This one had a nice Gothic flavor to it. An ethereal weirdness, if you will. The haunting that happens in the book is very implicit. No ghosts are see...moreThis one had a nice Gothic flavor to it. An ethereal weirdness, if you will. The haunting that happens in the book is very implicit. No ghosts are seen and there is no overt poltergeist tossing books or breaking the china.
Yet, every one of the people in the house are affected by being in the house and experiencing it. Eleanor especially. It's as if the house is a conduit for her special brand of crazy and everything that happens to her is an overt manifestation of her own lonely psychosis.
Others have compared Richard Matheson's Hell House favorably to this novel, suggesting that this one should be skipped in favor of his work. Well, he wrote his novel in homage to this piece, as his nod to what Jackson did here. I would suggest that people read both as compliments to each other. And, if one were to make a comparison, it would be a comparison of tone best expressed by the first two movies in a classic science fiction movie franchise. The Haunting of Hill House is like 'Alien' and Hell House is like 'Aliens'.(less)
Peter Straub is one of two modern writers who are so good that it is a physical pleasure to read his books. There is a scene in every one of his books...morePeter Straub is one of two modern writers who are so good that it is a physical pleasure to read his books. There is a scene in every one of his books where I have been drawn in so much that it is as if I'm actually there. From that point until the end of the book I cannot do anything but read the story. That's not to say everything in the book up to that point isn't worth the read, far from it, but it's as if everything leading up to that point is buildup, foreplay, anticipation, and the pivotal scene -- whatever it may be -- is the release, the moment in which the fiction becomes real.
I liked this book because I really like Peter Straub's writing. Having said that, I found A Dark Matter to be pretty average. It has a great hook and the characters are as real as any others Straub has created, but it didn't have the immediate visceral energy of The Throat or Shadowland. It didn't have that one scene that really drew me into the story. Straub is great at setting up a world of middle-class American normalcy and then twisting it JUST a bit to make you realized things under the covers aren't normal. In fact, they're pretty much batshit insane.
That didn't happen this time around. The creepy other worldly creatures surrounding the group of friends had the feel of secondary or tertiary characters and their impact was greatly diminished as a result. Reading this, I felt as if Straub was forced to leave a lot on the editing room floor. My feelings were confirmed after I found out about The Skykark, which is being released through Subterranean Press, and is a version of this story that Straub admits is an earlier, rougher, draft. Given that it's also about 200 pages longer than this one, I would venture to guess that's where all the classic Straub Creepiness went.
Read this if you're a fan. But if you're new to Mr. Straub, read Shadowland, Ghost Story, or his Blue Rose trilogy first.(less)