That post title isn’t a dig. I REALLY liked this book; it was one of those you finish in half the time you expect to and immediately buy something else by the same author once the last page is flipped. It’s got some pop science in it, just enough to be credible but not so much you have to strain to follow it. I do love a harder science fiction novel as well, but it’s nice to have some dessert along with your cultural vegetables, and Dark Matter is sci-fi dessert, enjoyable without being insubstantial.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, because the first “twist” was so obvious I almost regretted buying the book, but the second legitimately surprised me. We’re dealing with alternate timelines, a’la “A Sound of Thunder” but ultimately the book’s strength is less the plot and more the humanistic approach to the implications of what those changes mean. Is home home if the details are wrong? Isn’t familiarity what makes home home? If you never marry your wife, is she still some version of your wife without your years together shaping her? How much are you yourself shaped by your experiences, and how do you isolate your true self if not? What are you capable of if that identity is threatened, what could you do if circumstances dictated a need?
Too much science fiction leans too hard to the science and less to the fiction (in the sense of narrative complexity); Dark Matter neatly values the human over the technological by having our protagonist reliably choose family over scientific glory in the plot, but also by keeping the science relatable and simple and the emotions complex. Well done.