This is a collection of four shorter works, three of them novella length and one short story. While they are unconnected, they each feature people in extreme and trying circumstances. King is pushing his characters to see how far they’ll go, and exploring their capacity for evil.
1922 focuses on a farmer whose wife wants to sell the land she’s inherited and move into the city, while her husband would rather expand the family farm. When his wife refuses to reconsider, the farmer convinces his son that the only way out is for them to commit a heinous crime together. The story is written in the form of the farmer’s confession years after the crime, and it makes clear that though they might have gotten away with it in the eyes of the law, the farmer and his son have certainly not gone unpunished.
In Big Driver, a cozy mystery-writer named Tessa Jean undergoes a horrific experience on her drive home from a reading at a library. Barely surviving the ordeal, she finds herself changed into someone unrecognizable to herself. The rest of the story follows her seeking revenge, guided by voices in her head and occasionally her GPS. It’s a uniquely King touch on an otherwise familiar plot.
Fair Extension is the short story of the collection. A middle-aged man dying of cancer stops at a curious roadside shop and is offered a strange deal by the proprietor, who may or may not be the Devil: clean health for 15 years in exchange for 15 percent of his annual income. Oh, and he has to choose someone in his life to have 15 years of misery in return. it’s just like King to give the story with the silliest premise the bleakest ending.
A Good Marriage has maybe the juiciest premise of the four. Darcy is a woman with a perfectly ordinary life and blessed with what she believes is a good marriage. Her husband Bob is out of town on business one weekend when she makes a shocking discovery in their garage. Darcy finds herself torn between the obviously right thing to do and the best thing for her and her family.
Taken as a whole, Full Dark, No Stars is a curious collection. The thematic unity is the obvious appeal, but the quality varies quite widely from piece to piece. 1922 and Big Driver both seem far too long for the stories they tell, while Fair Extension could honestly stand to be a bit longer. A Good Marriage is the only one that seems to get the balance just right.
While each piece contains some trademark aspects of King’s oeuvre, this is not him at the top of his game.