Friday, March 3, 2017

A Review of Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

I don't usually tell you how I came to read a book.  But this time it's pretty unusual.  One Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning up my rec table and returning the books to my shelves in the back of Recycle Bookstore (yep, I've got my own shelves - pretty cool, don't you think?).  There was a young couple, Bryce and Tara, standing there considering whether or not to buy a couple of books.  I saw that one was A Man Called Ove and I strongly recommended it to them. Bryce, in turn, said that they would get it if I agreed to read a book that he was holding - Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch.  How could I refuse?  So here's my review of Dark Matter.

This book reminds me of 11/22/63.  That one has a premise, time travel, that you have to accept right up front.  But if you do, then the rest of the book flows very plausibly throughout.  DM is very similar.  It posits alternate worlds and how each one is the same AND different as the one the protagonist originally came from.  More than most, this book calls for a flap-sponsored blurb:

"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 life 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 have imagined - one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

This is a cool book.  I was already nervous on page 5.  And had my share of raised eyebrows and "Oh, wow"s along the way.  There was even a period of time in the 1st 1/5 of the book where I was pretty confused, but liking it.  Here's what Jason says on page 1:

No one tells you it's all about to change, to be taken away.  There's no proximity alert, no indication that you're standing on the precipice.  And maybe that's what makes tragedy so tragic.  Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you're least expecting it.  No time to flinch or brace.

True that, right?

Crouch's writing is pretty darn good too:

"...and she has one of those smiles that seem architecturally impossible."
"...she becomes belligerently kind..."
"I feel strange.  Like I'm simultaneously watching a movie and acting in it."
"It's like we get so set in our ways, so entrenched in those grooves, we stop seeing our loved ones for who they are."
"Being with Daniela isn't like being home.  It defines home."

Those last two might be a good reminders for all of us!

If I have one small complaint, it's that there is a little bit too much science for my NON-science brain.  It reminds me of The Martian, from that standpoint.  But, just like The Martian, it didn't stop me from enjoying the book.

This is a book that keeps you locked in all the way through.  Are there alternative worlds out there?  Beats me.  Does Dark Matter make you think it's possible?  Absolutely.  I definitely recommend it.

P.S.  Here's a really cool side note.  And I didn't know this until after I bought the book and then read the author's bio.  Blake Crouch wrote the novellas creating Letty, the protagonist for the TV show Good Behavior (starring Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary in Downton Abbey).  In fact, he co-wrote the TV series.  And this show (season 1 ended about a month ago) is one that Joni and I absolutely loved!  Neat, eh?


  1. I loved this book. I found it especially interesting since I believe there could be alternate universes out there. I tell people to read the book, but I won't lend my copy because I had it autographed at BEA.