Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Published by: Crown on July 26, 2016
Genres: Science-fiction, thriller, suspense
Rating: ★★★★★
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.

There are page-turners, and then there are books like these. Having half-skimmed the summary, I was initially skeptical of the rave reviews but willing to give it a try. So on a Friday evening I sat down on my small blue sofa with this book in hand. I didn’t get up for the next three hours.

This book is simply mind-boggling. Dizzyingly, dazzlingly different from anything that I have ever read before.

Fate, “this is how things were meant to be”, “everything happens for a reason” — these are all ideas that are thrown around a lot. In a way they’re comforting. Believing that fate is what truly guides our destiny absolves us of the responsibility of determining our own futures. Didn’t get that promotion? Well, it just wasn’t meant to be. Yet this book takes that very notion and turns it on its head. What if every choice we make actually has the potential to change our lives? What if free will really is the driving force behind our destiny? What if your life could have turned out entirely differently? Above all, Dark Matter revolves around that lurking question: What if?

It’s also character-driven. It really works because it’s in first person.  We are placed in Jason’s shoes and thrown unceremoniously into a truly awful situation right alongside him. As readers we truly feel everything that is happening him. We feel his mingled fear and bewilderment when he wakes up and his entire life is changed. We feel his utter pain when he finds that his son has simply disappeared in the blink of an eye, like he never existed.

It easily threads multiple genres together. It’s definitely science-fiction. Yet the science doesn’t define the story. It’s uncovered slowly, explained in a way that’s easily digestible to the most science-wary reader. It’s subtle enough that some might just call this a straight-up action thriller colored by philosophy. Meanwhile it’s a love story. The central relationship between Jason and his wife is wonderfully developed, fully fleshed out, and completely believable as the driving force behind the story.

Beyond that, it is engaging. This book travels a road filled with mind-bending hairpin turns, and tackles them at such speed that it’s sometimes in danger of flying right off the edge. Blake Crouch is also a screenwriter and it shows, because he masterfully crafts a fast-paced, tightly plotted thriller.

His screenwriting background also influences his writing style. I don’t think there’s a single paragraph in whole book that’s longer than three sentences. There are long stretches of single-sentence paragraphs, punctuated by the occasional fragment. In many books I would find it a bit annoying, but here the plot moves so quickly that the abrupt writing style feels almost natural. It’s undoubtedly the kind of book that is meant to be consumed in a single sitting.

Verdict: Dark Matter is a mind-bending, thought-provoking, unique thrill ride that defies genre boundaries. It’s a three-hundred page long sprint with a final twist that leaves you breathless at the end.

Find it on Amazon and Goodreads.

Share this:
Like this:Like Loading...