Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town / Runaway Max
Recently the long-awaited fourth season of “Stranger Things” was released on Netflix, and for my part I just finished the remaining two books in the book series of the same name: “Darkness on the Edge of Town” by Adam Christopher and “Runaway Max” by Brenda Yovanoff. Anyway, as you understood, today we’re going to take apart not just one book, but two at once, because I don’t have much to say about one of them.
Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher
Hawkins, Indiana, winter of 1984. Eleven, aka Odie, finds a box of old cases from when sheriff Jim Hopper was an NYPD detective.
And Hopper, though reluctantly, mentally returns to 1977, when he was hunting a mysterious killer who plunged the entire city into an impenetrable darkness…
What’s wrong with the book?
I remember when I read “Finding Keepers”, I had a feeling that Stephen King had written a separate book, but realizing that even with his name on the cover it didn’t have the slightest potential, just crammed it into the Hodges trilogy, where it ended up looking like a foreign body, but it sold quite well. By the way, even the not particularly literary “Stranger” would have fit there a lot better. But, never mind. So, after reading “Darkness on the Edge of Town” the feeling was exactly the same. And if “Suspicion” and “Runaway Max” were clearly written for “Stranger Things”, “Darkness” looks more like a novel that was lying on the shelf because it wasn’t good enough and replacing the main character with Jim Hopper, for whatever reason, should have made it much better. Or at least a little more successful.
This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that the book does not answer the main questions that viewers have about the Hopper character. If only because they do not fit into the plot. There is no word about where Hopper’s family will go. Probably because the book is not about him, but about some detective from New York. Where Hopper’s family went, if anything, you will be told just in the new season. Here all the references to the TV series “Very Strange Things” have no effect on the plot at all. The events in the book also have nothing to do with the series.
So if you’re a fan of the series and you wanted to learn something new about your favorite characters – I’m going to disappoint you – you won’t find it here. If you take the chronology of the series – the events take place between the second and third season.
As for the novel itself. There are two parallel lines. One is about Hopper in New York, the other is about Hopper in Hawkins. What is remarkable, the second line, not only does not bear absolutely no plot load, but also permanently ruined the well-built atmosphere of the first. Fortunately, around the time the plot crossed halfway, the line with Hawkins came to mind less and less often. And that was more of a plus to the novel than a minus.
Although the flaws in the book to any taste: here you have cheap clichés in the form of fortune-telling at a children’s party, and a dozen pages of painted unnecessary characters created to please the narrative, and of course the royals in the bushes, which starts the plot, and restart a new one when it hopelessly stalls.
Separately, we should highlight the villain. He’s just a collection of every possible cliché. If you’ve seen at least one action movie from the ’80s or ’90s, and it doesn’t matter which one – you’ve seen him there. He was definitely there. Especially at the part where he decided to give Hopper his whole plan, I had a sharp bout of deja vu. I feel like the book is about 30 years late in coming out.
Should you read it or not?
If we talk about the advantages – the book is easy to read, and the plot itself, though simple, but in spite of the clichés, in some places it was even interesting. So to read or not to read? If you’re waiting for a “Stranger Things” story – definitely not. If you missed the thrillers from the ’80s, you can read it. But, to me, it’s weak even as a standalone novel.
Runaway Max by Brenna Yovanoff
Maxine Mayfield runs away from home as her mother and stepfather want to move her and stepbrother Billy from California to Indiana, to the backwater town of Hawkins. However, she fails to escape, and she does move. In Hawkins, everything is new – the house, the school, the friends. And she either has to cope with the changes or try to escape again.
What’s wrong with the book?
So, what is notable about this book. I would say nothing, but no.
First of all, it doesn’t sound like a novel to me. This is the first time I’ve seen such a huge font on the pages. It seems to me that a short story was written here, then some episodes from the show were slipped into it to turn it into a novella, and in this form, with just a giant font and miles of indentation on the sides, was given out in print.
Second, this is a first-person book, which means we’re looking at a teenage girl’s thoughts on everything. That’s right really about everything. “A lot of unnecessary detail” – that would have been a better title than “Runaway Max”. But mostly, here we have mental anguish, turning a pretty cool character into some kind of swagger.
And thirdly, it looks to me like the most shoddy work in the “Stranger Things” series. Max’s story is so secondary that it had to be woven into the retelling of quite a few episodes of the second season of the series. And if the first and second books told separate stories, the third echoed the series, and it’s not very interesting to read if you’re familiar with the series.
The overlay of an idea
The book doesn’t answer the question of why Billy acts like an asshole, it doesn’t answer the question of why Max has a strained relationship with him. If anything – just because he’s an asshole. The only thing the book does, and does well, is develop the idea that there are monsters not only in the movies, but also in life. And often these very monsters are a lot closer than we think. It is true, taking into consideration the book’s finale where Maxine meets real monsters – this idea is beside the point, but whatever.
Despite my love of book series based on movies and TV shows, I would only recommend “Suspicion” as a book about Maxine is just a retelling of the most uninteresting events of the “Stranger Things” second season, and the book about Hopper is not about Hopper at all…