"I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger...." writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up "1922", the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife, Arlette, proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness.
In "Big Driver", a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book-club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face-to-face with another stranger: the one inside herself.
"Fair Extension", the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Dave Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.
When her husband of more than 20 years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It's a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.
Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.
©2010 Stephen King. All rights reserved. (P)2010 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved
"[T]hese tales show how a skilled storyteller with a good tale to tell can make unsettling fiction compulsively readable." (Publishers Weekly)
"King has gone on record saying he believes that American readers should pay more attention to the virtues of short fiction... if anyone can get reluctant short-story and novella readers into the swing, he certainly can with this book." (Booklist)
Many of Stephen King's stories scare me, but few horrify me the way these stories did. I found myself stopping my iPod a few minutes into two of the stories, and it was a couple days before I could bear to go back to them ... but the phobic attraction of King's well-shaped narrative drove me back as surely as the subject matter drove me away.
However, I found Jessica Hecht's narration to sharply undercut the two stories she performed. Although she developed distinctive voices for the characters, her tone was so chirpy that I swear I could HEAR her smiling as she read, and more than once I imagined bluebirds of happiness flitting around my earbuds as I listened. Her tone was much like the one you'd use to read the narration of Lemony Snicket books to children under the age of 8. It was so grating when placed up against very stark and dark prose.
But you'll note that not even a cheerful, chirpy reading of murderous and grisly scenes could tear me away from the stories. King's knack for turning off the lights on the everyday world to show the glow of monsters from within our otherwise familiar surroundings and people kept me "turning the page" and looking forward to every spare minute I had to let the stories unfold a little more, a little more, a little more.
I'm eyeing my neighbors a little more suspiciously this week. I wonder why ...
Loyal member since 1998
Listening to the first fifteen minutes of King's latest novella were not only mesmerizing but horrifying. My knuckles were white after listening to the opening minutes of 1922. In this story we are introduced to Wilf James, his wife Arlette and son teenage Henry. In just 15 minutes my hands hurt from squeezing the steering wheel. Why? Wilf does not like his wife much. Not much at all. He quickly tells us some of the reasons for his loathing. I do not care much for her myself after listening to Wilf. But Wilf displays his revulsion for Arlette in a way different than I would. He plans, with his son of course, her MURDER. Yep, and he has already discussed her extermination with Henry before we tune in. Does Henry help? I 'ain't' telling. But what happens during those first few minutes of 1922 sets off a rocket that flies an errant path that Wilf never intended it to follow. Nor did I. Nor will you.
1922, Big Driver, Fair Extension and A Good Marriage are all fantastic stories. Some parts of these tales are very, very difficult to listen to. But you will dear reader. By turn I was sympathetic and full of hatred for the "bad" people populating Kings creepy mind. I was surprised at how much sympathy I did have for the villains. That is scarier than any BOO in the dark. And disturbing. There is no way for me to pick any of the four as a favorite. The best I can do is say I loved 'em all and will listen to them again. King gives the listener a lot to think about. The recurring theme in all four stories is the real person inside each of us. A stranger or a monster lurks inside everyone. The stranger we know least lurks in those we love most-how comforting.. Right?
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
King says that these short stories are about ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances.
The first story set in the 1920s, follows a desperate act carried out by a father and son in a frantic attempt to save their farm. They become haunted men, and although their hope was to be able to continue their simple life on the farm, things turn out quite differently for these two. I like the feeling of creepy suspense and the gruesome moments in this story, This is Mr. King's signature type of tale.
The next three stories set in current times keep the pace with the first.
The second story is about a female mystery writer who finds herself all alone with a broken down vehicle on a deserted country road. This story maintains tension and suspense throughout, keeping the reader engaged to the end. I like the way the writer makes us think he has forgotten a loose end, this keeps us second guessing him.
The third story was my least favorite. The main character who has only a few months left to live, visits a roadside stand manned by Elvid, who sells "extensions". For me, this story seemed predictable, lacking the depth of the other short stories in this collection.
The last story was also quite good; a wife learns more about her husband than she ever wishes she had. This story for me, was less about the husband's evil side, and more about the wife's dilemma. This story has great suspense and keeps the reader thinking.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed these short stories and look forward to more from SK!
Stephen King always writes strong, capable women. This is something I really appreciate about King. However, the female narrator portrays the women in these stories as weak, high voiced ninnies. It is disconcerting and draws away from the intended characters.
A series of stories about generally good people pushed to do bad things for their own reasons (greed, revenge, survival, etc.). That idea isn't new exactly, but SK puts it to good work in these stories. With the exception of "Fair Extension" they are all even plausible, and "A Good Marriage" was adapted from real life events as SK notes in his remarks at the end. I think the most obnoxious thing was the product placement throughout the stories. Vehicles are one thing but there's really no need for name brands to explain a sandwich and drink or other minutia. I really don't like advertising stuffed into the pages of my books (regardless of format).
I enjoyed the narrators. The only thing I found somewhat lacking was the expression of emotions vocally. Their reading voices were great (I especially liked Jessica Hecht), but there were times the anger, desperation, fear, etc just wasn't there. Or at least not as I thought it should be. However it does not take away from the overall experience.
These aren't my favorite Stephen King stories, but they're good—certainly better than his "Just After Sunset" collection. Jessica Hecht, though, sounds like she's reading Pollyanna or some other girls' adventure story instead of the two rather harrowing stories centering around women in this collection. She's probably a competent reader, but she's all wrong for Stephen King.
It took me a few minutes to decide if this merited a four star rating. It was a book that I finished feeling somewhat unsatisfied, yet I remembered laughing and feeling chills at different points while I listened. Not all the stories in this book were of the same quality of writing but I felt that the best ones alone were worth the entire listen.
"1922" the first story in this book was my favorite. Although incredibly gruesome it surprisingly didn't come off as scary to me. In fact it was the one that elicited the laughs.
"Fair Extension" as some others have said is the weakest. It has a wonderful premise but falls far short of what it could have become if King had made it longer. It feels unfinished and is missing the unpredictability of a typical King novel.
I would have preferred a different reader for the female voice. Hecht has a slight laugh in her voice that sometimes comes out at the wrong times ruining what should be a more sombre or sinister mood. She also does a poor job in creating a voice for Darcy in the last story making her sound like a mousy little old lady, which didn't fit the image that I felt should have been created.
Overall I enjoyed listening to the book enough to recommend it even though it could have been better.
As many have noted, Stephen King is the master of Novella or extended short story. In this collection, we are treated to four King books sandwiched in between the dust jackets, (or our headphones if you prefer). This is Stephen King at his absolute best, drawing four very different and disturbing tales in the way that only he can pull-off and keep you well-riveted every step of the way. With this collection, you're in for a hell of a ride with varying emotions from abject terror to haunting science fiction fantasy. The stories have been outlined by other reviewers; a family murder in the 1920's, a woman assaulted, a man whose time is running out, and a husband's secret life revealed. Each stands well on it's own. The narration is absolutely spectacular. The actors were very well-cast and you will not be disappointed.
Jessica sounded way to happy and up tight. Some parts of the book that were really scary and awful....she sounded like she had a smile on her face when she read it. It was strange. Craig was awesome! Just like he was in 11/22/63.
As Craig Wasson launches into the first lines of 1922, “My name is Wilfred Leland James, and this is my confession. In June of 1922 I murdered my wife, Arlette Christina Winters James, and hid her body by tupping it down and old well.” You can feel how much you’re going to love this audio book. Even if you feel like a sick deviant as you delight in their sinister plot lines and unshakably vivid characters.
And then, Jessica Hecht begins to warble through Big Driver, the story of a Tess, a mystery novelist, who is brutally attacked and that’s just the beginning. Though none of the women in all four stories are treated with particular care (the men don’t fare much better), Hecht’s Tess was particularly weak and a little whiny.
Wasson comes back with King’s clever take on the deal with the devil tale in Fair Extension. The story of Dave Streeter terminal cancer patient who is seduced by the idea of extending his life, this is easily the most uplifting of the four stories, and it almost feels out of place amongst the sheer dire straits some of the other characters land in.
But of course, Hecht begins to prattle and baby talk her way through A Good Marriage. Though the story of a longtime wife who makes a gruesome discovery about her husband, is hands down the most fear inducing story of the four (King states he was inspired by the BTK murder and his wife in a killer afterword), it’s the worst performance.
Thankfully, some merciful producer selected Wasson to read the afterword in which King describes the collection: “I have tried my best to record what people might do, and how they might behave, under certain dire circumstances”. He does that in spades. All in all, he written four unforgettable stories that are sure to haunt readers long after the book is finished.
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