Audiobook Review: Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror, Media Tie-in
Series: Book 2 of Stranger Things
Publisher: Random House Audio (May 28, 2019)
Length: 11 hrs and 44 mins
Narrator: David Pittu
Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher is the second official Stranger Things novel in a series exploring other side stories set in the world of the show. These stand-alone books are great for fans who will no doubt appreciate a lot of the references and Easter eggs scattered about the story, but technically you don’t need any prior knowledge to jump right in and enjoy it either. This time, we’re flashing back to events taking place in the summer of 1977, told as a frame story by Hawkins police chief Jim Hopper, who has just adopted Eleven.
As the novel opens, it is the first Christmas for our little found family, and Hopper is feeling a little out of his depth but still trying his hardest to be a good father to the 11-year-old girl, now called Jane “El” Hopper. Over the holidays though, El has been exploring, digging an old cardboard box simply labeled “New York” out of the basement. Full of questions, El brings the box’s contents to Hopper and asks her new dad for a story. What did he do in New York before he decided to return to his sleepy hometown of Hawkins, Indiana? And why did he leave here in the first place? How come he never talks about his past?
Reluctant to tell El everything she wants to know, Hopper nonetheless knows that being honest and sharing information about himself would go a long way in reinforcing their relationship. The question is, how much to share? Tentatively, Hopper decides to begin with his return to the United States after serving in Vietnam. Looking for a change of pace and more career prospects, he decides to join the NYPD, starting life with his young family in New York City. Soon, he is busy enough working tough cases that frequently take time away with his wife Diane and daughter Sara, but in spite of this, they are happy. That is, until some shady federal agents start showing up, removing the NYPD from their latest case involving a series of bizarre cultish murders and confiscating all the files related to it. However, Hopper isn’t the kind of man to just let these things go, and unfortunately for him, his doggedness has not gone unnoticed.
So far, I’ve been enjoying these new Stranger Things novels and the character backstories that they provide. The first book, Suspicious Minds, was more of a prequel to the show, featuring Eleven’s mother Terry Ives and the story of how she ended up being a test subject in the government’s research into the supernatural and paranormal. Despite being mostly told in flashback, Darkness on the Edge of Town brings us closer to the events as they happen on the show, beginning shortly after the end of season two when Hopper officially adopts Eleven as his daughter Jane. And to be completely honest, while they only made up a tiny portion of the book, these little glimpses into their time together as were some of the best moments. There are so many heartwarming details worked in here and there, especially given what we know of Hopper’s life and what happened to his daughter Sara. He’s always been my favorite character in the show, and reading about his love for El here in this book—and seeing him try so hard for her—made him even more endearing to me.
Still, the main bulk of the story, i.e. the flashback sections to 1977, read more like your typical police procedural involving murder cases and violent gangs. Light allusions to the occult notwithstanding, there really wasn’t much paranormal activity in his one, in contrast to Suspicious Minds, which featured it more heavily. Where Darkness on the Edge of Town wins though, is in the action. The overarching mystery is also intensified by the suspense of Hopper going undercover, as well as the thrills of other genre trappings like car chases and shootouts. It’s entertaining stuff, if a bit standard. That said, I enjoyed the setting as the author takes us back to the 70’s, referencing things like the Star Wars release, Son of Sam, and even incorporating the New York City blackout of 1977 into the main plot.
But at the end of the day, much like Suspicious Minds, I would mostly recommend Darkness on the Edge of Town to fans of the show, and even then, it’s probably not essential. But if you’re impatiently waiting for the new season and want to read something fun in the meantime, this one is sure to tide you over until July and get you in the mood for more Stranger Things.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Suspicious Minds (Book 1)