on July 14, 2004
The Dark Half(1989). Stephen King's Nineteenth Novel.
In many ways, 'The Dark Half' is King at his most personal, and his most revealing. As any of his "Constant Readers" know, he wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman for many years. Richard Bachman, very much like Thad Beaumont's Dark Half, was in many ways, Stephen King's Dark Half, where the world was in a state of pessimism, and the endings were never happy. So, in many ways, Stephen King's alternate personality is the direct inspiration for this book, Richard Bachman being in direct relation to George Stark, a pessimistic alternate personality of Thad Beaumont. The Dark Half has gone on to become one of Stephen King's most admired novels of the 80's, right along novels such as IT, The Talisman, and Misery.It is one of his most memorable, telling the reader a grisly fact they will never forget: 1 Out of Every 10 Women have twins, but one of them sucks up the other In Utero. At its time of release, The Dark Half debuted at #1 on the New York Times List, and showed Stephen King's popularity was fully intact, and gave him his Ninth Bestseller. The Dark Half was also made into a movie, and it still stands as one of the best. Read on for my review of The Dark Half-
Thad Beaumont, Husband of Liz Beaumont, and Father of Two Twins(Liz and Wendy), appears appears to be normal to the outside world, a humble Writing Professor and a Novelist(Popular with critics, but poorly selling), living his life alone with his family in Ludlow without a care in the world. But he has a secret, that few people know about, and that secret is that he is George Stark, Bestselling Author of Dark Grisly Thrillers, Thad Beaumont's Alternate Personality, or in this case, his Dark Half. Thad, after being blackmailed, decides once and for all to put George Stark to rest, because when Thad is Stark, he isn't himself, but a half-crazed writer. So amidst heavy press, Thad Beaumont tells the world that HE is George Stark, and that George Stark is dead. Thad Beaumont's quiet life is turned upside down when his part-time Handyman, Homer Gamache, was found beaten to death, with his fingerprints all over the Crime Scene. Thad doesn't know what to think, and soon his past will come back to haunt him. Early in his life, Thad Beaumont suffered headaches, and finally a convulsion(Brought on by the sound of sparrows), and doctors discovered and removed an eyeball and two fingernails from his brain, the leftovers of his would-be twin. Police are baffled at Thad's case, because he had alibis the night of the murder to attest he was at a party, and they learn more murders(Of people Thad knew) have taken place in New York, with fingerprints of Thad included, but Thad wasn't possibly there. So, along with the help of Sheriff Pangborn, Thad sets out to unmask his silent killer, and he begins to think that maybe it is the person he once killed: George Stark. As Stark inches nearer and nearer to Thad, he and his family's life will come down to his bravery, and if he can defeat his Dark Half.
The Dark Half, much like Stephen King's Gerald Game, centers around Stephen King's ability to tell a story, and focuses less on Writing Mechanics. Although there are subtle similes/metaphors here and there, unlike many of his novels, grisly and humorous descriptions are the main draw here, and his descriptions of Sparrows might make you think twice about going near them. He tells the story straight out, and unlike "The Tommyknockers" or "IT", King doesn't care about side-plots, he focuses his story on Thad and George Stark, and the reader is enthralled every page from the mysterious beginning to the macabre end, and it is impossible to put this book down. In many ways, this is a Thriller, but towards the end of the novel, Stephen King reverts to his Horror ends, and his Disturbing End might give Fainthearted readers a sleepless night. I must remark how The Dark Half, unlike many of his novels, has an ending that PERFECTLY complements the plot, and I found myself smiling at King's carefully plotted ending, reveling in Horror's King's cleverness.
Overall, I found The Dark Half to be an excellent read, enthralling and mysterious, and hard to put down. After reading the dissapointing "Bag of Bones", "The Dark Half" really showed that Stephen King, while he has his lows, always has his undeniable highs.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! FANS OF STEPHEN KING, THRILLERS, HORROR, AND MYSTERIES WILL HIGHLY ENJOY "THE DARK HALF", AND THIS IS A GOOD START FOR STEPHEN KING NEWBIES. 4 STAR AVERAGE?? I THINK NOT!
From The Corner of His Eye- Dean Koontz
Mr.X- Peter Straub
Thanks For Reading!
on May 28, 2004
THE DARK HALF reviewed by CHRIS KENT
In Stephen King's The Dark Half the main conflict is between a writer named Thad Beaumont and his alter ego, which Beaumont has used as his pen name to get other books published. King has had personal experience in writing under a pen name. That name was Richard Bachman. King wrote five novels under this name including Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, The Running Man, and Thinner. Little was known about Bachman except were he came from and what other work he had done, which is also the case with Beaumont and his alter ego George Stark. When both King and Beaumont decided that they no longer needed the alter egos they killed them off. That is were the similarities end.
King uses a variety of complex characters throughout the novel. Of course one is Thad Beaumont who has to figure how he was going to be able to defeat Stark. Next there is Thad's wife Elizabeth (Liz) who has to try to stay calm and sane, while watching out for her twin children. Third, is Sheriff Pangborn who is trying to rationalize everything that is happening, and eventually he changes his thoughts and thinks about impossible. Finally there is George Stark. Stark is portrayed as the "bad guy," but he is fighting for his survival. As pointed out several times in the novel Stark asks Thad if he would do everything needed to insure survival. You can imagine what Thad's answer was.
A struggling author who needed to get himself out of writers block finds that he can escape his problems by writing under a different name, but when this alter ego becomes a physical being will Thad Beaumont be able to escape? It seems like a far-fetched idea for a novel, but King really came through. Giving more than enough insight to details of every character makes it possible to believe. One of the skills every great author must have. Some might think that a few of his details are a little to graphic, so if blood and gore is not your forte I would not recommend this novel. It is not just another horror novel though; it deals with very important moral issues. The main one being that you should never change who you are. Although it may seem better to try to be something your not, but eventually you will regret it. Thad's "battle" with Stark can also recognized as an internal fight. Possibly fighting his inner demons and by fighting them he will become a stronger, better person. Giving Beaumont a sense of achievement that was earned by who you really are and not who you can act like.
In the end Thad realizes what he will have to do to defeat Stark, but is not sure if he will be able to complete the task. He feels that he has no choice because there are more important things in his life like his wife and children. If no action is taken by Thad, Stark will surely kill them as he did Thad's agent and publisher. Beaumont is willing to put himself in position in which he can fail. This is the key point for Thad where he transitions from someone who is afraid to fail to someone who will always express his opinions and those who are confident in themselves, some may say cocky, come out on top more often than not.
I would highly recommend this book who likes other novels by King and if not familiar with his works I would still recommend it. You will become acquainted with one the best modern horror writers ever. The only dull moment is at the beginning when the story is being set up, but what book isn't? There is enough action to fulfill your every want and need while entertaining your brain because like a lot of kids now days you are watching television. more than reading. A very exciting ending completes the novel and makes me wish there was a sequel.
on May 5, 2004
THE DARK HALF, which was published in 1994, and bought/read by me during the following year, is a fantastically twisted journey of a writer's alter-ego somehow coming to life and wreaking havoc. Actually, it's not so simple: is George Stark simply a character that Thad Beaumont made up, or was he really the blinking-eye twin that had been removed from Thad's brain, and subsequently buried, when he was 12?
THE DARK HALF is part of The Castle Rock series (CUJO was the first, NEEDFUL THINGS was the last); although it begins in the town of Ridgeway, New Jersey where Thad Beaumont grew up, most of it indeed does take place in the fictional Maine town made famous worldwide by Stephen King. After settling down, marrying and becoming a famous Horror/Mystery/Suspense author (hint, hint), Thad's world is suddenly turned upside down when he receives a very confrontational visit by Sheriff Alan Pangborn (who, in true Stephen King fashion, would pop up again in NEEDFUL THINGS), who matched up Thad's fingerprints exactly to those found at a completely grotesque murder scene. After vociferously defending himself, Thad begins to realize that this isn't just a simple case of mistaken identity. Something else is happening. He convinces a skeptical Sheriff Pangborn to bear with him as he begins to unravel the mystery, and the evil, that is THE DARK HALF. Thad's dark half is known as the murderous George Stark, a man with no soul (literally), who is unafraid of anything and will kill with reckless abandon.
THE DARK HALF is a completely fascinating read. Even at nearly 500 pages, it never becomes boring. However, those of you with weak stomachs should probably not read it, as it is undoubtedly the most graphically violent novel Stephen King has ever written---and that is saying a lot! For the rest of us, however, it is
MOST RECOMMENDED; AGES 18 & UP
on July 23, 2003
In many ways, it's very hard to understand how Stephen King, a decent family man and a law-abiding citizen, can come up with stories that have, in addition to remarkable characterization and wonderful prose, unbelievably gruesome and violent scenes a common reader would never have imagined on his own. This novel is an endeavor King makes to shade some light on the cognitive processes inside his brain.
For that end he tells the story of Thad Beaumont, a bestseller author - only thanks to his pseudonym, George Stark. King illustrates a creepy tale about Beaumont's dark half / twin brother that comes to life and wears a devilish form when "his" other half decides to terminate his fictional existence. This is a brilliant means in demonstrating the duality of King's personality, which stands on even a higher ground as King himself has had a nom de plume - Richard Bachman - and evidently he writes from a first-rate experience.
If you want to know how some people can write about things that are completely detached from their world - try King's explanation.
By and large, this book is a fast read. There is a certain amount of depth to it, but much less than what his fans would expect; the best way to describe it is to call it "a psyichological action novel with a few horror twists". The major events are set in a scope of two to three days and as a result the rhythm is quick and leaves little room for thorough character development; I have almost zero information about the major events in Thad's childhood that shaped him as a man, not to speak about a better and fuller characterization of his wife, father and mother, not to mention the Sheriff that was an integral part of the story. In other novels, King has demonstrated his talent to orchestrate complicated creations that had it all - they have been a lot longer, but it was always worth the extra reading effort.
Strange enough, the mysterious character the pseudonym author in book created strikes me as a very interesting, but sadly it is the least developed character of them all. The good news, however, is that King has borrowed this character from the novel "Dead City" by Shane Stevens to pay tribute to this author, so anyone can read more about the notorious Alexis Machine...
In the past I was told that this book is one of King's scariest. It could have been the case for me - had I read it a few years ago - but it is certainly not the case today. Maybe I got so used to King's style that he can't really get under my skin as he used to - I guess I grew up.
Yet, now that the horror he tries to create is not so horrifying anymore, I can pay a closer attention to his language; the man really knows how to describe things. King's admirable ability to put what he sees and feels into words is a wonderful way for the reader to learn and improve his own means of expression.
For that and for the above positive points I recommend this book as a pastime and a light read.
on January 10, 2003
Stephen King is much more than a schlockmeister. He uses his books to examine the human condition and see where we are lacking. For years, I avoided him because I was under the impression that he wrote the literary equivalent of the Friday the 13th series, albeit with a much higher page count. The first story I read was his prequel to the Dark Tower series that appeared the "Legends" anthology back in 1998. I bought that book for the other authors, of course, being a fan of epic fantasy. I thought, "Stephen King in a fantasy anthology?"
I read the story since it wouldn't cost me anything extra to do so, and loved it. Shortly thereafter, I made it my mission to read the entire series. When I'd done so, and couldn't stand to wait another five years for Part V, I decided I'd give some more of his stuff a shot, so I read the complete volume edition of "The Green Mile." After that, I was hooked.
"The Dark Half" is just the latest book of his I've read. It's not my favorite (that goes to the entire Dark Tower series) but it's not my least favorite, either (that would probably be Cujo, if only because I knew how everything came out, thanks to references in "Needful Things"--fair warning if you've read neither about the order there).
I guess what it boils down to is this: if you've read several of his other novels, and enjoyed them, you'll enjoy this one. I don't mean that it's a rehash, but that it has the elements of every good King story: interesting and imperfect characters, realistic relationships between those characters, lots of background on those characters and why they act the way they act, and a story that deals with the supernatural in a perfectly plausible way.
If, on the other hand, you've read his stuff and can't stand it, for whatever reason, you probably won't like this one, either.
If you've never read his stuff but you're the type that can suspend your disbelief long enough to ask "What if?", then I believe you'll enjoy it.
on December 27, 2002
The story behind The Dark Half is as interesting as the novel itself. Here's what I've gleaned from King's notes in "Nightmares & Dreamscapes," as well as from interviews he's done over the years:
In the early '80s, King was working on a crime novel that he intended to publish under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. The novel was going to be titled "My Pretty Pony," and it was about an independent hit man named Clive Banning. In the story, Banning was hired to gather together a group of fellow hit men for a big job. Their mission was to kill a large gathering of mob bosses, who would all be attending a wedding. Banning and his men perform the job, only for Banning's clients to pull a double-cross. First they kill off Banning's associates one by one, and then they come for Banning himself.
Apparently King completed six chapters of the novel, one of which was a flashback of Banning's to a time when he was a young boy, and his grandfather told him about the nature of time. This chapter was eventually published independently under the title "My Pretty Pony," appearing in both an expensive, limited-edition pressing, and "Nightmares & Dreamscapes."
Thinking the novel itself wasn't any good (which is a shame, because it sounds excellent), King lost interest in writing it. Apparently he toyed with the idea of re-writing it and publishing it as "Machine's Way," under the name "George Stark," which was - get this - RICHARD BACHMAN'S pseudonym. I guess King eventually came back to his senses, and dropped this idea as well; having a pseudonym for your pseudonym is a little psychotic. It was around this time that King was discovered to be Bachman, and he dropped the idea entirely for a few years.
Finally, King decided to combine all of these divergent stories into a straight-up horror novel that would also deal with authors and their pseudonyms. Making George Stark the crime-writing pseudonym of his main character, literary author Thad Beaumont, King used portions of the "My Pretty Pony" novel (including the gory wedding hit) as excerpts from Stark's novels. Ever since I first read The Dark Half when it was published, these excerpts have been my favorite part of the book. This just makes me wish all the more that King would've just finished, and published, "My Pretty Pony" in the early '80s. The man has a great crime novel in him, and this could've been it. It's unfortunate that he decided it wasn't up to par.
As for the Dark Half itself, it's actually one of King's better horror novels. The idea of an evil pseudonym who somehow comes to life and wreaks havoc was obviously vivid in King's mind, and it comes across so on page. King intended to have the book published as a collaboration between himself and Richard Bachman, which is such a goofy idea that it's actually pretty neat. King's publisher's rejected the idea, though, and all Bachman got was an acknowledgement on the dedication page.
In a confusing side-note, King stated in an interview in the early '90s that he was going to publish a novel called "Steel Machine," which is the novel Thad and Stark collaborate on in the end of The Dark Half (we get to read pieces of it in the book). Apparently King's publisher came up with the idea of King writing one of the George Stark books himself, and in this interview King claimed it would be "Steel Machine." However, in the Notes section of "Nightmares & Dreamscapes," King states that the George Stark book he was going to write after giving up on "My Pretty Pony" was "Machine's Way." But regardless, I think it's too late, the time's passed, and I doubt we'll ever see any of these novels, whether "Steel Machine" or a completed "My Pretty Pony," in print.
on October 6, 2002
When Thad Beaumont was 11 years old, he underwent brain surgery to have a benign tumor removed (which turned out to be the unabsorbed tissue from his unborn twin), but now, more than two decades later, Thad's dark mind has created something even more monstrous: George Stark, the pen name Thad has used for the past several years but has just recently retired. Even though George Stark began as a fictitious disguise, he has gradually become very real, turning into a cold-blooded killer and leaving a trail of blood and guts in his wake as he tracks down Thad and his family in Castle Rock, Maine. And as the death rate goes up, so does the suspicion surrounding Thad as being the one who committed these murders (after all, both men have the same fingerprints, and George isn't even acknowledged as being real yet) and very little seems to separate Thad and his family from being George's next victims.
"The Dark Half" is a relatively fast-paced horror story. I was able to finish it within a week and a half, unlike some King books I've read that take me a good month or more to finish, i.e., "It" (and I'm still working on "The Stand"). The similarities between Thad's situation and King's own writing career (his disclosure of writing as Richard Bachman) makes "The Dark Half" a great deal more eerie. After reading this book, I'd recommend watching the 1993 movie starring Timothy Hutton. I saw it beforehand, but it didn't ruin the suspense for me. The book and movie are somewhat the same plotwise.
on April 17, 2002
If there was a 3.5 star rating I 'd like to apply it here. The Dark Half is a good, clean cut read, but it did not astonish me with the thought provoking cleverness of other King works. Dare I say it, this book was "fun"...
I actually got a kick out of the Stark / Machine character. His parts of this book read most quickly for me. The self contained parody of this point was humerous too - the hyper-violent Stark books were best sellers vs. Thad's own work, which failed to capture interest. What also humored me was the reality that this nasty thug of an antagonist just wants to write his own hyper-violent stories.- which sell!
I did like the generated suspense of Thad's completely UN-believable explanation and how he tries to clear it with the Sheriff. I found this element of the plot to be the most gripping and closest to achieving "suspense".
Sadly I thought the ending here was rather lame and predictable. There were also a lot of pages of mediocre action here, which felt like reading through particle board to get to the pine.
If The Stand is a Grand Slam home run a la SK, this one's a nice solo shot to center-field, though not necessarily a game winner.
on March 24, 2002
I've read several Stephen King books, but by no means all, but out of those several i have read, this one is definitely one of the absolute best (and all of them are very good) but this was simply blew me away. i can't reaally find the words to describe how good it is...(don't you find that? whenever you really love a book, you really just cannot think of the words to express that love.)
Thad Beaumont has written four novels under the name "George Stark" but now he wants a change. so he "kills" Stark, and begins to write under his own name. BUt is Stark really dead? Of course not! this is a Stephen King book! the pseudonym miraculously comes to life, and goes on a killing spree, determined to gain revenge on all those who had a hand in his "death". His ultimate goal, however, is to force Thad into writing another novel under the name George Stark, so as to bring him back to life...
It's a stunning book. You should probably read this book and "Misery" back to back, as the two kind of compliment each other. "misery" is a novel about the fan's obsession with writing and the writer, and "The Dark Half" is about the writers obsession with writing and ultaimtely, their own inner self.
This is not exactly a scary book, but it is definitely Kings most tense and thrilling. The plot is taut and exciting, and it's full of some really likeable characters.
George Stark is evil personified...the scenes in which he viciously slays the people who had a hand in his "death" are so gorily described, they may well have your stomach churning.
But of course, it wouldn't be a Stephen king novel without a little something supernatural, and King provides that in the form of the sparrows. I shan't elaborate any further on that point, apart from just to say if you thought ravens were supposed to be jarring, you aint seen nothing yet.
This book is excellent all the way thorugh. Some of Kings books tend to be a little slow to start (which is understandable, because every plot needs decent groundwork) but this one just leaps straight in after about 20 pages, and the relentless pace never lets up. i raced through this book. couldn't put it down.
The book is exciting, tense, well written, chilling, creepy, and Kings best work, i expect. I severely doubt that i will read anything better by Him, as this book has surpassed all my expectations...
on January 24, 2002
I only ended up reading this one because I have a habit of wondering almost-aimlessly in a small local library, where I tend to end up by the fantasy/horror -shelf because I used to look for Lovecraft's books there; now I have already read all I could find, and often end up taking something else from there. In any case, that I happened to read The Dark Half was certainly not an unfortunate coincidence. It is hardly epic, and certainly not scary (then again, I am never scared by books), and is admittedly a bit long (not meaning it has got too many pages, more like having more pages than it would be interesting enough to have), but then again it *is* reasonably interesting, and (at least nearly) every page has something in it that justifies its presence.
The Dark Half is like a combination of crime and supernatural tale, with the addition of strange medical facts that are, as far as I know and I think I know well enough, realistic enough except where they have a combination with the supernatural. If there was not for those silly birds it would work perfectly, and they do not ruin it either. It's not brilliant, but, well, good enough for four stars.