In the madness and mayhem of BookCon, I remember seeing a huge poster for Dark Matter. I recognized the author, but for some reason the cover spoke to me. I took a huge gamble and hovered the booth providing the ARC for an hour. All I had was my gut telling me that this book needed to be in my life.
And the gamble was worth it!
Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter hits the sweet spot for Tasheena: A Sci-fi concept that’s anchored in real and meaningful emotions. In Crouch’s world of alternate realities, the reader is allowed to explore humanity’s perceptions of grief, personality, and love.
In the novel, Jason Dessen is walking home, thinking about his life so far, when he is held by gunpoint and taken hostage. When Dessen’s abductor knocks him out, Dessen wakes up surrounded by men in hazmat suits in an unknown airplane hanger. A stranger greets him, “Welcome back, my friend.”
Where is Jason Dessen? As he searches for answers, Dessen realizes that everything about his life has been stripped away.
The novel ends up being a beautiful exploration of regret. Everyone has them and many would take the opportunity to correct past choices. Jason Dessen is given a front row seat to the life he thinks should be his, but what was lost in the process?
“If you strip away all the trappings of personality and lifestyle, what are the core components that make me me?” (pg.218)
If there were multiples of Tasheena out there in the universe, different by the choices I’ve made, what would be the same? Especially ones that made really different life choices, would anything be the same (except looks)? How much do choices shape and define us? Are choices more important than our personality?
As we follow Jason’s journey throughout the book these questions frequently pop up. Crouch gives perspective but leaves the answers up to the reader. Especially the ending, I still don’t know how I feel about the third act and I’m OK with that. It was still glorious.
What about the science fiction side of the novel?
My understanding of scientific concepts and theories is lacking. I had a basic grasp of what was going on in the novel and that’s all I needed. The rules set up in the novel seemed to be obeyed, for the most part. Nothing ever took me out of the moment.
I’m pretty sure that Neil deGrasse Tyson could tear the science apart, but I think for the average reader the explanations are perfectly fine.
I think the only downfall for Sci-fi readers is that the ideas might not be unique. I don’t read a ton of Sci-fi, but I wouldn’t be surprised if alternate realities and the ideas associated with them are explored in other novels.
In that case, I would still recommend this book to Sci-fi readers due to Crouch’s writing skills and the humanity he brings to Dark Matter. In the age of ‘everything has been done’ I think how authors explore concepts, like love and regret, are crucial to making a novel feel fresh and new.
With that I’ll leave you with the best praise I can give a book: I hope one day I’ll be able to re-read Dark Matter.
In the Margins:
- Disclaimer: After the first thirty pages I was really afraid the novel was going to turn into an odd ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ rehash, but don’t worry, Crouch takes the novel on a different path.
- I loooooove Inception and I totally was getting the same vibe from this book. If Dark Matter becomes a movie I really hope Christopher Nolan gets a hold of it!
- Thank you Penguin Random House for providing this ARC (and BookCon)!