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A Dark Matter Mass Market Paperback – Abridged, February 22, 2011
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“Straub’s return to all-out horror. . . . [He] does it on his own terms, beautifully blending monsters and demons and indescribable evil into a melancholy novel shaped and crafted as carefully as literature, not pulp entertainment. Straub’s writing has rarely been better or more precise.” —Miami Herald
“An alchemy of psychological suspense, supernatural horror and cultural history. . . . Ambitious in its scope and challenging in its telling. . . . Explosive.” —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
“A modern-day supernatural Rashomon. . . . [A Dark Matter] leaves one satisfied, still eager for the next book by one of the most adroit masters of the supernatural thriller.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[A Dark Matter] has it all: shifting perspectives, nested flashbacks, a story that spans four decades, and an attractive, charming cast.” —The Onion A.V. Club
“Vivid, mysterious. . . . An elegant, multilayered reminiscence. . . . A rich, multi-perspective take on a murky collegiate misadventure in 1966.” —TimeOut New York
“[Straub] is a master at blurring the supernatural, the real-world-scary and the monsters in your psyche.” —Cleveland Plain-Dealer
“A powerful, original and utterly engrossing novel about the palpability of evil and its costs. . . . . Nothing less than stunning.” —The Globe and Mail
“Terrifying. . . . A Dark Matter is populated with vivid, sympathetic characters, and driven by terrors both human and supernatural. It’s the kind of book that’s impossible to put down once it has been picked up. It kept me reading far into the night. Straub builds otherworldly terror without ever losing touch with his attractive cast of youngsters, who age beautifully. Put this one high on your list.” —Stephen King
“Part Rashomon, part The Turn of the Screw. Peter Straub may well be the most important voice in suspense fiction today.” —Lincoln Child
“American master Peter Straub takes the sweep of our freaky history over the past forty years, subjects it to all the elegant gifts of madness and arts of haunting of which he is the wicked king, and finds himself in possession of a masterpiece.” —Michael Chabon
“I’ve been reading Peter Straub since I was a teenager, and his work is hardwired into my brain. A Dark Matter contains echoes of all that has been great about Straub’s previous work and builds upon it. This Rashomon-like tale is as spooky and frightening as anything he has written, but it’s also an intense and moving celebration of love. Out of the darkness comes, ultimately, a surprising and haunting sense of joy.” —Dan Chaon
“Increasingly, Peter Straub brilliantly defies and blurs literary genres. A Dark Matter is a page-turning thriller of every sort: psychological, sociological, epistemological. Plus, it’s really scary.” —Lorrie Moore
“A devastatingly good novel. In its investigation of a dark ritual that casts a decades-long shadow, A Dark Matter makes you question all you thought you knew about horror and about literature. But it goes well beyond that: it messes with your sense of reality and then, just when you’re getting your bearings, scrambles it again.” —Brian Evenson
About the Author
PETER STRAUB is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels. In the Night Room and Lost Boy, Lost Girl are winners of the Bram Stoker Award, as is his collection 5 Stories. Straub is the editor of numerous anthologies, including the two-volume The American Fantastic Tale from the Library of America. He lives in Brooklyn.
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Yes, it's long. It's certainly not a thrill a minute, but I read Straub because I enjoy the way he builds tension, step by step, and I certainly was drawn in. I actually liked getting all the characters different take on what happened.
So if you're a fan of Straub in general, and I certainly am, then I think this is worth a read.
As the master of horror, Straub heaps on all things phantasmagorical.
Lee Harwell is a well-know novelist struggling with his next book. A random encounter in a Chicago coffee shop gets him thinking back to an occult ceremony in 1966 in Madison in which four of his high school friends hook up with a charismatic shaman-like itinerant named Spencer Mallon, who by whim or will ends up opening a door to hell and changes all their lives forever.
Hootie Bly has been institutionalized since, communicating by quoting from Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter." Eel Truax, who is now married to Harwell, has gone blind. Life has turned out strangely for different reasons for Jason Boatman and Dilly Olson. Another participant, a Mallon hanger-on, was found dead, grotesquely mauled, in the meadow where the incident had taken place under the eye of the moon. Otherworldly, ungodly goings-on have occurred.
Harwell gathers the participants together and each presents his or her version of events. And thereby lies the tale. Each telling is different and the pieces only add up if you're able to connect to and are easily swayed by things very far out, supernatural and unearthly. Don't, for instance, give this book as a gift to an accountant or engineer.
"A Dark Matter" is a tale of horror, slight on the horror. Straub is one of the genre's best stylists. This book is among his best from that side of the book shelf. Some sections are constructed of words piled wondrously against one another. But it's also ponderous and simply confusing rather than metaphorical or even scary. When it's all said and done, Straub has done a better job in other novels of weaving his spell.
Several of his books involve a youth who is either more perceptive or just more observant than the norm, and in so perceiving begins to sense some abnormality that intrudes into daily life, haunting the young person who saw or felt the intrusion. But the abnormality is always light. It never weighs so heavily that the rest of the world need notice it. If there are deaths, and they are inexplicable, then they dissolve into the noise of other unexplained events, events which though unexplained are also perfectly explicable. There is always some doubt that anything at all was seen, and that perhaps it was all something dreamed (day) and imagined, concocted by the character wittingly though perhaps unwillingly.
A Dark Matter is an example of this, Straubs own trope. Here there are multiple children each perceptive, and each seeing things that are , largely, agreed upon by all. We do not spend much time with them as children but as adults, acid-washed like jeans, as they come together again to talk about their strange consensus reality for the last time.
What is interesting to me about Straub, as seen in this book, is how he largely avoids the jibble-jabble that lesser writers would misuse their words on. He describes a Summoning, an archetypal supernatural witchy magic demon thing, which one would think to be instantly and unforgivably trite, but somehow he puts no importance on it. It is there, I can find the sentences in the text, but the reader is gently pushed away from having to consider them.
That is a slight of hand that is perfected here, and is one of several reasons that if you were to a writer be, you should spend some time with Straub, here in his genre of one.