Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Darkly Dreaming DexterTonight’s the night. And it’s going to happen. Has to happen. And it’s going to happen again, and again.

The dark and devious tale of Dexter Morgan, blood-spatter analyst… Or at least, the first iteration of the tale. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t the only person who picked this one up because of the hit TV version by Showtime, Dexter. I also doubt I’m the only one who much prefers that take on the twisted blood spatter analyst/serial killer.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is by no means a bad book. In fact, it’s quite a good and highly enjoyable book in many aspects. It just takes a bit of effort to put the image the TV version has given it aside and look at it for what it originally was, for what it still is. In most cases this means putting those silly little superficial shallow TV images aside and looking at the serious, deeper, more plot-driven book like the masterpiece, or at least superior version, that it is. Dexter? Not much so.

The biggest problem with Darkly Dreaming Dexter has to be the depth and the duration of the tale. Woah, wait? A TV show that actually added way more to the tale than what was originally there? Afraid to say it, but it’s true. If we put them side by side, we’d notice that the entire first half of the book is covered by the TV show’s first episode. After that they both go their own way, before finally moving towards the same kind of ending at the finale. Although the way the TV show gets there is entirely different, and what it does with that ending breaks itself even further away from the book.

So let’s put the TV show aside and look at this Dexter. Not just TV Dexter, but the book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

We’ve still got our lovable sociopathic deviant, Dexter Morgan. He’s a blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro Police Department whenever he has full control over himself. Every once in a while, a little friend from the back of his mind pops up, the Dark Passenger. A representation of the urges he feels deep inside. Urges telling him to kill things. Kill people. Being a blood spatter analyst himself, he knows very well how to take care of his killings. He makes sure his kill is correct with his code, or rather The Code of Harry, and makes sure there are absolutely no traces left behind. His Code involves making sure that whoever he kills is someone who has killed, and is sure to do it again. Turning Dexter into a serial killer who only kills serial killers.

Things take a turn when another killer shows up in the area, taking care of his victims in a style not too much unlike that of Dexter. And it quickly turns a personal disaster as our dear, daring Dexter digs deeper into it. Oh yeah, expect alliteration. An abundance of awkward alliteration. The book’s title is not a fluke.

Where the book falls flat compared to its TV counterpart is the rest of the characters in it. They seem empty. Two dimensional. Often enough, they reach points where they just seem like they’re too dumb to live, or at least as if they shouldn’t have the jobs or positions that they’re given. They just don’t seem real or believable all too often. It’s a highly debatable point, seeing as it’s written from Dexter’s point of view. If you keep in mind that Dexter is a sociopath, often remarking he doesn’t understand humans as if he’s not one himself, it’s not hard to reach the conclusion that this is the author’s way to further drive the lack of connection between Dexter and the characters around him home.

There’s more than one situation where things seem to come together by sheer coincidence as well. Heck, at the absurdest moments, Dexter himself even comments that he could in no way justify how he got there or why he did what he felt like he had to do. Yet somehow the book plays these things out as if planned. As if by some mystical element, everyone else’s plans played right into this random stroke of stupidity and we should buy into it unquestionably. In the worst cases, the Dark Passenger gets tagged as the mystical element to avoid any logical explanation. It cheapens a lot of the book, including the main attraction: Dexter himself.

It could be the difference in contrast that’s misleading me into looking at the book the wrong way. Again, the blame would be on the TV version for this if that’s so. The TV version, although it has funny and comical moments, takes itself much more seriously than the book does. The book plays out like a dark comedy, whereas the TV version tries harder to make Dexter seem human and relatable. In the TV version we understand what Dexter is struggling with, we feel along with him as he tries to understand what makes humans act the way they do, slowly stumbling upon the realization that he’s more human than he thinks. It’s an element that’s still present in the book, but nowhere near as strongly.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is by no means a bad book. It’s enjoyable, and certainly has its moments. Personally, I’d go for the TV version, it changed quite a lot about Dexter’s background, and the people around them. Most changes added something more to it. Something the book was missing. Something human.

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