Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, who recently garnered popularity from his novel Wayward Pines and the cult following the television show enjoyed, has delivered another novel that will bend reality and warp the senses. It will also refuse to be categorized. Is it science fiction? Is it a mystery? Is it a love story? Is it none of these or all of these? Welcome to Dark Matter.
“…Are you happy with your life…”
Jason Dessen is a normal guy. A physics professor at the local college, with a beautiful wife and a teenage son. Life is good but at times he cannot help but think of what might have been. This night he is reminded as he has drinks with an old college roommate who has just received a prestigious award and the ability to do the kind of research Jason was going to do before the pregnancy and marriage stepped in. As he leaves the bar a man accosts him and knocks him unconscious. The next thing Jason realizes is that he awakes, strapped to a gurney surrounded by people in hazmat suits and a man he has never seen before smiles at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In the world that Jason wakes up in, he is not married and his son was never born. Jason is not a physics professors but a genius scientist whose research may have just changed the world. Only he doesn’t remember any of it and he is not this Jason Dessen. Or is he? Which world is real and which one is a dream?
This is one of those books that if I go forward and tell you what makes it so great…if I hint at all the twists and turns in the tale…is I spoil it for you…well I guess you get it from that. So I am left to write the kind of review that is somewhat vague, somewhat uninformative, somewhat like….
“Hey you have to read this book!”
“Really? Is it any good?”
“Hell yeah, you’ll love it!”
“Oh, what’s it about?”
“Well….you see…its kind of…”
Yeah it’s kind of like that. If I explain why I like this story so much, I will end of spoiling it for you. There are that many twists, that many turns and that far out there. Crouch’s early books explored the visceral dark side of men. Violent and unforgiving. I have nothing against that kind of tale but seriously, how many versions of Halloween of Nightmare on Elm Street can you watch before you become numb to the blood and violence. With his later books Crouch has become far more cerebral. He isn’t just going to stick a machete through your guts, he’s going to mindfuck you for awhile when he does it.
Dark Matter is cerebral. It is science fiction. It is Alice falling through the rabbit hole. Crouch skates through these genres of science fiction and fantasy and suspense and tells the tale of a man who finds his stolen and in doing so, is offered a chance to realize his dreams. But what is central to this tale, what separates Jason in all of this is that he chooses the life he had. He chooses to find his way back to the wife and child he loves. Crouch has taken this sci-fi thriller and has infused it with a humanity that is too often lacking in this genre.
Dark Matter should be introduced by Rod Serling, it is that good and yes, that is high praise indeed.