I found Dark Matter by Blake Crouch on NPR’s List of Best Books of 2016. I think I was trying to break out from my rut of favorite genres and try a little science-fiction. Every once in a while, a science-fiction book will grab my imagination and keep my attention, but it doesn’t happen very often. Dark Matter immediately drew me in, and I was hoping I would love it. Unfortunately, as the story went on, I became frustrated with the characterization and the science. This was a unique and memorable novel, but not one of my favorites.
Jason Dessen is a mediocre scientist and a professor at a local college. He has a lovely life with his lovely wife and teenage son. Both Dessen and his wife gave up their challenging career ambitions to settle down for the family life when they discovered that she was pregnant. They both love their life, but there is always that question hanging over their heads of what their lives could have looked like if they did not choose that path.
The excitement ratchets up fast in this novel. Walking home after some drinks with an old colleague, Desson is kidnapped by a masked man who knows his name and disturbing details about his life and wife. Desson’s kidnapper is brutal and takes him at gunpoint to an abandoned warehouse at the edge of the city. He injects Desson with something, and Desson loses consciousness.
When he comes to, the warehouse has transformed to a state-of-the-art laboratory-type building. He is surrounded by strangers who all seem to know him. They say he is a renowned scientist who has accomplished the impossible, and that he’s been missing for two years.
This book uses quantum physics as the building blocks of its plot. Another version of Jason Dessen, who chose a different life in a parallel universe, decided to focus on scientific achievement rather than his girlfriend and possible family. Because of this, he was able to create a giant box that opens up to an infinite number of parallel worlds. Then he went in and didn’t come back for two years.
When Desson finally shows up, it’s the kidnapped family man who has no idea what’s going on. His coworkers are lethally determined to keep this project a secret, and the new Desson has become a liability. Desson manages to get back into the box with the help of a coworker, and he begins the search for his old life as he tries to figure out what happened.
Like I said above, this book started out pretty exciting, but I didn’t love it. As the plot went on, I got a little tired of the science. I also never felt too attached to the characters. Instead of really caring about them, I was only vaguely interested in what was going to happen. I also wouldn’t give this book high marks for feminism. The two main female characters felt like tools in the main character’s story. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on it, but something about them rubbed me the wrong way. They didn’t feel like real people.
If this book were really going to work for me, I think I would need more of the ideas and their consequences fleshed out, and more development of the characters. I appreciate that this novel was unique, but I couldn’t buy into it and it wasn’t one of my favorites.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.