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Paperback A Dark Matter (Random House Large Print) [Large Print] Book

ISBN: 0375728384

ISBN13: 9780375728389

A Dark Matter (Random House Large Print) [Large Print]

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Book Overview

The incomparable master of horror and suspense returns with a powerful, brilliantly terrifying novel that redefines the genre in original and unexpected ways. The charismatic and cunning Spenser Mallon is a campus guru in the 1960s, attracting the devotion and demanding sexual favors of his young acolytes. After he invites his most fervent followers to attend a secret ritual in a local meadow, the only thing that remains is a gruesomely dismembered...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Definitely Worth the Trip

The 1960s was a time of social unrest in America, and youths all around the country were seeking to expand their minds and find something to believe in that challenged the status quo. This sentiment also gave rise to several guru-like leaders, some of whom were true mentors and others of whom were more in line with Charles Manson. In his latest novel, A DARK MATTER, horror master Peter Straub has introduced just such a character in the personification of Spencer Mallon. Mallon is not a Manson figure and does not have evil intentions, but he is easily seduced by dark fantasy and often quotes from THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD. Mallon is such a charismatic figure that a group of high school and college students quickly fall under his spell. His new acolytes are intrigued by the possibilities he promises them and are all too eager to follow his every bequest. One fateful evening in Madison, Wisconsin, in the year 1966 changes all their lives forever. Mallon gets five high school students and two local college fraternity boys to follow him into an abandoned field to attempt a forbidden ritual. When dawn comes, one of the older boys is found horribly mutilated and the other has completely disappeared. The high school friends are scarred in different ways, and their lives all take separate paths after this event. Flash forward 40 years, and the novel is taken over by the narrator, thriller author Lee Harwell, who is married to Lee Truax, one of the five high school students. Nicknamed "the Eel" by her friends, Truax has permanently lost her vision and does charity work with groups that help the blind and others who are disabled due to violent acts. Her husband was also a classmate of the other students who followed Mallon, but he was not interested in or swayed by the '60s guru and did not participate in the event. Harwell has decided to write a novel about the tragic "ritual" of 40 years prior, and to do so he must interview each participant individually to get their story. It is at this point that the novel takes on a Rashomon quality --- the great film by Akira Kurosawa in which a group of individuals who witness a rape/murder all seem to have varying recollections of the same event. Straub has a different chapter section for each of Truax's high school cronies, and Harwell gets to hear what they personally experienced the night of Mallon's ritual. The former high school friends could not be more different from each other: Donald "Dilly" Olson, the leader of the group and first acolyte of Mallon's; Jason "Boats" Boatman, a lifelong thief who has spent time behind bars; Hootie Bly, the youngest of the group who is now confined to a mental institution where he talks in only literary references; and Meredith Bright, one of Mallon's many female conquests and now a soulless wife of a U.S. Senator. Harwell first teams up with Olson, who also accompanies him on visits with the other members of the group. Olson is still deluded by Mallon and holds him fa

Frightening, human and lyrical

The chills in A Dark Matter are rooted in the darkness of the human soul, as much as in any supernatural agency. Weaving timelines into a tapestry of tales both larger-than-life and oh-so-ordinary, Peter Straub captures the texture of secrets. The secrets we keep from ourselves, the secrets we keep from others and the secrets behind the veil. All of this is wrapped in a comforting cocoon of lyrical prose, so comforting, in fact, that it makes the terror that much more pervasive. Lee and the Eel, spouses, shadow-twins and the bookend anchors of A Dark Matter, are incredibly present personalities. You'll know them, and yet be surprised by them. Much of the narrative creates a feel of being disconnected from the familiar, even in familiar surroundings. Read it for the plot - An esoteric experiment gone wrong in the 60s and the journey to find out what really happened; or, read between the lines as Straub deftly paints portraits of how we grow into who we are, and asks hard questions about what love means between friends, spouses and how we protect that. A Dark Matter is not horror as you may expect it, it is the subtle menace ever-present in our own humanity. Well worth the reading.

A Different Kind of Horror

After thinking about it quite a bit, I have to say that Peter Straub takes a bit of a different approach to the sorts of scary stories that he writes. Unlike King, I don't believe that Straub's intentions when he writes is to simply deliver thrills and chills to the reader. Don't get me wrong, Straub can put together some really spooky stuff, but his intention isn't just to spook the reader. Instead, he really wants to explore, and he really wants the reader to explore these different ideas and concepts with him. It's almost like his stories are more like examinations of different aspects of horror and terror. They are a glimpse at how people react and cope with horrific and terrible situations. He's more subtle, less overt in some of the things that he does, which is partly why I love his work so much. A Dark Matter is a prime example of this exploration of horror. A Dark Matter doesn't really set out to terrify the reader. It's quite literally an examination and exploration of what happens when people cross the line and dive head first into the horrors and wonders of the metaphysical. What is on the other side of reality, and what would happen to those who get a taste of it? So, if anybody is looking forward to some speedy page turner that sends shivers running up and down your spine, you're going to be let down. (but seriously, this was never the sort of book that Straub writes anyways and you should know that already). This book is far more introspective and subtle than any of his other books. The plot itself, the story of Lee going around and collecting the stories, interpretations and experiences from the people who were there on that insane night in the meadow, is really interesting and engrossing. it's the story of a person trying to understand something that is essentially impossible to comprehend. The stories themselves, are a means for the reader to really look at how people interpret things differently, and what they do with the terrible and reality-defying things that they've seen and experienced. It's a taste of the metaphysical, and in those stories you are put in Lee's place. You are given multiple chances to try and comprehend things that cannot truly be comprehended. Lee's journey is really your own in the book. Of everything that Straub has written, this is probably the most literary. In a lot of ways it his probably his most abstract book, and for people who don't realize that or are not expecting that, I can only imagine that they're going to be pretty put off by that. I'd suggest anybody picking up this book do so with an open mind. You need to set your expectations aside and see the book for what it is, and not for what you wanted it to be.

A great story!

Like a rare few other books, this one had my family fighting over it. It was so good and we were all trying to read it at the same time! The story goes: 40 years ago, in the late 1960s, something strange and awful happened to a group of young people and their "sage," or guru. This charismatic man says that a ritual of some sort will have some effect -- something he can't say in advance. After they are done, one of the kids is dead, another disappears, another is hospitalized in a psyciatric hospital for 40 years, and all of them have lifelong changes in who they are. As we start the story, the one kid in the group who did not attend the ritual, now an older writer, wants to find out what really happened. As he gets in touch with the participants (and his wife is one, and she has never told him the story), each tells it from a different perspective. As the cover of the book says, there is a certain Roshomon quality to it. This book was different than others of the genre, with a brilliant, inventive story, with a finale that I certainly couldn't have predicted. I recommend it without hesitation.


The year is 1966 in Madison, WI. Four high school students Hootie Bly, Dilly Olson, Jason Boatman, and Eel Truax, become enamored by Spencer Mallon, a charismatic guru who promises to introduce them to a "higher reality." During an occult ritual, something goes horribly wrong, killing one teen. The four friends are forever changed, each dealt with this horrid day in a different way. Hootie was taken to a mental institution. His only means of communication is quoting lines from Hawthorne's A Scarlet Letter. Eel marries Lee Hayward, her high school sweetheart, but she eventually loses her sight. Boatman, once a shoplifter, now runs his own theft prevention company. Dilly Olson never really got over the entire situation. Decades later the group comes back together when Hayward decides to write a non-fictional account of that afternoon. Each learns that their own personal account wasn't as accurate as they believed. This reunion is the first time they have had the opportunity to share their experiences with one another. Pieces of the puzzle are finally starting to come together to form a large, broad picture. Once again, Straub does an outstanding job. A Dark Matter is purely character-driven; the book is broken up into several parts, each devoted to detailing the account of each of the main characters. Readers are transported thirty years in a matter of pages. I was impressed at how smoothly this transformation flowed. There is potential for the novels with character-driven storylines, specifically ones with as many characters as A Dark Matter, to seem drawn-out and exaggerated. I did not feel that in this case, for I do not think the overall "feel" of the novel would have carried through had it not been for the varying and differing accounts of each of the characters. Those demanding a defined and definite resolution might be disappointed, however I think this aspect is what makes this such an amazing book. I takes an extremely talented writer to do what Straub has done with this one: giving detailed explanations of one situation from various standpoints, yet still leaving the actual event quite vague. Highly, highly recommended book.
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