“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.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

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

“No Doors, No Windows” by Joe Schreiber (Del Rey, 2009)

No Doors, No Windowsstarstarstar

It’s been recommended that writers should stick to writing what they know when it comes to writing, and what better character can a writer write about than him- or herself . . . a writer.  But the writer in Joe Schreiber’s new novel, No Doors, No Windows, is one with a dark, disturbing past that even he doesn’t fully understand until the last few pages of the book, and has worked hard to forget and stay away from.  One hopes that Joe Schreiber isn’t anything like his character, Scott Mast.

Scott Mast wanted to make it big as a writer, but it never happened.  So now he spends his days living relatively well, writing copy for greeting cards.  He currently lives in Seattle and is happily far away from his family and old life where he grew up.  That is until his father dies and he must return home to New Hampshire, finding an alcoholic loser of a brother with a son who he neglects and fails at being a decent father to.  As Mast contemplates what he can do to help – there’s the touchy history of their mother having died fifteen years ago in a horrific fire – he discovers an unfinished manuscript his father was apparently working on.  It’s about a very special house where there are no corners or edges; everything is curved and rounded.  In this house there is a door that leads to “the black wing,” where there are no doors, and no windows; where terrible things happen.  But the story is unfinished and Mast decides that he must finish the book himself.  After meeting up with an old girlfriend (their failed relationship is its own doomed story), he stumbles upon a remote house that turns out to be exactly like the one in his father’s manuscript.

And so Mast rents the house and begins writing the story, feeling a strange presence overtake him when he is adding to the manuscript.  He knows it has something to do with the house, but he doesn’t know what.  Meanwhile his brother falls deeper into his booze-filled spiral, leaving young Henry alone and abandoned.  The clues gently fall in to place with each chapter, as Schreiber leaves the reader wanting more, forcing the turning of the page, and the need to know what is the story behind Scott Mast and his strange mental state; what’s the story behind the house; what’s the deal with Mast’s brother; and most importantly: what’s the story behind the Mast family that deals with the dark history of the town.  Horror readers will enjoy No Doors, No Windows for its psychological thrill ride that doesn’t get revealed and resolved until the very last pages of the book.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 11th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Joe Schreiber check out BookBanter Episode 18.