Mike's Reviews > Darkhouse

Darkhouse by Karina Halle
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Darkhouse is the debut of Karina Halle, about a woman who teams up with a guy named Dex to study paranormal activity. This was one of my very first NA novels, and I was pretty excited for it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be very problematic, and I abandoned it 33% of the way in. The book is too unoriginal, and too awkwardly written for me.

I think it's the lack of originality that caused me to abandon the book, really. The plot, or what I've seen of it so far, seems to be strung together from a number of horror cliches, creating something tired and boring. The book opens with Perry having a creepy dream, she goes to work and sees someone ominously staring at her, the first truly creepy experience takes place in an abandoned lighthouse where Perry examines a thumping noise with a guy she just met... all we need is a couple teenagers making out in a car, and we've got all the cliches in the book. Also, like many horror movies and books, the plot requires Perry to make incredibly dumb decisions. Now, I'm normally not opposed to characters acting stupid in books - I think impulsive mistakes and dumb decisions are a large part of making your characters feel human. But this goes beyond that, in that there's absolutely no excuse to do something as dumb as this. You see, when Perry first goes into the lighthouse, she passes out, and when she wakes up, there's a guy she's never met standing over her, and a thumping noise upstairs. She then straddles into Too Dumb To Live territory by, rather than exiting when the guy warns her to, going upstairs in the dark lighthouse to examine a thumping noise with a guy she just met.

You can see why that's a problem, right?

Another stumbling point for me was the writing, as I mentioned above. The biggest problem was that Perry's voice was very inconsistent; Halle's word choice depended not on Perry's character, but on the mood of the situation. This is fine to some extent, but Halle takes it to a ridiculous extreme. Here's how the book opens:
I stood in a round, white room with only a porthole-shaped window to break up the monotony. The view outside was nothing more than an inky void. The smell of tidal pools and rotting kelp seeped in through the cracks where the silicone had crumbled away. I didn't know where I was or why I was there. But I knew something had summoned me.

It's easy to get a feel for this prose - mildly purple, very descriptive, and calculated to perfectly describe the tone of the Mysterious Dream Sequence. However, not long after this scene, the voice sounds a lot more like this:
I got Put-Put four years ago for my eighteenth birthday. I was going through my "stuntwoman" phase, when I thought becoming a professional stuntwoman would be more exciting and lucrative than a career in advertising. After motorbike lessons, a year of karate, a few skydiving sessions, and weekends spent at the firing range learning how to use a gun, I abandoned ship and ended up getting a communications degree. Not that being a stuntwoman wasn't for me, but I honestly lost interest. My mother calls me wishy-washy. I just think I'm delightfully impulsive.

This has a very different feel to it - there are more euphemisms, everything is a lot more casual, and it generally sounds very loose. The problem is that both passages were narrated by the same person. That gave Perry an internal inconsistency that I didn't care much for.

Not that Perry was a particularly interesting narrator. The internal consistency that I gave above wasn't limited to her voice - it also applied to her past. The passage that I quoted above was describing Perry's teenage years, yet there's another, later passage that completely contradicts this, saying that Perry was very depressed when she was a teenager, and did drugs. There were other inconsistencies like that - nothing as major, but always as annoying. That made it difficult to get a real picture of Perry's character. What I saw of her was fairly bland, anyway - I didn't feel very connected to her, and she didn't feel particularly human.

Anyway, the writing has some other problems. The most significant one was that it often stopped the plot entirely to give us pieces of Perry's backstory. Instead of integrating Perry's past naturally throughout the book, Halle gives it to us in infodumps. They were almost always irrelevant to what was going on, and they always stopped the plot for no good reason. Another problem was that the voice (the casual version of it) could be pretty ridiculous at times, using forced slang. (For example, when she said that her heart literally froze; I'm still waiting for her to literally die.) There were also a good number of forced culture references. Sure, it might be natural for someone to go into a strange situation and think, "Whoa, The X-Files! Blair Witch Project!" it doesn't make it any less forced on paper. And, finally, the prose was a little awkward at times, such as here (emphasis added):
"You didn't even hear me yelling? For Dex?" I asked.
"I heard you screaming your head off," Tony said. "Who's Dex?"
I shook my head. Scratch that. Nothing made sense at all.

Finally, I wasn't a big fan of the gender politics here. The book is narrated by Perry, a woman, and we see a few other woman throughout the novel. Here's the problem: Perry hates every single one of them. They're all annoying, they're all bitches, and Perry seems to treat them all as competition for men. The one exception is Perry's sister, and even she's painted as a shallow stereotype of a pretty girl. This passage, I think, exemplifies where I find misogyny in the relationships here:
There was obvious eye candy[...]. The show wasn't called Wine Babes for no reason. The hosts were impeccably charming and gorgeous. Jennifer Rodriguez was tall with slick, washboard abs that were always peeking out from her low-cut jeans. She had that exotic quality to her with tawny, glowing skin, full lips, and dazzling green eyes.[...]
The other girl, Rebecca Sims, was also tall (damn them!) with a Dita Von Tesse look about her: A carefully crafted raven coif, merlot-matching lips, and smooth, slim limbs.
I immediately hated both of them. Not only were they hot, but they had the best job in the world: Gallivanting around the world, drinking wine and dumbing it down to appeal to a whole generation of young men.[...]
I couldn't watch much of it due to my increasing envy...

This wouldn't be too misogynistic, if not for the fact that every single woman that appears in the first third of the novel is characterized like that. I'm not saying that relationships in novels should be perfect models for real ones, but it's sexist to portray all women as being envious of each other for their looks. (And no, the irony hasn't escaped me that I, a boy, am commenting on the misogyny in a book written by Halle, a woman.)

Oh, and speaking of things that offended me, there was also this:

There are tons of those shiteous [sic] shows on TV, run by tards...


This book simply isn't my kind of thing, as I'm finding with a lot of NA. In fact, I've yet to find an NA book that really resonates with me, so I'm not too surprised by my distaste for this one. Still, the facts remain that this book is sexist, cliched, and mediocrely written. I have trouble recommending it for anyone, unless you're very unfamiliar with the horror genre and aren't bothered by misogyny the way I am.
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Reading Progress

April 26, 2013 – Shelved
April 26, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
April 27, 2013 – Shelved as: fantasy
November 13, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read-very-soon
November 17, 2013 – Started Reading
November 17, 2013 –
4.0% "Wow. I mean, this voice is really, really, really inconsistent."
November 18, 2013 –
11.0% "Man, Halle is just using cliche after cliche after cliche here. Why are horror stories so reliant on them? Also, the writing is completely unsubtle; instead of gradually revealing information about the characters throughout the novel, we get it all dumped on us at once during the exposition, constantly stopping the plot for no good reason."
November 19, 2013 –
15.0% "I'm normally opposed to criticizing characters for being 'stupid', but this goes way beyond that. This isn't an impulse, this isn't an understandable mistake, this is GOING INTO A DARK LIGHTHOUSE WITH A GUY YOU JUST MET TO EXAMINE A THUMPING NOISE. This is going into Too Dumb To Live territory."
November 20, 2013 –
21.0% "Man, this is so bland. There's nothing here that any fan of horror hasn't seen already."
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: bad-books-have-good-covers
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: ghosts
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: magic
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: bad-new-adult
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: urban-fantasy
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: thrillers
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: dnf
November 21, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 24, 2013 – Shelved as: indie
January 4, 2014 – Shelved as: worst-of-the-year
January 11, 2014 – Shelved as: first-person-past-tense

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Lacey (new)

Lacey Louwagie Was this self published? I went to the website and find that the publisher is referred to as an "Indie" publisher, but I don't find evidence that the publisher has published anyone besides the author.

message 2: by Mike (new) - rated it 1 star

Mike I couldn't tell, either. The publishing company apparently used to have an official website, but the link doesn't work anymore. This book confounded me so much, I had to change my 'self-published' shelf to 'indie' so that I wouldn't miscategorize this.

Jenn I respect your thoughts on the book, and I see the problems you mentioned. I did read the series all the way through though, and the characters get more well developed, and find their voice, and Perry does make female friends. I think Karina Halle's writing develops a lot over the rest of the series.

message 4: by Mike (new) - rated it 1 star

Mike I probably won't read the rest of the series, just because there's so much else I want to read. But it's good to know that the series gets better.

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