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Book Reviews

Jeff Lindsay * Darkly Dreaming Dexter Book 1

It’s been close to 13 years since I first read this book. The “Dexter” show was in full swing and I ran across the book in the stores and, since I wanted to be a police-woman, I wanted to see how serial killers thought and behaved first hand. And who could teach better than Dexter, the sociopath serial killer with a killing code.
I remember being disappointed with the small book and its ending and thinking how the show was so much better, but now that the entire series ended after eight marvelous seasons, I decided to give it another go and listen to the audio book while driving to/from work.
I found myself laughing at points and making mental notes of different things that define a serial killer and what makes them tick and how can they blend in in our society so well. It’s a black comedy and witty to no end and my favourite type of book: a tingling spine chiller.

Dexter, a forensic `blood splatter analyst’ for the Miami Police, is a secret `controlled sociopath’.
The sociopathic tendencies as defined by Psychology today are:

  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan

Where Harry’s code has helped Dexter – it has given him a life plan. To weed out the people who went free from the justice system and deserve to die. This is probably why the book starts off with Dexter and his “dark passenger” following a priest and then kidnapping him and confronting him with his deeds: the killing of seven or more innocent children.

After killing him, Dexter does showcase a bit of empathy for the children, which later gets re-iterated when talking about his girlfriend’s two children – Cody and Astor. He does not think of other people as humans, to him they are like props in a world, they do not feel real to him, but children are special – they are still innocent, young and need protection. And he does not want them becoming like him when they grow up. Does this mean that he yearns for his innocence back? To be like a kid again before his mother was brutally murdered and then taken into foster-care?

I am unlovable…I have tried to involve myself in other people, in relationships, and even – in my sillier moments – in love. But it doesn’t work. Something in me is broken or missing and sooner or later the other person catches me Acting or one of Those Nights comes along.”

Otherwise, Dexter is a fully functional adult. He has a job which he loves as he deals with blood splatters and as he puts it – solving crimes is just what others take out of his job. His main purpose is order – wanting to put the drops of blood into a pattern and arrange them so that they make sense. This is probably why he keeps a small drop of blood from all his victims in a case (the priest joins them).

So when a serial killer turns out in the lovely sunny city of Miami, where the light is so bright that makes every murder seem unreal, Dexter finds himself drawn in into the investigation – first by his sister who wants to advance to detective status after working the streets in the Vice department, then by his Dark Passenger who finds himself oddly fascinated by the purity and the beauty of the murders.

No blood. Why didn’t I think of that? Ice stops the blood from spreading.

Dexter also notices – barely – that he is still in the loop because detective LaGuerta has the hots for him and in a very non-subtle way. I mean she massages his leg and makes hints that she knows where to find him if she needs him… Come on! She is full on hitting on poor and unassuming Dexter and the only way he sees her is as a worm, someone to flatter to appear more human in the eyes of others. Well, the flattering paid off and LaGuerta was eyeing him as a woman and not as a co-worker.

“She stared at me “You have a message,” she said. “On you machine.”
I looked over at my answering machine. Sure enough, the light was blinking. The woman really was a detective.
“It’s some girl,” La Guerta said. “She sounds kind of sleepy and happy. You got a girlfriend, Dexter?” there was a strange hint of a challenge in her voice.
“You know how it is,” I said. “Women today are so forward, and when you are as handsome as I am they absolutely fling themselves at your head.” Perhaps an unfortunate choice of words; as I said it I couldn’t help thinking of the woman’s head flung at me not so long ago.
“Watch out,” La Guerta said. “Sooner or later one of them will stick.” I had no idea what she thought that meant, but it was a very unsettling image.
“I’m sure you’re right,” I said. “Until then, carpe diem.”
“What?”
“It’s Latin,” I said. “It means, complain in the daylight.”

He has such a big list of things he needs to do to fit in – from the way he dresses to how he speaks and how he behaves in every situation.

Surpassing the clichés of eroticized violence and the too serious scientific special effects of CSI series, Dexter’s narrative uses an intelligent dark humour to subvert the rational power of forensic experts, showing that an efficient professional can be as perverted by irrational impulses as the criminals themselves, and what really obsesses a serial killer may turn to be the most normal obsession for a common man: to keep up appearances.

Whenever Dexter pretends to be normal, we recognize his daily rites as things we all do every day, and this explains the audience’s interest in the opening credits sequence for the TV series, Dexter. It shows a man putting himself together (piece by piece, close-up by close-up) in the course of enacting his morning rituals. It begins with an extreme close-up of a mosquito (like Dexter, a blood-sucking predator). Dexter swats it easily indifferent to another kill, another day. A trickle of blood flows into the top of the frame and down the tender skin of the neck. Some drops splatter near the drain in the sink, evoking Hitchcockian memories of blood and drains. He is sure he can present a “normal” face to the world.

He has been doing it all his life, every day. At the end, we see Dexter pulled together, the complete look, as he leaves his apartment and heads out into the world in the harsh light of day. Over-determined, controlled, Dexter catches our eye and flashes an unconvincing but polite smile. Cordial without being warm. He knows we know, but nobody else does. Like Norman Bates, he shares with us his little secret. A common secret that makes us anxious nowadays: modern monsters are no longer visible to the naked eye.

Dexter’s effort in keeping his monstrosity under the cover of appearances expresses a pervasive anxiety similar to a hidden terrorists.

“stay neat, dress nicely, avoid attention.” .. He “took pride in being the best-dressed monster in Dade County”

The only moment he is caught off-guard is when the ice-truck killer leaves the body of a victim in the net of the Panther’s ice rink.

“It was beautiful – in a terrible sort of way, of course. But still, the arrangement was perfect, compelling, beautifully bloodless. It showed great wit and a wonderful sense of composition. Somebody had gone to a lot of trouble to make this into a real work of art. Somebody with style, talent and a morbid sense of playfulness.”

The others around him feel slightly dumb by comparison. He is about three steps ahead of the investigation and he attributes this to the fact that he thinks outside the box. Policeforce is used to putting everything into fitting patterns and when something new appears that does not fit the pattern, they find it hard to adjust and see where it could go. It’s interesting to watch how he feeds Deb information and how he talks to LaGuerta :

“Home or away?” he asks LaGuerta .

She thinks he is joking but he is deadly serious and very smart. Everything has a significance to Dexter. The rink meant that the ball was in their court now. The rearview mirror identified with the body was not a rushed job – was an actual hint that he was watching. They were after him but they didn’t catch him yet. They were being watches. Dexter was being watched. It was personal.

It happens; incompetence is rewarded more often than not.

The thrill of the hunt is what connects both and there is a small bond forming between them. I’m not going to spoil the book by revealing who the killer was but if you, like me, have watched the show, already know this.

The only notable difference from the show is that LaGuerta does not make it. She gets killed and Doakes gets framed for it.

Why I liked the story now even though I didn’t 13 years ago?

Dexter’s contradictory personality is like a mirror reflecting everyone and everything that surrounds him. When he asks himself “what was I?” he immediately answers: “a perfect imitation of human life”. This means he is a true reflection of today’s society. In his contradictions we can see ourselves. Like everyone else, he can build a careful life, be charming, socialize, stay neat and dress nicely, if he doesn’t mind pretending he is human. Consequently, he considers himself “a neat and polite monster, the boy next door.”

This closeness can be frightening, but at the same time very revealing, because this is the true monster’s role in Western mythology.

His past trauma made him a damaged being who is neither a man nor an animal, but something monstrous and different, that can therefore assume a human shape to show that he is often more human than the majority of people living in a repressive moral system. He can be a utopian and amoral sociopath, but he has a moral code with which he controls his Dark Passenger, his dark self – the darkest and most repressed part of human personality that we often avoid to recognize.

This explains Dexter’s loneliness and isolation, which reminds us of Frankenstein’s feeling of exclusion: “Nothing else loves me, or ever will (…) I am alone in the world, all alone, but for Deborah. Except, of course, for the Thing inside.”

However, this strangeness and distance from normal human beings is also what connects Dexter with his readers, who sympathise with his perspective while feeling uncomfortable about this intimate and strange connection with a serial killer, who makes them understand his motives to take justice into his own hands. This transgressive sympathy for the monster and subversive understanding of his actions began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, where the representation of Gothic monstrosity caused a shift in sympathies and perspectives that allowed the monster to justify his monstrous behaviour, thus creating a deep empathy with the reader. Furthermore, the reader always wishes for that order and balance to be re-established, even if his hero uses Dexter’s peculiar method of making order out chaos. Ever dark element in Lindsay’s narrative evokes positive values through their negative counterparts. It is as if everyone has a double and everything is inverted and seen on the other side of the looking-glass. As Dexter says:

“It’s like, everything really is two ways, the way we all pretend it is and the way it really is.”

 


Jeff Lindsay is the author of the acclaimed Dexter novels, now adapted into an award-winning TV series. In addition, Jeff’s plays have been performed on the stage in New York and London. Outside of his writing, Jeff is a musician and karate enthusiast. He lives in Cape Coral, Florida, with his family.

Here are the Dexter novels in series order:

Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Dearly Devoted Dexter
Dexter in the Dark
Dexter by Design

 

Did you notice?

The title of Jeff Lindsay’s novel is itself representative of a kind of literary mode that is directly associated with the Gothic. Gothic fiction is known for the power its dark narratives hold in penetrating into the most obscure and irrational experiences of human existence to bring to the light of consciousness what had been kept secret and unconscious for a long period of time

Categories
Fanfiction

Tahereh Mafi * Destroy Me (“Shatter Me” Series 1.5) Book Review

Not since Margaret Atwood’s Fallen women that I had the opportunity to see another way of falling. Falling in love.

“And I’ve fallen.

So hard.

I’ve hit the ground. Gone right through it. Never in my life have I felt this. Nothing like this. I’ve felt shame and cowardice, weakness and strength. I’ve known terror and indifference, self-hate and general disgust. I’ve seen things that cannot be unseen.

And yet I’ve known nothing like this terrible, horrible, paralyzing feeling. I feel crippled. Desperate and out of control. And it keeps getting worse. Every day I feel sick. Empty and somehow aching.

Love is a heartless bastard.”

Tahereh Mafi, Destroy Me

Categories
Book Reviews

The Witcher Book Series

So chances are that if you’re here, you’re a fan of the Witcher, but with the giant influx of popularity that occurred upon the release of the Witcher III: Wild Hunt, many new fans are unaware of the source material that inspired these fantastic games.

The Witcher video games are based on a renowned fantasy book series by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The Witcher Series is made up of 2 short story collections and 5 novels. The short story collections introduce many of our favorite characters and do a lot of world building, and the novels tell the story of Geralt and Ciri. These books take place several years before the beginning of the first game and provide a lot of background information on the characters and world. They do not spoil the story of the games in any way. Lucy for you, unlike when this guide was originally made, all of the books now have official English translations!

Sorted in chronological order (the way you should read them) the books that make up the series are:

  • The Last Wish (short story collection)
  • Sword of Destiny (short story collection)
  • Blood of Elves (beginning of novels)
  • Time of Contempt
  • Baptism of Fire
  • The Tower of Swallows
  • Lady of the Lake

The Witcher short stories were first published in Fantastyka, a Polish science-fiction and fantasy magazine, beginning in the mid-1980s. The first short story, “Wiedźmin” (“The Witcher”) (1986), was written for a contest held by the magazine and won third place. The first four stories dealing with the witcher Geralt were originally featured in a 1990 short-story collection entitled Wiedźmin—now out of print—with “Droga, z której się nie wraca” (“The Road With No Return”), which is set in the world before the Witcher stories and features Geralt’s mother to be.

The second published short-story collection was Miecz przeznaczenia (Sword of Destiny). Although Ostatnie życzenie (The Last Wish) was published after Sword of Destiny, it replaced The Witcher as the first book since it included all the stories in The Witcher except “The Road With No Return” (the only story without Geralt). Although new short stories were added to The Last Wish, they took place before those in Sword of Destiny.

Although “The Road With No Return” and “Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna” (“Something Ends, Something Begins”, an alternate ending of the Witcher saga about Geralt and Yennefer’s wedding written as a wedding gift for Sapkowski’s friends) were later published in Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna, the other stories in that book are unconnected to the Witcher series. In some Polish editions, “Droga, z której się nie wraca” and “Coś się kończy, coś się zaczyna” are added to The Last Wish or Sword of Destiny.

Categories
Book Reviews

Maggie Stiefvater * The Wolves Of Mercy Falls Trilogy

I picked up these three gorgeous books at a sale at The Works (paid £5 for something that made my life a lot nicer, filled my heart with love and light and made me forget the horrors of Twilight). The book covers are amazing but they give nothing away of the subject (btw, mine are the middle ones).

Categories
Book Reviews Growing Up

Beautiful Creatures Novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl * Book Review

Do you remember The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare where a normal teenager gets mixed up with creatures like faeries and werewolves and angels?
Or Ink Exchange from Melissa Marr dealing with faeries and tattoos?
Or maybe the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy?

Well, there is this book about a teenage girl just turning 16, moving schools into a new town and finding out that when the clock ticks on her 16th birthday she will turn either into a destructive dark witch or a good-natured white witch. She falls in love, meets some villains and has a great time in a small minded town when her powers start showing.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Categories
Dean Koontz

The Odd Thomas Series by Dean Koontz

s-l1600Odd Thomas
“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.
Meet Odd Thomas, the unassuming young hero of Dean Koontz s dazzling “New York Times” bestseller, a gallant sentinel at the crossroads of life and death who offers up his heart in these pages and will forever capture yours.
Sometimes the silent souls who seek out Odd want justice. Occasionally their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time it s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of hyena-like shades who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn, and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock n Roll, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil. His account of these shattering hours, in which past and present, fate and destiny, converge, is a testament by which to live an unforgettable fable for our time destined to rank among Dean Koontz s most enduring works.”

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Book Reviews

Series: Tales of Alvin Maker * Orson Scott Card

cover image of Seventh Son

Seventh Son

Tales of Alvin Maker Series

Book 1

cover image of Red Prophet

Red Prophet

Tales of Alvin Maker Series

Book 2

cover image of Prentice Alvin

Prentice Alvin

Tales of Alvin Maker Series

Book 3

cover image of Alvin Journeyman

Alvin Journeyman

Tales of Alvin Maker Series

Book 4

cover image of Heartfire

Heartfire

Tales of Alvin Maker Series

Book 5

cover image of The Crystal City

The Crystal City

Tales of Alvin Maker Series

Book 6

Categories
Book Reviews

The Mortal Instruments Series * Cassandra Clare

Capture

A thousand years ago, the Angel Raziel mixed his blood with the blood of men and created the race of the Nephilim. Human-angel hybrids, they walk among us, unseen but ever-present, our invisible protectors. They call themselves Shadowhunters. The Shadowhunters obey the laws set down in the Gray Book, given to them by the angel: their mandate is to protect our world from the interdimensional parasites they call demons, who travel from world to world, razing and destroying everything in their path. Theirs is also the task of keeping the peace among the warring Downworlders: the human-demon crossbreeds we know as warlocks, vampires, werewolves, and faeries. In their duties they are aided by the mysterious Silent Brothers. Their lips and eyes sewn shut, the Silent Brothers rule over the City of Bones, the necropolis below the streets of Manhattan that holds the dead bodies of slain Shadowhunters. The Silent Brothers keep the archival records of ever Shadowhunter ever born. They also watch over the Mortal Instruments, the three divine objects the Angel Raziel gave to his children. One is a sword. One is a mirror. And the last is a cup. For a thousand years, the Nephilim have protected the Mortal Instruments. But that was before the Uprising, the civil war that almost tore the Shadowhunters’ secret world apart. Though Valentine Morgenstern, the Shadowhunter who started the war, is long dead, the wounds it left behind have never healed. Fifteen years have passed since the Uprising. It’s August in New York; the streets blistering with heat. Rumors run rampant through Downworld that Valentine is back, at the head of an army of Forsaken warriors. And the Mortal Cup has gone missing…

Categories
Book Reviews

Shatter me – Tahereh Mafi Book review

I came upon Tahereh Mahi by looking for a book to follow up Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin – a book about a dystopian future, made for young adults, featuring a love story and a chase by the government, a story about star-crossed lovers like “The Hunger Games”.

The first book of his quintology is called “Shatter me”.

Shatter-Me-2

“You can’t touch me,” I whisper.

I’m lying, is what I don’t tell him.

He can touch me, is what I’ll never tell him.

But things happen when people touch me.

Strange things.