Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"The Dark Passenger"


I watched the television adaptation first, and Showtime's take on the life and times of Dexter Morgan almost captures everything the actual book itself has presented: the exotic and sunny landscapes of Miami that contrast the dark mind-scape of the titular character, and the self-aware first-person musings and morally ambiguous explorations of the criminal psyche through one of fiction's surprisingly likable anti-hero protagonists.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is an astonishing work that will become an instant favorite of anyone who has a deep-seated fascination for serials killers and the inner workings of such twisted individuals. But Lindsay's Dexter series was able to put a human spin on the supposed monster that is Dexter Morgan, a blood analyst by day and predator by night who hunts other serial killers to exact justice and punishment. Because he was raised by a policeman whose moral code was able to influence his base urge to kill, Dexter employs morality in his quest to rid off the vermin and criminal element in the city, knowing that as a creature of horror he is an efficient match for these psychos. Dexter's conflicted feelings about his work as a law enforcer and duty as a vigilante are the highlights of this series and Darkly Dreaming is the groundbreaking beginnings of his life story.

The most enticing aspect of this book (as well as the television show's first four seasons at least) is the way Dexter struggles to follow the light despite the truly darkest corners of his soul. Dexter feels sub-human and a fake, and deals with such ugly feelings through separating his public persona from his real face--the one he calls the 'dark passenger'. Though in control of his urges since he finally learned to impose routine and discipline on his nocturnal proclivities, Dexter never felt he could be a part of society or have a normal, happy life with a family that loves him--but he tries to acquire and maintain a semblance of humanity anyway. He cares about his stepsister Deborah; he treats his girlfriend (former battered wife) Rita and her kids with affection, and he is able to form other social connections. But Dexter acknowledges that it's all a façade and would often feel depressed because of it. Nevertheless, there is something worth saving and rooting for in this character, which is why his readers remain sympathetic to his cause because we know that there are worse monsters than him, and we are thankful that he helps exterminate some of them.

The appeal of Lindsay Dexter series starts with this debut novel and it's not hard to understand for yourself why once you pick up the books or start watching the show. His stories have became a part of the mainstream because they offered us a glimpse of monsters and their abyss. Darkly Dreaming Dexter introduced more than a deeply-flawed lead character prone to evil; Lindsay also gave us an anti-hero with a heart that may be tainted and corrupted, but who still seeks to be a better person even if his road is paved by death and darkness. Dexter is a monster but he has redemptive qualities that make readers always stand by him.

RECOMMENDED: 10/10
* The first book of the series manages to be both creepy and entertaining all at once; there are cringe-worthy moments and lots of fun and laughs all around too

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