Review: The Dark Half by Stephen King

Sunday, October 28, 2012 7:56 PM
Title: The Dark Half 
Author: Stephen King
Published: November 1, 1989
Publisher: Viking Adult
Genre: Adult Horror
Pages: 431
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“But writers INVITE ghosts, maybe; along with actors and
artists, they are the only totally accepted mediums of our society. They make worlds that never
were, populate them with people who never existed, and then invite us to join them in their
fantasies. And we do it, don't we? Yes. We PAY to do it.”
― Stephen King, The Dark Half

In 1985, 39-year-old Stephen King announced in public that his pseudonymous alter ego, Richard Bachman, was dead. (Never mind that he revived him years later to write The Regulators.)

At the beginning of The Dark Half (1989), 39-year-old writer Thad Beaumont announces in public that his own pseudonym, George Stark, is dead.

Now, King didn't want to jettison the Bachman novel, titled Machine Dreams, that he was working on. So he incorporated it in The Dark Half as the crime oeuvre of George Stark, whose recurring hero/alter ego is an evil character named Alexis Machine.

Thad Beaumont's pseudonym is not so docile as Stephen King's, though, and George Stark bursts forth into reality. At that point, two stories kick into gear: a mystery-detective story about the crime spree of George Stark (or is it Alexis Machine?) and a horror story about Beaumont's struggle to catch up with his doppelganger and kill him dead. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
Let me first preface this review by saying I worship Stephen King (pardon me if that sounds sacrilegious). I want to marry his mind. I'm usually a very open-minded individual who tries to respect others' opinions, but all of that goes out the window when it comes to King. I will defend his books until I'm in my grave, and I don't care if I'm being dramatic. It's the truth. My family loves Stephen King. My mom read me his books when I was in the womb. I was not allowed to read his works till I was older, but since then, I have enjoyed every single one of them that I have read thus far. And I will read every last one. Now that I've sang my praises for him, I guess I'll continue with an actual book review.


The Dark Half is a brillant allegory for the duplicity every author suffers from. For an author, there is a thin line between reality and his imagination. The Dark Half shows how a writer is often balancing on a tightrope, trying not to fall into the dark abyss of his mind. Sometimes, writers may feel they are struggling with another identity that is immersed in a fictional world, or, so to speak, their "dark half." At the time when King wrote this, he had just outed his own pseudonym, Richard Bachman. But Bachman was not fully retired, as King wrote The Regulators later on under the pen name. Just like the books written by George Stark, Thad Beaumont's dark side, Bachman's books were much more visceral and darker than King's books. Unfortunately, I have yet to read a Bachman book, but I will be reading The Long Walk very soon.

As with any other King book, The Dark Half invites us into an entirely different world. What I love about King's work is that I never feel distanced from his characters or the world he is building. Even though, most of the time, I want to feel that distance for security and so I don't have nightmares for the rest of my life. When you enter King's domain, you are uncomfortably close to the characters' emotional turmoil. King is an expert in making the reader identify with his characters. With any of his books, you are slowly eased into the plot, meeting the characters and gaining a false sense of security. Once you feel attached to the characters, once you feel that connection, that is when all hell breaks loose. As King said himself:
"I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose."
Suddenly, his characters are in danger, and you actually care if something happens to them. There have been countless books where I had no concern for the characters whatsoever, even in life or death situations. This is never the case in a book by King.

The villains in King's books are always the most convincing, and the bad guy in The Dark Half was no exception. Stark is a monster, but the scariest part is that he isn't an unfeeling monster. He does feel emotion, but he still can't be called human. This factor makes him even more of an enigma. If he had no emotion, it would be so much easier to call him a monster. Stark is the darker side of writing that hides behind an author's success, and he refuses to die when Beaumont puts him to rest. He is merciless in his killings, and I stress that this is not a book for the light of heart. Though, honestly, while the violent scenes and profanity may be upsetting for some, I will not be disturbed for the rest of my life. It won't even bother me tomorrow. But that's just me. I'm fine with darker books, but if you're mainly into butterflies and rainbows, this may not be your cup of tea. Though I think everyone should have a taste of darker fiction. If you'd like to talk to me about why dark fantasy is one of the best genres ever, then I'd love to sit down and chat.

And the sparrows were a wonderful addition to the book. I love symbolism, as I've stated in previous reviews, especially when it comes to animals. And now I know not to mess with sparrows.

Horror is far from easy to write, but King excels on that front over and over again. He connects events and characters in such creepy ways, sending shivers down my spine. The Dark Half delivers. It is a book that will thrill and chill you. After all, King is the king of both horror and suspense. And now I will stop prattling on about him and go fortify the battlements against the approaching Hurricane Sandy.


  1. Wonderful review! I haven't picked up a King book in a while. Hopefully one day I'll go back to reading his works.:D The movie looks great,too.

  2. Sounds good. I want to like SK but he scares me too much. ;) He has a way of crawling up in my brain and freaking me out.

    1. Yeah, he does tend to do that. If you want to try him out, try his short stories. Then you're not committed to a whole book and some of them aren't that dark at all.

  3. I've never read a Stephen King book mostly because of the notion that his books are for adults. But given your review, I may give it a try. Do you have a favorite Stephen King book that you want to recommend to me? :>

    Great review, Courtney :D

    1. Thanks Gellie! Well it depends. If you're into horror, I'd recommend Pet Sematary. If you're more into the fantasy aspect, then The Dark Tower series or Talisman. For something a little less dark, definitely 11/22/63. That one's pretty long though so read it when you're ready for a longer read.


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