“FULL DARK, NO STARS,” by Stephen King, Scribner, New York, 2010, hardcover, 384 pages, $27.95.
Leave it to Stephen King to keep his readers guessing.
A year after his mammoth novel “Under the Dome,” the Bangor author returns with “Full Dark, No Stars,” a collection of four novellas which hits store shelves Tuesday.
King has never been afraid to follow his muse wherever it leads, whether long or short, print or electronic, and his fans are better off for having that variety.
One cautionary note about “Full Dark, No Stars”: These tales are relentlessly grim, with little of his trademark dark humor (King must have foreseen the midterm election results).
In his afterword, King agrees: “The stories in this book are harsh. You may have found them hard to read in places. If so, be assured I found them equally hard to write in places.”
The first story, “1922,” is the downward spiral of a pre-Depression-era Nebraska farmer who is being haunted by his late harpy of a wife. It’s a tale of well-meant intentions going very awry.
After that is “Big Driver,” in which an author of genteel mysteries is assaulted, then decides to use her sleuthing skills to hunt down her attacker. Along the way, she discovers that revenge is never as simple as vigilante movies make it look.
In the short story “Fair Extension,” a dying man makes a deal with the devil and finds out that “Be careful what you wish for” is a truism for a reason.
The book concludes with “A Good Marriage,” in which a wife learns her longtime husband’s deepest, darkest secret. She finds out that even those to whom we’re closest aren’t necessarily who they seem to be.
“Full Dark, No Stars” is four bite-size servings of King. These stories may not suit everyone’s taste, but they are filling.