“A Dark Matter” by Peter Straub (Doubleday, 2010)

A Dark Matterstarstarstar

Peter Straub’s new novel, A Dark Matter, is about an event that happened in the past, in the sixties, with a group of high school teenagers and a mysterious man; a ritual that went terribly wrong, or perhaps exactly as guru Spencer Mallon planned.  It is a story that appears simple and seemingly straight forward at first, but as the book continues, more details fall into place, things becomes more complicated, and the true horrors of that fateful night come to light.

Lee Hayward is a writer looking for something new and interesting to write about; a book unlike any of his others.  He didn’t participate the night of the ritual, not liking Mallon from the beginning, choosing to avoid him.  But now, decades later, Lee wants to get to the bottom of the story and find out exactly what really happened.  He meets with each of the surviving members – Hootie Bly, Dilly Olson, Jason Boatman, and his high school sweetheart who became his wife, Lee Truax – interviewing them in depth, to hear the different stories, and put all the pieces together.  Hootie has just been released from a mental hospital, after what happened that night, while Lee has never fully confront his wife and asked for her confession.

On that night terrible things happened.  A portal was opened between our world and another, and demons, beasts, or creatures were released; people died, slaughtered, reduced to pieces.  Whether Mallon ever wanted this to happen, the reader will never really know, or for that matter, who this enigmatic man really was, but they will take a journey with Lee into the past, and along the way experience the horrific things these teenagers saw and felt, as well as try to find out the big why of it all.

Straub slowly gives out the pieces in a great growing mystery, as the reader learns more and more, but at the same time the horrors being revealed are hard to face and accept.  But then confession is good for the soul, and when these people talk about what happened, it will ultimately make them feel human again, perhaps for the first time in many years.

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Originally written on March 22nd 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.