Review: Full Dark, No stars

3/5

 

 

Four novellas of revenge from Stephen King:

1922 – A farmer murders his wife who threatens to sell his land.

Big Driver – A murder-mystery writer is raped and left for dead.

Fair Extension – A man bargains for his life – at a cost.

A Good Marriage – A woman discovers an alarming secret about her husband of nearly thirty years.

Sometimes, I think King tries too hard to be taken “seriously” as a writer. It feels like the pin of “master of horror” starts to dig under his skin, and he can’t stop rubbing it. Then he tries stories like this, more literary attempts at story telling than his usual horror. Sometimes they work, and sometimes – most times for me – they don’t. That’s generally how I felt about these.

 They were too flat and two dimensional to make me care enough.

There was a detachment from the characters I felt throughout every story: I was watching them, but not feeling them. They were too flat and two dimensional to make me care enough about them or the motives for their revenge. There’s a lack of closure with the stories which seemed missing as well.

In 1922, for instance, I was more interested in the farmer’s son who goes off the rails than the tale of the farmer himself. The horror level in this one is awesome though.

Big Driver didn’t move me as much as it should have, and the messy revenge didn’t feel like it worked at all.

Fair Extension felt like a story fragment expanded past its novelty. King is clearly having fun with the genre-savvy main character talking to the Devil, but doesn’t know what to do with it after that. It’s also oddly unsatisfying to have a character make a deal with the devil and not be punished for it somehow.

A Good Marriage was the strongest of the set. The depth of characterisation is better than the others, and the pacing is excellent. There’s even an emotional third act epilogue which works very well and brings the only sense of closure in the set.

A disappointing collection on the whole. I’ve read a lot better from King.

What do you think King’s short stories and novella collections? Let me know!

Review: Fahrenheit 451

1/5

 

 

Guy Montag burns books for a living, those heretical, contradictory, awful things that encourage people to think…

The thing with the Ray Bradbury’s I’ve come across: They aren’t really novels, or stories. Bradbury writes dense, metaphorical blank prose, and the story and everything else is dragged along behind it.

There really isn’t any characterisation to speak of and world building is slender. No one is physically described beyond a metaphorical level. The city and country where Montag works isn’t named. When you’ve read a few, you just accept this and move on.

Some of it is quite beautiful:

The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward.

And Guy’s phallic relationship with his fire hose and fire department (“With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world”). He also slides and grips the firemans pole a few times.

And, then, some of it doesn’t work at all. Be warned: Bradbury never uses a metaphor when he can use six.

He saw himself in her eyes, suspended in two shining drops of bright water, himself dark and tiny, in fine detail, the lines about his mouth, everything there, as if her eyes were two miraculous bits of violet amber that might capture and hold him intact.

Starts off fine, but then he pushes it too far. Are her eyes bright water or violet amber? His writing is like this throughout the story: metaphors and similes pushed until they break, then another and another. His dialogue is more of the same.

Bradbury isn’t someone I’m ever going to enjoy reading, I don’t think. He’s a dessert that’s far too sickly to stomach a large serving.

Luckily, this only took me a few hours to read. Without the dense paragraphs of metaphor, this would be a short story fleshed out to novella length. Curiously enough, in the afterword that’s exactly what Bradbury says happened.

Have you read any Ray Bradbury? Did you enjoy it? Let me know!