Customer Reviews for

A Dark Matter

Average Rating 2.5
( 91 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

convoluted but enjoyable horror thriller

Nomadic charismatic guru Spencer Mallon arrives in Madison, Wisconsin accompanied by his beautiful lover Meredith Bright and subservient University of Wisconsin students, Keith Hayward and Brett Milstrap. The charmer invites several high school students which include L...
Nomadic charismatic guru Spencer Mallon arrives in Madison, Wisconsin accompanied by his beautiful lover Meredith Bright and subservient University of Wisconsin students, Keith Hayward and Brett Milstrap. The charmer invites several high school students which include Lee Harwell, his tomboy girlfriend, Lee "Eel" Truax, Howard "Hootie" Bly, Jason "Boats" Boatman, and Donald "Dilly" Olson to attend a night ritual. Before the sun rises, Hayward is dead and Bright vanished.

Over the years each has coped differently to that horrid night that changed all of them. Milstrap has avoided responsibility preferring Peter Pan to adulthood. The Lees married, but Eel has since lost her sight. Bly was taken to a mental institution on that horrific night and remains there while citing Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter as his only form of speech. Bright came out of whatever hole she had hidden inside of to marry into power. Boatsman went from shoplifter extraordinaire to shoplifting crime prevention extraordinaire. Filly Olson has never moved on. All will converge to relive what each chose to psychologically forget about that deadly night when novelist Harwell writes a nonfiction account of the horror that still impacts all of those who attended Mallon's malevolent ritual.

This is a convoluted but enjoyable horror thriller as Peter Straub keeps the audience guessing whether what happened was a group psychological hysteria or something evil from beyond. All of the survivors realize they do not have total recall of what occurred in spite of the college student's death. Although at times difficult to fathom what truly happened as murky memories make for a murky story line, fans who prefer something different will want to know what the students faced on the night that changed each of them.

Harriet Klausner

posted by harstan on December 25, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

Not recommended

I came to this new Straub book filled with anticipation. I have been a fan of his writing for decades, going back to Koko. I've not read everything he has written, but I have read a lot of it, both short form and novel length. His short story Pork Pie Hat is one of my f...
I came to this new Straub book filled with anticipation. I have been a fan of his writing for decades, going back to Koko. I've not read everything he has written, but I have read a lot of it, both short form and novel length. His short story Pork Pie Hat is one of my favorite short stories...by anybody. Some might argue that all genre fiction falls short of attaining the status of art. I am not one of those people, but I can admit that there has been a proliferation of fluff in the horror genre. At his best, Mr. Straub elevates genre fiction to the level of true literature. But, and it's a big "but", at his worst, Straub comes across as intentionally obscure and embarrassingly self-indulgent, and "A Dark Matter" is a prime example. Ostensibly an account of a terrifying event that happened to the narrator while he was in high school during the 60's, or more accurately, an event that happened to a group of the narrator's friends, as the narrator chose not to share the experience with them...as he never tires of reminding the reader, over and over and over. So this earth-shattering event that changed the lives of this group of friends, which may, in fact, have changed the very nature of reality as we know it, is only an event that the reader learns about by heresay. The narrators eyes are, perforce, the readers eyes. Since he never witnessed this Dark Matter directly, then the reader never does either. And this is a fatal flaw. I think it is Wordsworth who gives the origin of poetry as "emotion recollected in tranquility." That's all well and good for poetry...but for a story of this sort I think we need more emotion and a little less tranquility. I'm not saying that Mr. Straub needs to take his cue from the splatterpunks of the 80s. But the reader needs to actually FEEL something. The narrator has buried his memories of the event so deeply that he seems to have no real feelings about it...ergo, the reader feels nothing, too. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not finish A Dark Matter. But I TRIED. It's pacing is glacial. I found that my attention was constantly drifting. Mr. Straub seems oddly reticent to approach his subject matter directly, choosing instead to sidle up to it over and over again, only to slip away again. I found myself wishing he would just get to the point. One wonders if, just maybe, he was suffering (like his narrator) from a touch of writer's block. I WANTED to like this book...but it just didn't have a strong enough hook to pull me in. Life is too short to waste it reading bad books. I'm not a fast reader, but I finished The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss in less than a week, and it was nearly 900 pages. In the same amount of time, I managed to read barely 60 pages of A Dark Matter. And that speaks volumes.

posted by DogStreetBookGuy on March 14, 2011

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  • Posted November 17, 2011

    Straub Strikes Out¿

    I love Peter Straub, and have read practically everything he has written, and loved pretty much everything I've read of his (my favorites being ¿If You Could See Me Now¿, ¿Shadowland¿, ¿Mystery¿, and ¿Mr. X¿), but I really struggled with this. I have read a couple of reviews saying how they were having to reread sections because it was as if they had fallen asleep, well, I kept having that same problem as well. It pains me to pan a novel by Peter Straub, but so far, this one is confusing as h*ll and very bad. I kept asking myself "what the h*ll is this even about?!" as I continued to plunge through it. All the reviews I have read about it, whether good or bad, all seem to say the same thing about the plot being about four friends recollecting an incident from their past with a guru named Spencer Mallon; and the flashbacks are all told over and over again from different perspectives. And, that seemed to be a major complaint with a lot of people. However, I don¿t even see the novel doing that! I feel it started out strong within the first 100 or so pages, but then quickly deteriorated into a jumbled confusing mess. I was looking forward to the ¿Rashomon¿ style of storytelling that I read so many reviewers claiming this book had, but it is not in here. Maybe I am reading another copy of ¿A Dark Matter¿ than everybody else read; or at least I was questioning that over and over as I struggled to keep reading this. Again, it really pains me to say this because Straub is one of my all-time favorite authors, some of his novels I hail as the best pieces of literature ever, but this is not one of his better works; matter of fact, very far from it. I finally got around to finishing the novel. And, as much as I liked the immensely layered writing, the rich characterization, and even the final denoument of what happened in the meadow as told by the Eel, the final person to share her memories with the group, I still found it to be a very deadening thud of a bad read. The writing was so textured and had some really deep hidden gems in it, but overall, when I got to the very last page, I was left thinking "so what?!" Again, this pains me to say anything negative about a piece of literature by one of the chief writers working today, but this is not a book I can recommend. But either way I am glad I read it, and I may read it again in the future, but I am sure I will come to the same conclusion, the same opinion, the same result: This was not Straub's strongest effort by far! Thank you. :>)

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Slow

    This was the first Straub book I had read. The story was very hard to get into. I hope all his books aren't like this one.

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  • Posted March 17, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    An unexpected disappointment

    Boy, this was a hard book to slog through. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it was incredibly hard to care about anyone in this book - and so equally hard to care what happened to them. Definitely not one of Peter Straub's finer moments. Still, I remain a loyal Straub fan.

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  • Posted February 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    LSD

    At one point I thought I was following the book along nicely, understanding what Straub was trying to do. It wasn't long before I realized that everyone else had stopped to take some LSD, and I hadn't. From then on, I was confused.

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