Full Dark, No Stars – by Stephen King

I’m due to start below another of my now universally remarked-upon real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

Stephen King – ‘FULL DARK, NO STARS’ : Hodder & Stoughton 2010.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/


“It could stay there until the end of time, for all of me.”

Until now, that is.

This novella entitled 1922 is the year my own father was born.  And this is a father (‘the Conniving Man’) and son relationship, where dire influences and results of human nature (weaknesses as well as strengths) pan out towards a Bonnie & Clyde scenario.  But that gives a wrong picture. Each time I renew my acquaintance with King’s work, I’m amazed how I’d forgotten how good it is and how, retrocausally, the books all came flooding back, like good ‘bad memories’ or rats in the wall of my brain.  This story contains so much heartache and, above all, or below all, a central tableau well-image that sears your very soul. with each new sighting or imaginary ‘take’ you take of it. A still life whence bits come off up from it and attack you. Literally.  Yes, literally. Until now, that is. Looking back at the whole harsh reality-symphony that Kings you out, sets you back on the balls of your feet.  I ended so sad. But so certain. That I had lived through a literary as well as literal experience. And a Horror genre experience that makes you proud of that genre, even if the books themselves often facially disown it.  Staring up at you. Things moving back up.  Time and time again like a recurring dream that even sleeplessness or the deepest possible sleep itself can’t protect you against dreaming. (2 Jan 11)


Big Driver

Page 127 – 175

“The abandoned store with the ticking sign was then still ninety minutes away, tucked snugly into the future…”

Here, by stunning (truly retrocausal) synchronicity of fiction, the equivalent, if not identical, ‘well-victim’ from the previous story takes the stage as the plot’s protagonist: No-1-Lady-Detective-Agency-type creator, pussy-cat loving – now suddenly concealing, within an inverse whodunnit, her own traces so as to prevent her reputation being entrammelled by the horrendous out-of-character crime visited upon her by Fate, by a helpful lady officiator with a short-cut, by a giant man in a “truck” called “trick” and by Tom the Sat-Nav…and by her own self-conscious Bonnie Tyler voice…

It’s almost as if she’s wearing this story like a vehicle. (2 Jan 11 – six hours later)

Page 175 – 228 (End)

“She paused long enough to look back over the pages and see if there was anything she had forgotten.”

Only King can get this to work as it does. Just to disguise the precise direction-finding of the story-line itself, I shall not change anything in what I’ve already said above (i.e. about 4 hours ago) when writing about this novella up to page 175.  Astonishingly, it all still applies, but differently. It is as if I am party to some deeper level of narration that every reader is writing alongside King. A confesssion of I-did-it.  I am a party to the blame. But I will add that bits of this story rear up and talk to me of atonement and revenge stitched with ‘1922‘-like guilt-nightmarishness now expressed, partially, as internet-paranoia. And in many ways, I regret having started this incriminating real-time review for fear of being googled into it.  But it’s too late. I’m already knitted right into the texture of the text up to the hilt. Cast on with no hope of casting off.

A genuinely far-fetched story Sat-Nav’ed towards outright believability of truth. Brought into some audit-trail or route of cartographical turning-points in womanly righteousness. (2 Jan 11 – another 4 hours later)


Intermission: Sleeping on the book’s title, with two more fictions for me yet to read, I think the inference may be that death is full dark with no stars, and as represented by the first fiction, there is no soul or Star, indeed, nothing to speckle out the uniform unconsciousness … but there are Rats.  Rats as retribution-seekers given birth to by death? Or as sparks of life … reincarnation?  Or simply a horrific reminder a person is nothing but meat rats eat? Or something else yet to be established? Some other whodunnit DNA yet to be knitted by the ‘truth’-needles of fiction? (3 Jan 11)


A Good Marriage

“o omnipotent Google, so generous and so terrible.”

I think this is the first time I’ve ever made this mistake in one of my real-time reviews!  I am very upset with myself: accidentally reading the book’s fiction out of order.  A genuine mistake. This is the fourth fiction in the book, not the third.

But perhaps there is meaning even in mistakes.  I feel this is where the first two stories meet each other in the mirror of each other.  “….where every truth was written backward.”  A catharsis yet not a catharsis for the book.  Another nightmare happening that you would wish never to have happened. Only if you could turn the clock back. Or change reality itself. Another woman with a ‘well-tableau’ – a frozen, spotlit, searing vision of past and future colliding. Forgiveness and retribution in close “propinquity” if not coincidence.  The ground being taken away from under your feet: the ground you’ve stood on, it seems, forever. A sinking feeling. And things again talking to you from reality as well as from the fiction that contains that reality: like those earlier rats, those sat-nav’s of life, those knitting patterns that don’t seem to work out, those potentially collectable coins in currency across time and space, those Google ‘caches’ that incriminate you from the future’s storage of the past. I feel almost guilty simply reading this fiction.  That’s how King’s fiction works: enjoyably compelling narrative, as ever, the storytelling made perfect by its imperfections – but also guilt trips creeping up on you unawares: and mistakes. Until now, that is. And you try to undo or conceal it. But the internet is unforgiving. I will not even think about deceiving it, let alone the people who read it. (3 Jan 11 – five hours later).


Fair Extension

” ‘I swung a reality extension…’ “

In many ways, I’m glad I’ve left this ‘iffy’ epilogue, coda, morality tale, fable – inadvertently or serendipitously – in its rightful place, here, at the end, where things inevitably end up.  Essentially about the ultimate rat-infestation of a body as a sunken ‘well-tableau’ and the law of averages not being an average law.  If I had a wish granted and wished ‘subtraction’ from anyone, for my own selfish benefit in the share of things available to us all, it would be from the author of this short story (the only short fiction in this book not long enough to be called a novella). Thankfully, that author’s not King as King wouldn’t have been able to countenance writing this.  The one who created this story is an anonymous writer or a bit ghost-writer with broad shoulders enough in the scheme of unfair Fate.  A spear-carrier for us all.

Meanwhile, the three main novellas in this book have surely been created by the King of Authors – a gestalt of guilt and sudden nightmare. They represent the overall Horror classic. Genuinely.

I shall now read the book’s ‘Afterword’ for the first time. But I shall not be back here to tell you about it. (3 Jan 11 – another 3 hours later)



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19 responses to “Full Dark, No Stars – by Stephen King

  1. Pingback: DF LEWIS REAL-TIME REVIEWS | My Last Balcony

  2. SAT-NAV = GPS

    STAR = RATS ??

    At the point of having just read the first two fictions and not yet commenced reading the third:

    ‘Big Driver’ is a good story but not as good as (or is more far-fetched than) ‘1922’ but, for me, as a sort of continuation of it, ‘Big Driver’ makes a provocative experience with the imagination, inasmuch as the female victim-type in the first story is now the female protagonist in the second story, first as victim then as crime-maker – describing the ambivalence of crime and victim.. . and whether Fate allows people to get away with things. We are all victims and crime-makers at once; it’s just the viewpoint that makes each of us a blend of what we are, what others see us as, what we see ourselves as. Bad explanation, sorry.


    Synergists or symbiotics or just cannibals? And which is which? and any other pairings?

    The well victim and the one who put her there in 1922
    The two brothers in Big Driver
    The husband and BD in Good Marriage
    The protagonist and his best friend in Fair Extension
    Fair Extension and the rest of the book
    Darcy and Holt
    The reader and SK

  5. Meanwhile the book seems even greater today than it did yesterday.

    Fair Extension is the sacrificial spear-carrier, for this purpose?

  6. Pingback: Star is Rats backwards | My Last Balcony

  7. One theory – that the process of reading (or rather, *experiencing*) this book is a sort of spear-carrier to benefit us all, by directing good fortune towards its readers. A true purging or catharsis, a fair extension of the literary gestalt.

  8. Or are you the comma in its title?

  9. Indeed, imagining oneself as the comma between FULL DARK and NO STARS, one receives a searing frisson, I feel. I can’t think of many book titles with commas…

  10. Can you think of more book titles with commas in them:
    Full Dark, No Stars
    I, Claudius
    I genuinely need them.

  11. Thanks to my Facebook friends:

    The Sea, The Sea
    Saturday Night, Sunday Morning
    Suddenly, Last Summer
    Rabbit, Run
    I, Robot
    Look Homeward, Angel
    Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
    Bright Lights, Big City
    Speak, Memory
    Go Down, Moses
    I, The Jury

    There are a lot more than I thought. It seems many of these are addressing the reader or addressing something or someone else in a sort of speech rhythm.

    I think Stephen King’s ‘Full Dark, No Stars” is the only ‘comma’ title I’ve seen so far where the comma is more than just punctuation. It’s you, the book’s reader – between a rock and a hard place!

  12. Also thanks to Craig Herbertson on my Facebook for initiating this connection:

    King’s title a conscious variation on the theme of a King Crimson song title?
    Starless, Bible Black
    (Full Dark, No Stars)

    Originally a quote from Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood?

    ‘King’ Crimson
    And Crimson King in King fiction

  13. And ‘Fair Extension” is now seriously growing on me.

  14. Pingback: DF Lewis's Real-Time Reviews

  15. Someone, on a private discussion forum, claims today that Stephen King “indulges in some intense sadistic/ misogynistic treatment of women” when writing in the First Person Female.
    I feel such claims are deeply unresolvable.
    Different readers will take different things from a specific author’s work, some
    taking the work at face value, others impugning authorial intentions.
    I think one should give any author the benefit of the doubt, i.e. that he or she
    is telling a story for its own sake rather than from ulterior motives.
    I have just reviewed King’s FULL DARK, NO STARS and I feel he is, in this work,
    seeking redemption in his treatement of guilt, in fact offering himself as a
    spear-carrier for the world.
    But, of course, that may be rubbish.

  16. Elements of ‘Macbeth’ in 1922 ?

  17. Pingback: Capek’s Newts Corengate at the Dark Tower | My Last Balcony

  18. Pingback: The Dark Tower – The Gunslinger | My Last Balcony

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