First published in 1980, THE DARK by the late great James Herbert is an ambitious book and ranks among the horror author’s best works.
The story centers on Chris Bishop, a paranormal investigator who prides himself on debunking haunted houses while suspecting the paranormal does exist and will eventually be explained by science, ushering a new era of human awareness. When Jacob Kulek, a colleague, and Jessica, his daughter, ask him to explore a certain house where atrocities had occurred, he will discover an evil force that is all too real. As the Dark spreads, it infects the angry, the bad, the insane, driving them to commit unspeakable atrocities. And with each mind it infects, it grows ever more powerful and spreads, threatening to cover the world in evil.
The book is crisply written, though it’s criticized for being overwritten in parts. I enjoyed the scope as not just a house, but all of London, becomes haunted, and the Dark creates an army of homicidal psychopaths. Bishop is an interesting character, particularly due to his open-mindedness about the occult but regarding it through a scientific perspective. Some of the scientific background about the paranormal is interesting and, for the time the book was written, fairly innovative. His rationale for taking joy in debunking haunted houses is perfect. Herbert is particularly good with dialog, which crackles throughout the book and drives the story forward nicely.
THE DARK gets a little repetitive, with Bishop in seemingly impossible situations with growing frequency, and the ending is borderline deus ex machina, but overall this is a very satisfying horror story that at its time broke the mold. Recommended for fans of both horror and apocalyptic fiction.