Synopsis: “Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.
Something I love doing is trying out new authors. It’s a rare occasion when I find someone whose work I enjoy so much I’m anxious to go out and buy everything else by him or her, and when it happens I almost want to celebrate. Reading Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was one of those times. I’d heard of his Wayward Pines trilogy in passing, but it wasn’t until I saw several book-lover friends praising this book on social media that I decided to take the plunge. Am I glad I did! I will now check out this author’s other works, for sure.
Dark Matter is a thrilling look at ‘the road not taken’ and parallel universes. What if we got to experience the life or lives we’ve always wanted? The story’s protagonist is a relatable middle-aged father/husband, a sort of everyman, and the story focuses on an extraordinary journey through parallel worlds that he’s forced into. There is a lot of quantum physics talk and science jargon here, but Crouch never allows it to become superfluous, nor does any of it go over the reader’s head. The prose is lean and mean — it never slows down or gets bogged down in the details. That’s not to say there isn’t extraordinary character development (there is) or adequate descriptions or the various worlds that get explored (there are), but Crouch successfully avoids diarrhea of the mouth . . . and considering the subject matter at hand, it would’ve been really easy to let this thriller get stuck in the mud and spin its wheels.
I’m not sure if Dark Matter will end up being my favorite read of 2016, but it’s certainly up there. I read it in three sittings, and I couldn’t wait to turn the page and see what world — what version of his own hometown — the protagonist would stumble into next. The Box is one of the neatest inventions I’ve read in sci-fi literature, and the explanations of the mechanics made total sense. Best of all, this story made me think — it made me think of my life, and how easily everything could change. It pushed my mind to dark (and light!) corners it typically doesn’t go to, which is always a sign of a damn fine read. And best of all — it packs an emotional wallop while being downright enjoyable. Five stars.