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A Dark Matter

2.94 of 5 stars 2.94  ·  rating details  ·  2,272 ratings  ·  399 reviews
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 ritua
ebook, 352 pages
Published February 9th 2010 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2010)
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I like Peter Straub. He's an ambitious writer who tries to do more with his novels, stretch out, ignore the borders and "go there", to the vast, unexplored land of the possibility of invention. Clive Barker didn't name him "a great classicist" without a reason - he's a pleasure to read. His work is intriguing, memorable and intelligent - the weird tale of Tom Flanagan and Del Nightingale that makes Shadowland, the terror of Eva Galli and the Chowder society in Ghost Story and the Vietnam vets wh ...more
I've never encountered Peter Straub before and if it was not for the cautionary words of Maciek, who informed me that this was his most non scary output, i would probably not run out to seek his alternative works. My motivation for purchasing this book was quite shallow - there was a quote with the word 'terrifying' followed by the name Stephen King . Ah, i thought, there's a man who knows scary . If it made Mr King crap his pants then that is high praise indeed . All i can say is that maybe Ste ...more
Nancy Oakes
You'll see 4 stars, but it's really 3.5 rounded up.

It's like this. You will like or dislike this book depending on your expectations. If you're expecting the kind of hackle-raising horror that is often associated with this author, you may be disappointed. If you are expecting a slam-bang, linear narrative in which all is revealed, you probably won't want to read it. It is really not so much a novel of horror but more of a look at the whole concept of the connectivity of good and evil, so if you
Peter Straub’s A Dark Matter takes the setup that Stephen King turned into a horror trope: a group of friends face unspeakable horror as young ‘uns then reconvene when they’re old and damaged to finally defeat that unspeakable horror. Only Straub smartly plays it without the rematch. A Dark Matter isn’t the coming of age take as described above, it’s about age itself, and the events and people who shape us.

Lee the narrator is a middle-aged man, best selling novelist married to another Lee (Lee T
D. Eric
What a let down. I have loved every Peter Straub book (I have read them all) up until this one. A Dark Matter simply goes nowhere. The characters are uninteresting and even a bit annoying at times, and the constant rehashing of events through the eyes of different characters just gets boring in the long run. There also never seems to be a real driving force or need to find out what really happened, and when we do, we are left with "oh, I read all this for that?" Here is the main story line from ...more
Years after performing a forbidden ritual during which a group of young people are brought in contact with “unspeakable evil” by a guru in 1966, the protagonist, Lee Harwell, reminisces about that night and its sequelae. The incident is set among the swirl of the 1960’s college life in Madison, Wisconsin, and those heady days of Vietnam, predatory gurus, and post teen age angst infuse the narrative. To perform this supernatural ritual, eight people go into a meadow, six come out alive. One body ...more
Set largely in the 60's in Madison, Wisconsin, this latest novel by Peter Straub is a wonderfully strange ride, part mystery story, and part supernatural horror tale. A group of teenage friends become infatuated and taken in by the charismatic and older college guru, Spencer Mallon, who insists on performing a ritual ceremony off the campus grounds, in order to provide them all with such life changing enlightenment. Instead, one of their group is brutally killed and another vanishes, seemingly, ...more
I was into it until the last 50 pages or so. The story of Eel was obviously intended to be the ultimate explanation of the characters' occult experience together. I found it to be, I hate to be mean spirited but I'm going to be anyway: overwritten claptrap. I slogged through it. After all, I was in the last 50 pages of a 400 page book. But the time I was done, I no longer cared about the characters and was angry at the author. I have read other things from Peter Straub and have always liked him. ...more
This review originally appeared at

It was 1966 in Madison, Wisconsin. A group of teens fascinated with a self-proclaimed guru named Spencer Mallon agree to participate in a ritual with him. By the time it's over, one of them has disappeared, one of them is insane, one is going slowly blind, one has been literally torn apart, and all have been altered. Years later, the only member of their group of friends who wasn't there, now a successful writer, tracks down his old friends and
Bookmarks Magazine
Six book critics venture into a new novel by a best-selling horror writer. The writer is said to have magical abilities to blend horror conventions with literary fiction to keep the pages turning. He is even said to have touched Stephen King! Four of the critics come away convinced that a transcendent supernatural event has occurred, which may have something to do with the nature of evil. But two are horribly scarred by the event--unbearably bored, convinced they have just read a rejected script ...more
Carac Allison
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa Louie
At the moment, I'm researching gurus and the 1960's for a writing project, so I picked up Peter Straub's novel, A Dark Matter, because it promised a depiction of a guru set in the 1960's. A horror story, the novel's plot is organized around a singular event which happens in the chaotic turbulence of the 1960's when a self-fashioned guru, Spencer Mallon, arrives in a college town in Wisconsin and convinces a group of teenagers and a couple of creepy frat boys to participate in an arcane ritual de ...more
In the summer of 1966 eight friends venture into a meadow to take part in a secret ritual. At the end of this ritual only six emerge from the meadow. Those who emerged were changed forever. Lee Harwell was a friend to those who went that night, but declined to go along. Fast forward many decades and Lee is a successful author with a case of writer’s block. An unusual unpublished manuscript found on ebay seems to be the answer to his problem but leads him down a path he never expected to travel. ...more
Tom Mueller
I have a hold on this title at my library; looking forward to what promises to be a blast from the past! See a cool review of A Dark Matter here:

Refer to Peter Straub's A Dark Matter, p. 244. Also Agrippa Cornelius' Three Books Of Occult Philosophy.
This was a little hard to get into, but intrigued me after the first few chapters. I'm glad I stuck it out.
The plot revolves around an incident that happened in the 1960s, as told years later (feels like the lat
Harry Kane
I read A Dark Matter in 2011, and it was magnificent. In 2012, I revisited it from time to time, re-reading favorite scenes. These days, end of May – start of June 2013, I re-read it again from cover to cover. It’s still magnificent. It is not only awesome, it is awe-inspiring.

Let me rephrase that: I think this is the best English-speaking book written in the start of the 21-st century. Pre-WWII it was Fitzgerald, post WWII it was Kingsley Amis, post-2000 it’s Peter Straub with his Dark Matter.
Okay, so this seems like a reader's digest version of a Stephen King novel. The protagonist is a writer. Check. His childhood crew was a bunch of abused boys and the one beautiful girl they all liked. Check. There was an unspeakable supernatural terror they all confronted in their childhood. Check. I really like his actual sentences, the prose style, but I'm waiting for the plot to take off and do something new.

Ugh -- nevermind that whole "reader's digest" comment. 400 pages is way too long to t
Matthew Weber
This is a very ambitious book with rich characterization and a non-linear plot, which hinges on a decades-old mystery that's pieced together though a variety of conflicting viewpoints throughout the course of the story. It's a well written tale with something to say about the human condition, good versus evil, and mankind's small role in this vast universe. And while the subject matter regarding otherwordly gods and parallel universes can get really far-fetched, it's handled in a hallucinatory m ...more
"A Dark Matter" should have been entitled "A Dull Matter." It was dull, duller, dullest. A dustbowl of tedium. Although billed as a supernatural thriller, it is only marginally supernatural and certainly not thrilling. This was my first Peter Straub novel and perhaps will be my last. I resent having spent so many precious hours slogging my way through this book, hoping it would redeem itself and that I would be rewarded with a clever denouement, only to be further and finally disappointed by its ...more
4.25 stars
I'm glad to see this won the Bram Stoker Award. I was just blown away with Peter Straub's imagination and the way he put all of the elements of the story together. It's so very cool on many levels. I'm a bit surprised to see such a low rating on GR for it, but I guess this just isn't the type of book for everyone. There were parts that seemed boring and appeared to be going to nowhere fast, but the payoff made it totally worth it IMO. Straub is truly a master of this type of fiction.
Troy Blackford
This book goes in-depth with the typical inundation of otherworldly magic you expect from Straub, who has a rare mastery of touching the face of things that can't exist and rendering them in a way that makes them seem so much closer than they ever could be. It's a rare gift. However, this book, while a great read, seemed to peter out (no pun intended/no pun achieved) at the end. I usually love an ambiguous ending, enjoying a variety of books with open endings that many other readers seem not to ...more
S.L. Dixon
This story is astounding, topside and below.
On the surface, the story travels into a world stocked with wild imagination and incredible imagery. The characters were full and wonderful, carrying the tones throughout.
And below, the dread. Through the entire story there is a lingering idea, a secret and, for me, it really fueled me to race along. The silent suspense was incredible.
This is a fucking great story!
Everything about this story worked for me and the quality of writing (as always) painted
Peter Straub has written some of my favorite horror stories. A Dark Matter is not one of them. In fact, it's a miserable failure in virtually every way, from a narrator who's barely a part of his own story to a narrative structure so redundant and tedious I felt the words pinging unprocessed off my eyeballs to a central conflict that manages to be both incoherent and boring. A few words about the story, because that's all it's worth: narrator Lee Harwell is a writer who wants to find out what re ...more
Jordan Anderson
"TERRIFYING," says Stephen King on the front cover of this paperback. "Put this one HIGH ON YOUR LIST."

Well, I can honestly say this book was neither terrifying, nor will it ever receive the distinct honors of getting anywhere near the top of any of my lists...except maybe the top of the "worst books I have ever read" list.

Clearly King was paid a lot of cash to write that blurb, and obviously he and Straub have some kind of weird bromance thing going on since they teamed up for the "Talisman" (w
Brandon Collinsworth
This is the second Peter Straub book I read and as much as I disliked it, I thought it was actually better than Shadowland. I am such a huge fan of the Jack Sawyer books he writes with Stephen King I can't understand why I hate his solo work so much.

Ok, there are a few things he does do very well in this book and first and foremost is he manages to tell the same story over and over again from different angles and it is always interesting and surprising. Second, there is some truly freaky imager
I really wanted to like this book. I've only read The Talisman and Black House before, but never anything by Straub alone.

My review should really be zero stars, as I didn't finish it, and I HATE doing that.

The story is about author Lee Harwell, and his quest to find out what happened in "the Meadow" many years before, and involved his wife and several other acolytes of an occultist guru named Spencer Mallon.

Really, I listened to this book in audio format, and the first hour and a half are almo
Steven Belanger
Interesting read from the POV of a writer. Might have liked it less if I'd read it when I first encountered Straub in the 80s, solely as a reader. What I mean is, the ending isn't really in doubt, per se, in the sense that you're not worried about any of the characters. You know they'll be okay. It's a little like The Decameron, in a way, maybe like Canterbury Tales as well: basically a small bunch of specifically designed people (they're not stock characters; that's important) who all tell thei ...more
I am a Peter Straub fan and I was really looking forward to reading this book. That being said, I was extremely disappointed by it. It was a Rashomon-style tale that had really no sense of urgency or danger to it; it was more like a "this terrible thing happened years ago and everyone is reluctant to talk about it" sort of tale.

The protagonist has decided to write a book based on an experience that his wife and handful of friend had several decades prior, at the guidance of a self-appointed guru
Ugh. What a complete waste of time this was. Whatever mojo Straub had in crafting classics like "Ghost Story" and "The Throat" is utterly absent here.

The story itself is somewhat engaging, but the characters are barely drawn, the dialog is wooden and often cringingly unrealistic, and the structure is just a mess.

Straub seems to be aiming for a sort of "Roshomon" type of tale, but all he really does is repeat the same hackneyed scenes from the viewpoints of different characters. There's no indiv
Isadora Wagner
Continuation of Straub studies. Based in Madison during the 60s fire riot, as well as modern-day Chicago and 1960s Milwaukee. Showcases Straub's ongoing fascination with birds (this time a song lark), the genesis of evil, fantasy (round orbs of the zodiac in a field: you have to read it to see it), frozen memory/moments (trauma?), and constellations of childhood friends who are brought together to re-combat evils of the past. A bit of a let-down after Floating Dragon, which I read afterward; how ...more
I could NOT put this book down, and came really, really close to being completely antisocial while I was reading it. I found it more absorbing than some of Straub's more recent work, although it is also clear that Straub is still experimenting with the reliability of his narrative and the concept of authorship.

The basic premise is pretty straightforward, and one that's a popular trope for horror writers (Straub has even used it in the past). Decades ago, four of Lee Hayward's friends (including
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Peter Straub was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 2 March, 1943, the first of three sons of a salesman and a nurse. The salesman wanted him to become an athlete, the nurse thought he would do well as either a doctor or a Lutheran minister, but all he wanted to do was to learn to read.

When kindergarten turned out to be a stupefyingly banal disappointment devoted to cutting animal shapes out of heavy
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