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!