Audiobook Review: Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King

 I pulled this one off the library shelves figuring I would read a little horror to immerse myself in some Halloween eerieness. I believe the last Stephen King I had read was The Tommyknockers way, way back when it was first published. So it’s been quite some time since I’ve delved in to some King madness.

Firstly, I listened to this in audiobook format. Craig Wasson narrates two stories where the main characters are male, and he seems to be a big fan of Stephen King, or vice versa, as he is the go-to man for all audiobook versions of King’s novels (all of them). Wasson is the indeed the right voice for the male-narrated stories in this collection, for certain. There were two stories narrated by Jessica Hecht, with one being better than the other. However, I far preferred listening to Craig Wasson.

1922: 4 stars! A creepy first read to put me back in to the mind of Stephen King. Wasson’s narration was fabulous in 1922.  Wilfred James is married to Arlette and has one son, Henry (Hank). Wilf owns 70 acres of land that he and his son farm. His wife Arlette has been left over 100 acres by her father. Her intention is to sell these 100 acres to the hog farmer up the way, take the proceeds and run to the city to get the hell away from the farm life. This is absolutely disgusting to Wilf. How could you live your good and happy life on the farm, own good land and throw all that away to the hog farmer? Are you actually saying you want pig blood in your well water? You want to see and smell pig guts wafting through the air and stream running behind your house? HELL NO! What’s a man to do?? Well Wilf most certainly is not standing for that nonsense. No way, no how! She’s got to go. She’s just got to go!  Slowly working to turn Hank against his mother, he hatches the plan where together they kill her. She’s left him with no other alternative. One night Wilf gets Arlette good and wasted and sets about to slit her throat. It’ll be easy. Hank will pull a burlap sack over her head when she’s passed out and he’ll make short and quick work with the deed. Well…you know how those good intentions go wrong…it’s a mess. An absolute mess. Blood everywhere, a flailing Arlette. A completely freaked out son. He has to roll her up in the quilt and stuff her down the well. That well needs to be filled in anyway. (I thought I was going to pass out from the extremely detailed scene where Wilf attempts to cleanly cut her throat, and thought for certain, great, I’m going to need intensive post-King therapy!) Following this, Arlette is never really gone. She sits at the bottom of that well with her maniacal grin. And the rats! She’s sending the rats to him! They are doing her bidding! He can’t rest. Those rats clawing at the walls. Wilf slowly loses his mind. His son Hank can’t stand to be around him and flees to the city where he takes on an ultimately deadly life of crime. His neighbour hates him. The bank forecloses on land, etc. etc. And still…Arlette slowly drives him mad with the rats and her incessant whispering in his ear. The very, very, very end of the story where Wilf is ultimately and finally ravaged by the rats is spectacularly narrated.

Big Driver: I’ll give this one 3 stars. Although it’s on a topic that is quietly a serious nightmare and fear for all women travelling alone, some parts of this story went off the rails when Tess gives voices to her cat (Fritz) , her GPS unit (Tom) and one of her main characters in her mystery books – Doreen, to help her plot revenge.  Tess is the author of  a successful series of cozy mysteries and is often asked to speak to reading groups. She has conditions however, as she will only attend those that can be driven to so that she is home in time to feed her cat. In a fateful moment to later be filled with dire consequences, Tess accepts a spur-of-the-moment invitation to attend a speaking engagement only 60 miles from her home. The librarian, and lady in charge of the Brown Baggers reading group also offers Tess a short-cut home. Little does Tess know what has been set in motion after accepting this helpful enough short-cut. Cruising along a quiet country road, Tess runs over debris and blows a tire. Along comes an old blue pick-up truck with Bondo around the headlights. From the truck steps a man so large he doesn’t fit in the truck, he wears the truck. Offering to change Tess’ tire and help her get back on the road, he changes his mind and chillingly overpowers her with “instead of changing your tire, how about I f**k you instead?” Following hours of this giant raping and beating her, Big Driver leaves Tess for dead in a drainpipe with a few of his other victims. What follows is Tess putting to work her cozy mystery friends and skills to work to solve and help plot her revenge against Big Driver.

Fair Extension: Another read by Craig Wasson. Another excellent story. Another 4 stars. Harry Streeter has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He’s undergoing chemo treatments  and his hair is thinning and he’s not looking so well. He comes across a man named Elvid under a yellow umbrella (at least he thought it was yellow…why does it now look an ancient dreary gray?). Elvid says he’s in the business of making extensions. Everyone needs an extension, short men want a height extension, men not well endowed want a penis extension, etc. etc. Now it kind of looks as though Harry is in line for a life extension? No? It’s pretty simple, just tell Elvid whom you hate the most. For Harry, it’s his “best” friend. Why Tom has got it all – in high school he was the big jock, but when his grades slipped, it was up to Harry to help him out. Harry was in a love with a beautiful girl, but instead, she married Tom. Tom is now rich, Tom has the wonderful children and lives in a house that even has a pissing cherub fountain out front. Harry hates him. Oh he certainly does. Oh that green eyed monster, named Envy. So Harry makes a deal with the devil, or Elvid (get it?) and what follows…some classic King in my opinion. Not too creepy or scary, but just something to make you shake your head with the appreciation of what happens when you make a deal with the devil. Following Harry’s miraculous cure of cancer, the love and lust has returned to him and his wife of 30+ years. Vacations in Hawaii, in Mexico, rekindled love-making, his two children become wealthy, happy and land jobs of their dreams, Harry is promoted again and again at the bank. Life is fan.tas.tic! For Tom? Well, Tom’s luck really seems to have run out on him. Let’s see…in a short timespan, Tom loses his lovely wife to cancer, his great and popular football playing son suffers some kind of stroke and now spends his days drooling and wetting his pants, requiring 24-hour care, his daughter has married a man that loses their life savings, cancels the life insurance in order to save money and then subsequently dies while she is pregnant. Then the baby is born stillborn. Tom loses his fortune, weight, his good looks. Too bad for Tom. Harry is living and loving life! As he gazes upon the starry night with his arm around his wonderful wife…he wishes for even more.

A Good Marriage: This was also narrated by Jessica Hecht. 3 stars for this one (or 2.75?). Jessica’s narration of Darcy’s voice was cringe-worthy and ultimately extremely annoying. She made Darcy sound as though she’s missing a few brain cells, speaks in an incredibly flightly, space-cadet-like voice (whhhaaaat is happpenning to meeeee?). It was a voice that I could not endure and therefore really, really stole some thunder from this story. Darcy Anderson has been married to her husband Bob for over 25 years. He has been a committed husband and father to their two children (now grown and off to college and their own adult endeavours), very active in the community, an all around stand up guy. Bob is also a travelling accountant and amateur coin collector, so he’s often away on business trips. One night, Darcy stumbles upon a box that when opened contains chilling information of an ulterior life that Bob has successfully hid from her all of these years. Bob has been “snoot hunting” for the better part of these 25+ years. A snoot? Well that would be those women that are just asking for it. You know, the ones that get out of the car and show their panties, the one that works as a waitress who rubs her titties against you when filling your coffee cup, the one that wears her skirt too short. However, it’s not really Bob doing this….it’s BD. BD is responsible for it. At least, this is what Bob explains to Darcy once he’s realized she’s finally found out what he does as extracurricular activity on his business trips. So what is Darcy to do? Does she carry on? Does she believe in Bob enough to stay when he says he’ll stop? Not a bad story at all, just bad narration that subtracted some of the chill to this tale.

All of the stories in Full Dark, No Stars are of tales that may occur in the every day and pose the question, “what would you do if…?” you were put in the scenario of Tess in Big Driver? Of Wilf in 1922? or Harry in Fair Extension? Overall, great, great stories and a very enjoyable audiobook. Not a bad way to dive in to the mind of Stephen King after a long pause.  I couldn’t imagine enjoying these stories more had I read them in the book format and not immersed so fully in the first-class narration of Craig Wasson. (Sorry Jessica, I wish Craig had read them all.)