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Publisher's Summary

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 ritual in a local meadow, the only thing that remains is a gruesomely dismembered body and the shattered souls of all who were present.

Years later, one man attempts to understand what happened to his wife and to his friends by writing a book about that horrible night, and it's through this process that they begin to examine the unspeakable events that have bound them in ways they cannot fathom, but that have haunted every one of them through their lives. As each of the old friends tries to come to grips with the darkness of the past, they find themselves face-to-face with the evil triggered so many years earlier.

Unfolding through the individual stories of the fated group's members, A Dark Matter is an electric, chilling, and unpredictable novel that will satisfy Peter Straub's many ardent fans, and win him legions more.

©2010 Peter Straub; (P)2010 Random House

Critic Reviews

"A Dark Matter is populated with vivid, sympathetic characters, and driven by terrors both human and supernatural. It's the kind of book that's impossible to put down once it has been picked up. It kept me reading far into the night. Straub builds otherworldly terror without ever losing touch with his attractive cast of youngsters who age beautifully. Put this one high on your list." (Stephen King)
"American master Peter Straub takes the sweep of our freaky history over the past 40 years, subjects it to all the elegant gifts of madness and arts of haunting of which he is the wicked king, and finds himself in possession of a masterpiece." (Michael Chabon)
"As dazzling a literary performance as anything Straub has ever written." (Booklist)

What members say

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  • Overall

Incomprehensible hype

One wonders why the likes of Lorrie Moore and Michael Chabon are championing this book, which Chabon goes so far as to call a masterpiece. I'm guessing that Moore and Straub are colleagues at UW-Madison; and, as a college professor myself, I can imagine that Moore might have felt she had no other choice.

The characters are poorly developed; one doesn't believe in any of them, let alone care about what happens to them. The plot, such as it is, is propelled along by the author's magical intervention. We learn what each middle-aged character saw "in the meadow" 40 years ago, and the answer is: different kinds of meaningless, even embarrassing, hocus-pocus. Nothing that we learn is even remotely scary, though much of it is laughable (e.g., the devil who shows up dressed in preppy clothes and speaking in a "New York" accent -- an especially painful stretch of poor Robertson Dean's somniferous narration -- whose name is "Doity Thoid" (get it? 33rd? hahaha!)).

What propelled me to the end was curiosity about how Straub might get himself out of the boring mess he was creating. The answer is: he doesn't. Ouch.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Don't waste your money/credits on this book. I felt I was drugged while listening to this book. I could not get into it. I pride myself in listening to every book I get no matter how bad it may turn out, but this one broke me. I could not listen to one more repeat or forward/backward telling. I am not for sure I would reconize the end when it came. I have liked his books in the past, but this is not worth even trying. If I can save even one person from trying this book, I have done my part

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A New Vision of Hell

After suffering through Peter Straub's "A Dark Matter" I discovered an entirely new idea of what hell must be like. It must be like sitting in the coach section of an American Airlines 767 with Peter Straub seated at the front of that section reading aloud from "A Dark Matter." I can think of absolutely nothing more horrifying. The ineptitude of his prose, the relenteless silliness of his images and descriptions, the brainlessness of his "characters" as Straub's words wander aimlessly over the page in search of a plot. If this was a 7th grade writing exercise, the teacher would ask the child to throw it out and start over. And to think that only one month ago I concluded no one could tell a dumber story with greater ineptitude or more hollow pretense than little John Irving in "Last Night in Twisted River," when along comes Straub to prove me dead wrong. This book is not nearly as frightening or as fun as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Disneyland. And what is most frightening about it is its determination to continue on and on and on with neither plot or purpose as if the author was paid only by the word. The horror, the horror.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Barry
  • Katy, TX, United States
  • 12-11-10

Waste of a credit.

I really wanted to like this book. I loved older books written by Straub, like Ghost Story and Koko. Ghost Story is still one of the best horror stories I've ever read.
But Peter Straub began to slip some time in late 80's or early 90's. His books became strained, vague, and uninteresting. He completely changed genres. So I basically gave up on Straub.
With A Dark Matter, I decided to give him another shot, hoping that he had returned to some form of horror. I shouldn't have wasted my credit. I should have known better.
This story is boring and repetitive. It simply explores several characters' bizarre dreams and imaginations (I think). It was frankly difficult to follow. I gave up on the book before I finished it. I just couldn't hang in there. I can't tell you if the ending was any better because I never got to the end.
The only good thing about this book is the narrator. Robertson Dean is excellent, I've listened to some of his other narrations, and he never dissappoints.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Dull Matter

I can't add much to what's already been written about this boring waste of time and money. I, like another reviewer thought at one time that Mr. Straub was destined to become the next Stephen King, this dreadful effort has finally put that possibility to rest.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Angel
  • Bronx, NY, United States
  • 08-12-11


Being a fan of Peter Straub since his Ghost Story days, I was verry disappointed with A Dark Matter. It is a boring story made worse by a dull uninspiring narrator whose voice and diction are out place with the story line which is essentially a 60's mind bender.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carol
  • Fairfield, OH, USA
  • 05-04-10

Mind Numbing

I'm new to and really really wished I had realized there were book reviews. If I had read them - and I agree with every one of them - I would have never chosen this book. It was boring, hard to follow, and just plain mind numbing. I will be reviewing books from now on.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Tough to get through.

The first Straub book I read was Shadowland way back when. The first 100 or so pages were a challenge to get through but once you got to Shadowland the book really took off making it a great read. I was hoping for the same thing after struggling through the first few hours of "A Dark Matter". No such luck, uninspired narration and frankly a wandering and boring storyline with no real payoff and that is being generous. Pretty much a waste of a credit in my opinion. Don't bother.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sherie
  • Amarillo, TX, USA
  • 03-06-10

OK, but poor narration

I thought the book itself wasn't all that bad, what ruined it for me was the narrator. There was not enough differentiation in his voice to easily follow which character was speaking at any given time. I had a very hard time picking up when one character stopped speaking and the next started. I think if the narration had been better, the book would have been much more enjoyable to listen to and the plot more easily followed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • Bowling Green, KY, United States
  • 02-27-10

Should have quit after Ghost Story

I am finally giving up on Peter Straub. After reading "Ghost Story," I thought that he was the next best thing to Stephen King. Alas, nothing he has written since comes close to GS, and much of it, like "A Dark Matter" is almost unreadable. It did not take long before I did not care about the characters or how the story would end. One can suspend disbelief only so far, and the author takes us about a light year beyond that point in this book. It is amusing that the nickname of one of the book's charactor's is Dil and that at one point he and the main character try to remember the name of the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird." Mr. Straub should have taken Harper Lee's cue and quit after his first masterpiece.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful