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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 1 June 2008
This is the second Cormac McCarthy book I've read, my first being "The Road", which I felt to be a pretty bleak piece, though no less rewarding for that. I enjoyed it enough to try another, and picked "Outer Dark" pretty much at random. Within the first few paragraphs, this book had me completely hooked. The story is a very simple one, employing few (if any) plot complexities to keep the reader interested. Instead, it's the rich portrayal of the protagonists, a varied and fascinating cast of supporting characters, and a darkly evocative "Southern Gothic" setting that keep you utterly transfixed and eager for more. Constant throughout is a carefully balanced sense of foreboding which underpins the story as it builds to its somewhat predictable yet devastating conclusion. This is, without a doubt, the best book I have read in the last 20 years, prompting me to order every other work by this highly talented author! If each of them is half as good as "Outer Dark", I have many hours of wonderful reading ahead!
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on 19 January 2001
Outer Dark, Cormac McCarthy's second novel, is an apocalyptic and disturbing story revolving around the separate journey's made by its two protagonists. The book opens with Rinthy Holme baring her brother, Culla's, child. Not wanting the baby Culla leaves it in the woods to die where it is rescued by a tinker. On discovery of this Rinthy sets out to find her child, while Culla embarks on his own ambiguous quest. McCarthy's brilliant novel blurs the line between reality and fantasy, creating some characters who are painfully real and other who seem to have descended straight from hell, itself. The book is full of superb dialogue that is both full of wit and menace, bringing it's characters vividly to life. However despite the humour the novel is shot through with foreboding, and the closer you get to the end the more distant a happy ending becomes. The climax is both shocking and disturbing, and will anger as many as it fascinates. But throughout McCarthy proves, once again, that nobody writes better about difficult rural life and its people. Outer Dark is challenging and bleak. But like all of McCarthy's novels it rewards your time and patience.
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on 2 January 2000
Outer Dark does exactly that - it reaches into the dark spaces on the edge of the reach of light and interleaves fantasy into a story set in the Apalachian Mountains at a time when the trappings of existence are pared to the bone and the characters exist on the very edges of life. Cormack McCarthy writes with energy and conviction, absorbing the reader in a story that is outside his experience in a terrible landscape. The writing is as compact and as barren as the landscape and the era it describes. It is a disturbing tale which tells of a mother's search for her lost child. This becomes the only thing that matters to her and which means that she is willing to endure any amount of hardship in the quest for a child she believed to have died. Not for the fainthearted.
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on 27 May 2011
A mythic journey through the darkness of the American South, this novel captures the arctypal rhythm of a country where songs and stories are wedded in blood. The journey that the young girl takes persuing her lost child is astonishing, as are the fury-echoing chasers who hound her brothers trail. This is Southern-Gothic writing at its best. So much richer than anything else on the market so far. If you want to hit the bone and sinew truth of story, to feel the rush and breath in the good air of a culture based on stories and the potency of words, you cannot do better than this. At least not yet.
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VINE VOICEon 11 January 2012
This is more a review of all Cormac Mcarthy's work.
I found Outer Dark a very shocking book,on a parallel with the awful Child of God and,probably,the extremely violent Blood Meridian.
None of the above is meant to say that these books are not great....they are.
Like many,I got into Cormac after the films No Country For Old Men and The Road.I should have got into him a lot earlier.
His writing style is majestic and poetic,maybe even hypnotic.
I have just completed the Border Trilogy and can only praise that also.A bit exhausting,though.But worthwhile.More than....sorry,trying unsuccessfully to write like him.
Back to Outer Dark.
I cried at the end of this.I have never done that before.
I cried at the storyline,I cried for the sister and brother,I cried at how much better a writer he is than I will ever be.
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on 12 April 2015
Neat and tidy closure is not the be all and end all. A story well told affords us the luxury of living with the unsolved or unresolved. It allows our imagination to flourish that little bit more. Outer Dark recognises this fact.

Being penned by Cormac McCarthy, it meant that Outer Dark would at the very least be an essential read for me. I am very familiar with McCarthy's approach to story telling, but this, his second novel, is not the best representation of his evolving work. Granted though, you are always going to get visceral, corporeal, disjointed, dysfunctional, morally and environmentally corrupt and polluted story lines. But that works for us admirers of Cormac McCarthey's work; some people enjoy immensely, the brand of imagery that this man can conjure up. For me he finds magic in the darkest of times and places. It feels like McCarthy may have had a lot of stuff he needed to get off his chest during work on this book. I believe it cleared the way for the ensuing, mostly spellbinding way he went on to tell tales of scrabbles in the dirt and struggles in the quagmire.

Many romantic myths and misconceptions are unravelled during the journeys he takes you on. But even purged of whim and fancy, there are little green shoots of blessed fertility to be found; especially among many of the sparsely peopled backwoods encountered along the way. The prose is utterly essential, for without it you cannot inhabit his characters properly. You end up immersed in his characters in a markedly different, almost elemental way, once you stop resisting the archaic prose.

Blood Meridian is one story of his I'd particularly recommend. Perhaps with Suttree as a second course.

For me, the discovery of Cormac McCarthy's work has given me a legacy of thoughts of something other; something different and unique that sits apart from all other stuff. Only Mervin Peake's work (Titus, Mr Pye etc.) has had this kind of effect on me in such a marked way.
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on 5 May 2008
I came to this having read several of McCarthy's later books. It is fascinating from this point of view, showing some of the earlier themes and images that one finds recurring throughout his work. One doesn't get as close to the characters in this book as in his later work and the author almost seems to want us to keep our distance and reserve our sympathy (this isn't necessarily a shortcoming, its just how it has been written - although I expect some will find it frustrating). The language as in all his work is absolutely superb. The content is fairly chilling but an excellent read.
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I thought that 'Outer Dark' was like a cross between 'The Road' and 'Blood meridian', although to be fair it wasn't nearly as violent as 'Blood meridian' but there was nonetheless a constant underlying menace which made you suspect that every encounter was going to end badly. The story is relatively simple - the search for "the chap" and also the sister - with the subsequent journeys introducing us to a cast of colourful characters and strange encounters.

Although the story maybe slight McCarthy's writing is like fireworks going off, this is a dazzling master class in the art of the novelist, where he creates and peoples a totally believable but very dark world. The narrative proceeds via a series of spellbinding set pieces - such as the ferry incident - and although I suspected that there could be no happy ending I was compelled to keep reading to the bitter end. This isn't a cosy historical novel - this is dirty realism (with the emphasis on the 'dirty') with the 'dark' of the title reflecting both the darkness of the period and the Appalachian setting and also the darkness of man's soul.
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on 18 March 2011
Where do I start?....

This is Cormacs second novel and starts as dark as it continues. A brother and sister father a child. The brother tells her the child has died, but actually leaves it to perish in the forest. The lie is found out and the sister goes in search of the childs whereabouts. In turn the brother follows to find the sister....

Along each siblings journey they encounter various characters and ways of life.

As with all of mcarthys works don't expect anyone to have a good time or be particularly joyous. His usual desolate descriptive prose cuts right through to the bone. A little hard to follow at times, but it is always worth the effort.

Cormac Mcarthy is an amazing writer and one that I can see being studied for generations to come
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 April 2014
An extremely bleak story but so well written as to be entirely absorbing. The dialogue is so good I cannot think of any novelist who surpasses it. If you like audio books I particularly recommend Ed Sala's version of this - so gritty you feel you are right there among these wiry people, tough as worn out boots.
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