True fact: I have owned multiple copies of The Dark Half in my life, but have always somehow lost those copies without reading the book. I bought this…third copy, I believe, and I finally committed myself to reading it. I really wish I hadn’t.
King is typically known for monsters that are abstract and fuzzily defined. I get that, and I’m okay with it most of the time because he makes up for it with characters I want to follow. But Thad and Liz Beaumont are severely flat cardboard characters who I can’t believe in. Worse, I don’t buy the premise for the monster, which is Thad’s “twin,” George Stark.
Except, it isn’t his twin. Thad had an operation as a child to remove the partial remains of a twin fetus that was developing in his brain. So there is nothing there. No twin. No lump of goo also developing in his head. What King wants me to believe is that because Thad imagined a southern talking crime fiction-writing version of himself, his dead twin took over that personality as Thad’s pen name. And, because Thad had chosen to kill off his pen name, Stark suddenly rises from a fake grave to become an adult supa-killer. He and Thad share fingerprints, even though twins don’t. He and Thad share the same voice print, again, even though twins don’t. Stark knows where all his victims are. He’s much smarter than the cops, and he’s uber manly. He talks like a villain from a 1980s era Canon film. For a guy just born, he has amazing bomb making skills. But forget his skills. Where did he get his bomb making supplies from with no money, no wallet, and no ID? He was born with a full set of clothing and his principle weapon already in his pocket. As all twins do, usually.
And before I go on, I want to say that even with me not being a fan of cops, King’s depictions of the police as goobers or prissy so-and-so’s is just kind of pathetic. In one chapter alone, he said the FBI agents looked like H&R Block reps instead of agents, that they looked like they wanted to hold each other for comfort, and then he describes an agent eeking like a woman.
The supposed highlight of the book is a Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who is mostly just a figurehead with some home life scenes thrown in. I mention them because Alan’s wife is described one point as being “gloriously naked.” I have in mind an image of a woman laying curled on her side, the sheets glowing underneath her lithe form while a choir sings “Hallelujah!” But aside from giving me a buzzword NEVER to use while describing women, most of Alan’s role is doing legwork in the wake of Stark’s uber-spree. Pangborn’s charm wore off for me when he referred to a victim as “The cunt from Vassar with nasal problems.”
And King is humping the “twins share a psychic bond” cliche to ridiculous levels here, even having a scene where one baby falls, and the other gets a matching psychic bruise. Thad then uses this to explain how Stark knew to call Thad in a convenience store without knowing the number: “Because the sparrows are flying again. And because we are twins.” No, even if it’s King peddling this bullshit, I can still smell what it is.
But where the book finally loses me is when King insists that I read sloppy ass supa-killer handwriting, and insist that this “channeled writing” is coming from his southern talking evil twin who was literally just born from a hole in the ground.
And why is it that all of Stephen King’s writer alter egos have southern accents? Is Stephen King terrified of southerners? Do the sounds of a banjo make his butthole pucker tight enough to crack walnuts? Does a Dairy Queen make him quiver in his Maine-issued loafers? Cause in Secret Window, the alter ego pen name also speaks with a southern accent. So this feels like a trend with him.
I really tried to read the chicken scratching that’s supposed to pass as Stark’s next brilliant novel. But it just made my eyes sting trying to sort it out, and I realized, I stopped caring about King’s writer characters after Misery. Do I want to follow another of King’s writers on a writing journey under pressure? No. And really, I thought of the situation like this: if George Stark had all these skills to kill people, why doesn’t he know how to write his own stupid book? He could just know the right words from Thad though their magical twin connection, so why does he have to channel his book through Thad?
Ultimately, I don’t care to see where this story goes. I can forgive a monster with a vague origin in a King story. It happens. But without a strong cast of characters, this whole venture feels like a waste of time.
I’m a huge fan of King, but I have to give The Dark Half one star. I would only recommend it to completists who feel they need to read everything an author’s ever written.