Remember that TV show that’s been airing the past two summers? Wayward Pines? Or many your read the books instead?
Well Dark Matter is written by Blake Crouch – the same author as Wayward Pines (which I haven’t read, but if that excites you then WOOHOO!)
“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.
It sounded compelling so I picked it up, and I was pleasantly surprised! I loved the characters and the story – I’m rating this near-perfect, but since I’ve read a decent number of books about alternate realities, this did feel slightly tropey.
Scifi novels always make me nervous because it can be so easy for authors to fall into the trap of hyping up the crazy technology of the scifi world and neglect the underlying story or characters. Crouch did not fall into this trap; the character’s and the humanity of everything was not overshadowed by crazy technological spectacle.
My FAVOURITE character has to be Daniela, Jason’s wife. She is written beautifully as a loving and supporting wife, but don’t worry, she’s not the annoyingly perfect wife. She has so much humanity in her and her train of thought is so realistic that I completely understand her reasoning behind all of her actions and emotions. At the same time you can tell that she is a strong woman – she handled situations way better than I would have, but still in a realistic way. Because of all this, her relationship with Jason felt so genuine and could absolutely get the right reader crying.
Jason and Daniela’s relationship isn’t tacky, lovey-dovey crap, it’s so very genuine. Since this book deals with alternate realities, it was also fun to see slightly different versions of Daniela, where you can definitely see HER but where there’s also something slightly different. It was a fun way to see exactly what the common, basic traits of her character are.
Jason was a pretty good main character. Again, there was so much humanity in him, making it so easy to understand his motives, actions and thought processes. I can’t say I absolutely loved him the same way I loved Daniela, but he was great to read about! A scientist’s mind isn’t exactly something I can relate to, but he was so grounded in his family life that I still loved seeing everything from his perspective. I also really loved trying to puzzle out his predicaments with him, sometimes I anticipated things right before him and sometimes he had to spell it out for me – it was a great reader, main character relationship!
I just wish we got to see more of Jason and Daniela’s son, Charlie!! I feel like so much of Jason and Daniela’s characters were grounded in their relationship with each other and with their son, but we didn’t see much of Charlie at all. He was mentioned a lot and was sort of around at times, but I just think I would have felt more involved in their family if we got to know him a bit more! I get the vibe that he takes after his mother – in hobbies and in their compassion – so I probably would have loved his character a lot too if it was flushed out a bit more.
Ok, so this story was quite a wild ride. After the initial thrilling drama set up the flow of the story, I did puzzle out roughly what was going on which I was a little upset about. But I think that I only figured it out because I’ve read quite a few ‘alternate reality’ books, so everything just seemed to fall into place for me.
But it turned out that it didn’t really matter that I had figured out the broad story because the journey through the broad framing of the story was very unexpected. There were so many predicaments and hindrances that I never would have anticipated, and I rarely figured out how Jason would get out of those predicaments before he did. I really haven’t read a book quite like this before, where there is a fantastic balance of thrills, drama, and scifi working together.
The world building was also pretty good. Although each reality was set up as sort of ‘urban scifi’ – set up in our real world (not some made up land) – the scifi elements really messed with the definition of reality. So the world building that was required was on point! There was just enough for us to get the picture, not not too much to the point where we know more than Jason.
The overall story of being separated from home and trying to find your way back was so well done. Jason’s desperation really showed and grounded the story among the mind-boggling scifi twists. I really can’t say much more about the story without spoilers!
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
***let me know if you want to talk spoilers!***