Review: A Dark Matter by Peter Straub

February 9, 2010 Doubleday, Horror 8

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (February 9, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 038551638X
  • Source: Publisher

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.

Be sure to check back later for my interview with Peter Straub, the Master of Horror! Until then, check out the book trailer:

8 Responses to “Review: A Dark Matter by Peter Straub”

  1. Book Chick City

    Sounds like a great read! And to have an interview with Straub as well, you are lucky! Will definitely be back for that. Thanks for the review 🙂

  2. Jenny

    This sounds a little bit like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, which I absolutely loved. Murder and madness – I am all about this! 🙂

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      I won’t lie and say it’s not creepy, but it’s creepy more in a psychological sense.

  3. Toni Gomez

    I am reading backwards… 🙂 so I read the interview first. 😉 Nice review Jenn. I think a bit chilling for my limitations..but the whole Scarlet Letter thing draws me in.