Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King

OK.  Blogger and I got into a fist fight and we'll see if I won by virtue of whether this post actually gets published.  I am very strong.  And my computer has very short arms.  So it wasn't much of a fight.

I just finished this book last night.  I've said it before and I'm saying it again:  Stephen King is an excellent story-teller.  This is a book of four novellas, and much like his other collections, I enjoyed them all.  None of the stories here deal (all that much) with supernatural or other-worldly beings that made Stephen King one of the most read horror authors.  It's because of that absence that I think these stories are scarier.  Knowing that these things can happen - and probably do happen to a certain extent - make the fear almost tangible.  But don't worry that it's too scary; you can always put it in the freezer if you need to.

"1922" tells the story of a farmer in an uneasy marriage.  When his wife decides they need to sell the farm and move to a city, the farmer convinces his son that they need to kill the wife/mother.  They manage to do so, but allowing the darker part of his nature to take over - however briefly - has permanent ramifications for the father and particularly the son.  The son grows up in ways that a parent hopes their children never even become aware that is possible.  I'm not sure what it is about rats that fascinates Mr. King, but I sure wish he'd leave them alone.  Of course, not as much as the farmer in this story wishes Mr. King would leave them alone.  Suffice to say it ends badly for all involved.  But whether or not there is a real ghost in this ghost story is a matter of interpretation.  Sometimes the mind creates powerful illusions.

"Big Driver", in my opinion, would have made for a great novel.  The characters could easily be developed into more than presented.  An author goes to a book signing event not far from home, but on her way back becomes stranded in the middle of nowhere.  Help arrives not too long after she realizes that she has no cell phone service.  Unfortunately "help" comes in the form of a serial rapist and killer.  Assaulted and left for dead, she manages to make her way home.  Rather than going to the police, she decides it would be easier to deal with the situation in her own manner.  Turns out there was more to the book signing than mingling.  The author discovers enough information to realize that her assault was a family affair (there's plenty of fodder there for half a novel - easily).  I won't give away everything, but "Big Driver" doesn't make it out on the road anymore.

"Fair Extension" was tough to read.  Mostly because I wanted there to be more moralistic overtones, but that's just not how it turns out.  In this story we read about an average man with an ordinary life who is facing down aggressive cancer.  He has a steady job, a loving wife, good kids, and a fast-spreading cancer that will probably take his life in less than a year's time.  He's out for a drive when he sees a curious roadside vendor set up with nothing to offer on his table.  He starts talking to the vendor with the assumption that the man is crazy, particularly since the man is offering him a 15-20 year extension on his life.  As the talk continues, it comes up that the extension isn't free.  It'll cost our average man 15% of his earnings during the extension and a name.  The money seems a small price to pay, but the name is more costly.  Seems that one can't get 15-20 in the black without putting someone else 15-20 in the red.  Eventually, after a week's trial of good health and amazing MRI results, our average man makes his first payment in the form of a name....the name of his best friend since grammar school.  There are all sorts of reasons why he chose his best friend, but for me it all boiled down to pettiness and jealousy.  Tragedies and misfortune begin befalling not the best friend in particular, but the best friend's family.  His wife dies, his middle child loses his cognitive abilities as a result of a heart attack, his daughter suffers from odd health maladies, his business is audited, his business is investigated by the EPA, a trusted employee embezzles 2 million dollars, his oldest is arrested for domestic abuse, the list goes on.  Meanwhile our average man regains his health, gets a promotion, goes on exotic vacations with his loving wife, watches his children grow up to become successful and happy.  And that's pretty much the story.  I was hoping for guilt.  The kind of guilt that makes you a little crazy.  The kind of guilt that makes you give away everything you own.  Instead, the average man is almost smug in his satisfaction with how life turned out.  And that's the scariest part.....there's probably that kind of average man in all of us.  We could probably all be the kind of person who can enjoy a "fair extension" without the guilt.  I don't every want to meet that part of me.

"A Good Marriage" was actually something I thought about when the BTK serial killer was caught.  A man had been a good husband and father, an upstanding part of a community, and at the same time he was a man who bound, tortured, and killed people.  When they caught the man who did that, I wondered if a person could live with a serial killer and really not know anything about it.  Even before I read this story, my answer was "yes."  A woman in search of batteries for the tv remote stumbles upon a box in a garage.  The box leads to a hiding place.  The place leads to the identification of a woman whose body had been found recently; another victim of a serial killer on the loose.  Twenty-seven years of marriage, of raising children, of Boy Scouts, of steady and reliable work as an accountant, of coin-collecting, of being a mild-mannered husband and diplomatic father were cast into a different light because the batteries in the remote were dead.  And that's all I'm going to say.  You have to read it to find out the rest.  That is if you can keep it out of the freezer. Pin It

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