December 6, 2010

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King Review

by: Stephen King
Scribners Publishers
ISBN: 978-1439192566
Review by Jim Cherry
Review posted 12/6/2010

Stephen King is perhaps the greatest living writer of any genre working today. His “Hearts in Atlantis” was the best the book of short stories I'd read since Joyce's “Dubliners” and now “ Full Dark, No Stars” puts him in serious contention for being the being the Poe of our time.

“Full Dark, No Stars” is four stories with various levels of horror attached but each story is so very plausible the horror elements don't seem contrived or impossible. The first story “1922” is a very visceral story of murder and it's after effects. You can feel every ounce of creepiness the characters are experiencing. Some of the action may make you want to shrink away from the story but King's writing makes a reader a literary addict needing the next word, sentence, paragraph, hungry to see what happens next.

King wastes no elements in these stories, he explores every dark avenue of the story to it's fullest. “Big Driver” demonstrates this very ably. It's about a writer returning home from a book signing and is raped and left for dead after getting a flat tire. At first I thought King was going to get bogged down in every little detail of the aftermath, but it never happens, and King stays away from every cliche of the genre (whichever genre he may be writing in) but the action leads so naturally from one action to the next you think you're witnessing it unfold in real time.

King also reveals his mastery of the story not only does he show you what he wants you to see, but like any good magician he reveals things only when he's ready to reveal them, and when he does in “Fair Exchange” you realize the clue was in front of you all the time and King just moves the curtain aside ever so slightly to reveal what you only intuited was there.

Each story is loosely connected in theme that there's an unknown self in all of us that can push us over the edge into the unknown. King doubles up on this theme in his last story “A Good Marriage.” We see this from the point of view of a woman who discovers the darkest of secrets about her husband, and her reaction to it. It's a story that's going to make wives think twice about looking around their husband's workbench for spare batteries when the TV remote goes out.

I don't want to resort to the reviewers cliche of saying the author really keeps turning the pages, but in King's case it's an addictively true statement. Each story in “Full Dark, No Stars” is like enjoying a full and satisfying meal and you may want a little time to digest what you've read but you'll find yourself pulled back to find out what happens next.

Jim Cherry is the author of The Last Stage,

Guardian of the Sky Realms by Gerry Hutman Review

By: Gerry Huntman
IFWG Publishing
ISBN: 978-0984329885
Reviewed by: Jim Cherry
Review posted 12/6/2010

Alienation, self-identity, feelings of becoming something greater than you are have become the subjects of young adult novels. In recent years YA has exploded and opened up to explore weightier and more pertinent subjects to teens, such as nascent love and sexual awakening, than previous generation’s Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. These subjects are finding a voice and expression in heroic stories or supernatural novels creating a new mythology for teens.

Gerry Huntman’s Guardian of the Sky Realms is the story of a typical Sydney teen Maree who is an outsider at school and the confines of her homelife are well, confining. Maree craves to be able to become the person she knows is inside. Maree has an affinity for angels. She finds herself unconsciously drawing them. She discovers a painting titled “Wings in Despair” and decides to steal it. When Maree tries to steal the painting she discovers it is a nexus to another world, another world where she was once a guardian of the sky realm named Mirriam. She must discover which of these is her true self while fighting the fear that she may be losing her real self. Alanar, who was once a guardian of the sky realm with Mirriam, becomes her guide to this new world. Alanar must teach her the rules of the world, and accompanies Maree on a quest to save the boy she loves in the human world.

In the author’s note it says Gerry Huntman was active in Australia’s role playing world and you can see it in the writing. Huntman has created a highly imaginative world where hopefully a teen would imagine himself in. Instead of letting the reader discover that world as Maree/Mirriam does, the reader is given the information in a lump sum form where the history and rules are laid out instead of letting the magic of discovery awe the reader as well as Maree.

The main theme that I think Huntman intended the novel to be, finding your identity, seems unfocused. He lets the different elements he uses in the novel, fantasy, heroic adventure, the quest, lead him off on tangents that are fun to read but he they don’t reinforce the theme. For instance, when Alanar takes Maree/Mirriam to Suisa the prophetess, and all the detail in how the future is augured feels like the novel has been abandoned for a role playing game. If these elements were more successfully integrated it would make for a more satisfying novel.

Guardian of the Sky Realms pushes some of the right buttons in wanting to explore the transformation of teens into adult roles, but the fantasy elements, dragons and gargoyles seems like a story a much younger audience would enjoy rather than a teenaged audience.

Jim Cherry is the author of The Last Stage,