electronic books, Amazon fought but was forced to accept these new terms. please know the facts before you lower the review of a book based on pricing. dont like the kindle price, dont buy the kindle book.

great set of short stories, worth 5 stars, not what is showing up on Amazon currently.
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on December 11, 2010
Some years ago I sat behind Stephen King in a Manhattan movie theater (I'm sure he's a swell guy, but at, like, 6-4, he gets you wishing it were, say, Danny DeVito in front of you). The movie went on to win an Academy Award but I couldn't concentrate on it because all I kept thinking was, why do all this guy's new books stink? I idolized Stephen King in high school and college; Oh, how many classes did I miss and weekends I spend holed up in my room whizzing through books like Different Seasons and Pet Sematary and The Stand (especially The Stand)? There were two things King did so very well: create a voice for his characters (he made them real) and put them in painstakingly developed situations that kept you guessing -- and turning the pages. But at some point in the early 90s, everything ol' Steve churned out started seeming phoned in. And Steve and I, well, we sort of parted ways.

I took a chance on Full Dark, No Stars. I always enjoyed SK's novellas, in particular -- like The Mist and Shawshank Redemption. Figured maybe it was time to revisit the man . . . and hope. I'm glad I did. This isn't up there with his greats, but it had me turning the pages, and, hey, these days (I'm looking at you, Dan Brown), I'll gladly take that. King's first gift -- that effortless voice -- is clearly evident here. Right off the bat in "1922" he's got that voice down, and you actually start rooting for a character who has done more than one unforgivable act. He nails the voice in "Big Driver" and in the set's final story, "A Good Marriage" (I'm skipping the third story, "Fair Extension" as it is the volume's one dud, though a mercifully short one). Unfortunately, King's second gift -- the meticulously plotted thrill ride -- fares less well in the first two stories. Both start off strong then fizzle into predictable (albeit enjoyably predictable) climaxes. It's as if he was really building steam -- for a while. Then he got bored or sidetracked or whatever (there is a surprising twist in the "Big Driver" but King, frankly, wastes it). The fourth story, however ("A Good Marriage") is a gem. And it's kind of the opposite of the other stories in that it slowly builds up, and gets better as it goes along. The voice is here, of course, but so is the tension (I found the last scene -- no spoilers -- to be particularly tense; a real treat).

These are dark stories -- "harsh" as King himself says in the afterward. But the end of the book left me feeling pretty cheerful, because (assuming these tales weren't written in 1977 and stuffed in some Steve King time machine), I eagerly await his next book, and that's something I haven't done in about 20 years (dear god, I feel old now). Thanks for the ride, Steve. Keep 'em coming.
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on November 29, 2010
A solid collection of novellas from King that range from the solid to the outstanding. All four stories in Full Dark focus on people who are pushed to extreme circumstances and how they choose to act. Some are stories of murder; others are revenge tales; some are something more complex indeed, but all four are King at his darkest and bleakest, so much so that King even acknowledges the grim tone in the book's afterword. Of the four tales in the book, "Fair Extension," in which a man finds a surprising way to deal with his cancer, was by far my favorite; it's the shortest tale, but King packs it with details, and is willing to let his character go to some surprisingly dark places in his quest. Not coincidentally, it's also one of the creepiest - the collection features a minimum of supernatural events, and "Fair Extension" features the most of it, and it'll remind you how unsettling King can be. "1922," the collection's opener, is narrated by a poor farmer in the depression who decides to kill his wife with the help of his son. The tale's got a little bloat to it, but the voice is outstanding, and as it builds to the pitch-perfect finale, you realize how tight and nasty a web King has been weaving the whole time. Like "1922," "Big Driver" goes on a little too long; unfortunately, the revenge tale here isn't quite as satisfying as the others and kind of fizzles out towards the end. Even so, it's a tense, well-told tale for most of its time. And the book's closer, "A Good Marriage," is an absolute knockout, and one of King's best in a long, long time. The premise is a simple one - a woman finds out her husband has a secret - but King takes this one in some surprising directions, and the emotional fallout here is devastating. (It's also a tale made all the more effective when you read the afterword and know where the story comes from.) In general, this is a great collection; at its weakest, it's merely very good, but at its best, it's some of King's most outstanding work in recent memory. And, man, are those last two tales worth every penny by themselves.
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on November 15, 2010
I own a Kindle and was surprised about the ebook price so i just got the hardback version and YES i bought AND read the book thus the 5 stars.
King is at his prime with the novella size story and it shows, Simply put Full dark, No stars is well worth every penny be it hardback or Kindle.
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on November 30, 2010
This is the first fully satisfying Stephen King book in decades. I used to be a King addict, swallowing each new novel whole. This stopped a long time ago, when King became boring and repetitive. The last book I finished by him, I think, was Dolores Claiborne, a wonderful novel that was only partially the classic Stephen King horror job. I dipped into Cell and Lisey's Story and Gerald's Game and It, but they were all unreadable past the first 50 pages or so.

Now comes Full Dark, No Stars. Wow wow wow wow wow. Can you say "return to form"? This is one of the best of all Stephen King books. Four novellas--like Four Before Midnight and Different Seasons--comprise this quartet of page-turners. Serial killers, rapists, revenge in different forms, wife-murder, it's got 'em all, but what compulsive fun it all is. If you've ever been a Stephen King fan, you must read this one.
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on November 21, 2010
I believe this is some of Stephen King's best work (`Salam's Lot being my favorite). If a book is interesting and suspenseful enough to keep me from watching TV, even on an NFL Sunday, I rate it high. All four stories are terrific, however, as the title suggests, dark. Lastly, I hope the 3rd story, Fair Extension, will be made into a movie.

I have read other reviews about the price of the Kindle version vs the hardback copy. I am too disappointed that the publisher would keep the electronic version the same price as the hardback. My disappointment of the price did not factor into 4 star rating because it would be unfair to King's work. I believe 9.99 is a fair price for new releases on the Kindle.
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on August 21, 2011
I have been reading Stephen King for 30 years or so, on and off. I stopped reading for a long time, then picked him up again with "The Dome." I continue to marvel at how great he is at spinning a tale--absolutely engrossing. Even "The Dome" which ran on forever did not tire me out. His unique ability to combine the most graphic descriptions of horror, with pop culture, and even a bit of humor from time to time, is amazing. That he is so prolific, over 50 books at this time and one wonders how many stories, plus all his other activities, does not bother me at all despite what the critics may say.

This is a collection of 4 main stories and one short addition, "Under the Weather." As usual, the stories are fascinating to read as they unfold. This is particularly true of "A Good Marriage" where a wife discovers a horrible truth about her husband; and "Fair Extension" which raises the issue of whether life should be extended (as against the big C) at any price. The other two main stories are intricately plotted and unfold so skillfully that the reader is never bored or lost. And certainly, no reader is going to fall asleep with while reading these stories--King can still shock you out of your socks.

But there is a price to pay--even for King his descriptions of horrific events--rape, spouse murdering spouse, rat attacks, etc--are extremely graphic and detailed. I think King recognizes he may have overdone it in a short Afterword, where he writes: "The stories in this book are harsh. You may have found them hard to read in places. If so, be assured that I found them equally hard to write in places." Yes, indeed, I found them very hard to read in places. Each reader has their own tolerance for this kind of thing, and many or even most readers may disagree that King has overdone his descriptions of violence in these stories. They are still great stories, but if you have sensibilities more sensitive than a Sherman tank, be forewarned--these stories can get very graphic and rough at points.
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on January 10, 2011
A three-star review may seem almost like a negative one, or as though I'm damning "Full Dark, No Stars" with faint praise. But although I plowed through this, it's the most accurate rating I can give on a five-star scale not due purely to the material itself, but how it showcases the titanic storytelling ability of the author. Stephen King is one of the great American writers of all time; that would only be disputed by snobs who discount horror and suspense fiction as "lowbrow" or "too populist" or whatever.

With an unknown author's name on the cover, "Full Dark, No Stars" would be worthy of note, attention-getting, buzzed about, promising great things to come. But since it's Stephen King, a different scale applies. Even though some would probably take exception with this, I'm compelled to look at this collection with at least some regard to King's other work. And while "Full Dark" is a good read, mostly engrossing, at times even riveting, it pales in comparison to a great deal of his past work, both long and short.

Although the stories here are quite dark, it really feels as though King is not writing at full capacity here. There's nothing in this book as effective as any number of scenes in "'Salem's Lot" or "Pet Sematary" or "The Shining." Nothing moves with the sheer propulsion of "Misery." On the novella side, I couldn't rank any of these four with "The Body," "Apt Pupil," (both from "Different Seasons") or "Secret Window, Secret Garden" (from "Four Past Midnight.") And he's written dozens of short stories that outdo these four tales in every respect.

All of which is a long way of saying: "Full Dark, No Stars" IS worth reading, but if you're new to Stephen King, you'd be better off with the ten or twenty far superior works by the man that are already in print.
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