Friday, September 18, 2009

Discovering Dexter

I have to admit that the TV series completely passed me by. Even though it was shown on German TV not too long ago, I somehow managed to miss it. There was another series I found interesting running at the same time, so I didn’t watch it.

About a week ago, I stumbled over the fourth book of the series and went through it within a few hours. The novel encompassed everything I really like about a book: suspense, some blood, humour (even my favourite, the dark variety) and a world full of interesting characters.

I managed to get the other three books soon afterwards and even sacrificed one night’s sleep to finish one of them. And I really wish now I had watched the TV series…

I instantly found the character of Dexter interesting and compelling. I do have a very big soft spot for villains, anyway, and, apart from being a killer, Dexter isn’t really a villain. He merely uses his killer instinct to punish those who slip by the law. And isn’t that something a lot of people have wanted to do at some time or another?

Dexter doesn’t think of himself as a ‘true’ human – and I’d like to disagree about that. He might be missing out on empathy and his feelings are probably buried so deep you won’t get them out with any normal means, but he’s still a human. Maybe he’s even more of a human than most others – whether you believe in the bible or in Darwin, aggression and murder (think of Cain and Abel) have been with us since the beginning. Even chimpanzees are capable of murder … really makes you think, doesn’t it? (And yes, I mean murder, the planned killing of a member of your own species. That’s not just hunting.)

In addition, his relationship – as ‘artificial’ as he might think it is – with Rita and her children is more than just a show. Especially after he realizes Astor and Cody have the same ‘Dark Passenger’ inside (due to the trauma of their drunk and violent father) and need training. He takes care of them (and of Rita), in order to keep them on the ‘Harry Path’ (meaning away from pointless murder, prison and a death sentence). If he truly had no feelings and were not human, he’d just let them become the killers they might become without his help. So his foster father was right, he really is a good boy – in his own way.

I also found the idea quite interesting to have a serial killer work for the police. Dexter is a blood-splatter specialist, working with the forensic team, while his sister Deborah (well, foster sister) works as a cop, following her father’s example.

Dexter knows how not to be caught, he knows what the police can find out and thus what to avoid. He knows how to kill slowly (something his victims practically deserve, being what they are) and how to dispose of the body in a way that keeps him out of trouble.

Unlike in the TV series (from what I’ve read on, Dexter only kills once or twice throughout each novel, giving him a lower body count. And I like the fact that the books develop the story quite nicely. Since you’re always inside Dexter’s head (sharing, as it were, the space with the Dark Passenger), you know, hear, feel and see what he knows, hears, feels (despite his own words, Dexter does have feelings) and sees.

I’ve been discovering Dexter rather late, but at least I discovered him. And sooner or later I’ll find a way to watch the series, too.

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