I had seen a lot about Dark Matter in the run up to its publication last year, and whilst I was intrigued by it, it wasn’t until I read the wonderful review from Annie @ The Misstery that I actually bought it. And I’m so glad I did – I was absolutely blown away by this novel.
Dark Matter is about Dr Jason Dessen, who is a physics lecturer at his local college. Following his own graduation, he was involved in some cutting-edge research which, had it continued, would have made him a famous name in physics. However, his then girlfriend became pregnant, and, unable to balance both aspects of his life, his research slowly fizzled out as he no longer had sufficient time to dedicate to it. Whilst he doesn’t regret his choice, he does sometimes wonder what might have happened if he’d chosen differently.
After a few drinks in a bar one evening, Jason is attacked on his way home. His attacker forces him to drive to an abandoned building, and injects something into his arm. He loses consciousness.
When he wakes, he is surrounded by people he doesn’t know, but who all know him. He is welcomed home as a genius. Everything around him seems familiar, but not quite the same as he is used to. He lives in the same house, but he isn’t married and his son was never born. But which of these two worlds is real?
I find parallel universe novels intriguing, although I’m often wary of them, as I think it’s a subject that all too easily go wrong. The main problem I have is the “how” – how do people leave one world and enter another? More importantly, how do they get back again? This wasn’t an issue in Dark Matter however, and the how is satisfactorily explained. This does mean that there’s some science to get to grips with, but rather than coming across as an info drop, this as neatly handled and doesn’t resort to unnecessary jargon.
Dark Matter is, ultimately, an exploration of “what if”. What if I’d made a different decision, taken the other path at the fork in the road? It’s something that most people have thought about at some point in their lives, and Jason is no different. He doesn’t regret choosing to have a family instead of pursuing his research, although it profoundly altered the course of his life, and he has wondered what might have been. From this relatively simple premise, Crouch has woven a wonderful tale exploring what a person might do when given the opportunity to see and experience the alternative. I found it to be extremely thought-provoking.
I was a little concerned about how Crouch would bring Dark Matter to a close. As I’ve mentioned, I think that it can be difficult to bring a novel such as this to a satisfactory conclusion, and it’s so deflating when the end of a novel doesn’t live up to the rest of it. I needn’t have worried in this case, however, the denouement was as brilliant as the rest of the novel.
Dark Matter is a brilliant read, and I wish I’d read it before now – it would definitely have been in my top 10 books for 2016 (please don’t ask me what I’d take out to make room for this – you can’t make me choose!!!) Highly recommended if you’re looking for either a sci fi or thriller novel that offers something a little extra.