Apr. 24th, 2011 10:50 pm
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
[personal profile] cyphomandra
Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars.

Four novellas. King is excellent at this length, and this is another solid collection of them; not as good as Different Seasons, possibly better than Four Past Midnight, and as I am still not back in my house and can’t check I am a bit unsure about how it would stack up next to Hearts in Atlantis (where I liked the title novella best, but don’t have a strong memory of the others). These four novellas are all about retribution, revenge; justified or not, and enacted by the characters or the narrative.

1922 is a first-person narrative by a farmer who murders his wife rather than have her sell the land she owns; the title is the year, and it made me wonder why King hasn’t done more historical fiction, because he’s rather good at it. I’ve complained about other authors in terms of research; King, whatever his other faults, is consistently and quietly competent in this regard, and whenever he gets into one of my specialist areas, he gets it right. In the notes for Under the Dome he credits his long-term research partner (whose name I cannot immediately track down on-line) for much of the technical material in that and earlier novels, but there’s an awful lot of room for things to go wrong between research and story, not least of which is being so attached to your story that you won’t change it for any mere facts. Which is a shame, because sticking to the facts rather than going off your own clichés is often a lot more interesting.

Ahem. Back to the stories. 1922 is technically very good but everybody in it is rather unpleasant. Big Driver is probably my favourite for narrative neatness, although it’s an uncomfortable read; Tess, a mystery writer, is on her way back from a speaking engagement via a short-cut when she is assaulted, raped, and left for dead in a culvert. Fair Extension is a neat, cruel, deal with the devil/Job story that ends in exactly the right place – just where the reader doesn’t want it to – and A Good Marriage is in fact the first story I read in this collection, while standing in an airport bookstore, and is one of those traditional relationship difficulty stories in which Darcy Anderson discovers her husband of nearly 30 years is a serial killer.

Kenneth Lillington, Giving up the Ghost. This is one of those books I’d picked up because it was in the same Faber & Faber packaging as Tim Kennemore’s short story collection, and I thought I’d read another of his. I think I might have, but I equally well may have merged a couple of books, because I thought it was YA, and this wasn’t really; a elderly woman starts playing scrabble every night with her dead husband, her lodger (female) gets involved, and an intrepid reporter investigates the whole thing and hooks up with the lodger. There is another plot about vengeful ghosts, gardening and evil sisters that never quite hung together for me, and although it was reasonably competent it wasn’t really what I wanted from it. Possibly I should just try and track down some more Tim Kennemore.
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