Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of this book with a request for a review.

Dark Matter by Black Crouch

Here’s the thing, I have a tendency to figure out sci-fi plots rather quickly. I’m sure most sci-fi fans can say the same thing. There’s a somewhat limited number of ideas to go around (time travel, clones, working class vs. elites, etc.). So when I started reading Dark Matter and figured out the basics of what was going on with our semi-mild-mannered protagonist I got worried. Was I just going to go through some logical progression of how Jason Dessen, the local college’s physics professor who gave up on a brilliant career to start an unexpected family, figures out into what type of alternate reality his kidnapper has dragged him? Would the story provide any real suspense beyond some made up sciencey BS to justify a convoluted plot?

Crap, I think I already said too much. Forget those questions…

But seriously, that was not this book. Sure, I probably had the first 70 or 80 pages pegged as Blake Crouch paints a picture of a man with a happy, albeit uneventful, family life that resulted from his abandoning a path that would have won him all sorts of awards that rival the Nobel. And from my vantage point, it seemed obvious who was kidnapping him and where he was being taken. However that didn’t stop the novel from being enjoyable, because he paints the picture well.

Our hero, Jason Dessen, is a believable and relatable kind of guy. He is not driven by ego but rather by the question of whether he’s given up too much of his ego for what might be considered a mundane life. He loves his wife (who also walked away from her aspirations to be a serious artist) and their son, who is most responsible for the divergence of their lives from the original paths they had wanted, but is that enough? Did he make the right decisions? Would he be happier as a celebrated theoretical physicist? What would have become of his relationship and child?

And what if he could actually find out the answers to those questions?

I really don’t want to say too much about the plot, because Blake Crouch does such a great job of letting all of this unfold in front of the reader and it’s easy to spoil. The science may be just a flimsy take on some real theories, but the execution is great. The concept of the box (uh… you’ll have to read the book) is very clever and makes the whole journey to find Jason’s real self almost make sense. Honestly, as crazy as the story gets towards the end, it really does continue to make sense in the semi-logical construct Crouch has erected.

There really isn’t much I can say bad about this novel. It’s suspenseful and thrilling and the metaphysical discussion is thought-provoking yet fun. Without sounding too pretentious, Crouch successfully touches upon some deep ideas. What makes us… well… us? Do we dictate the choices we make or do those choices dictate who we become? Is every possibility truly possible? Can those possibilities change us to the point that we are unrecognizable? Whether or not alternate or parallel universes exist, they provide a fascinating basis for a thought experiment on human nature and this story goes beyond just a surface skim of the concept.

Overall I found Dark Matter to be an enjoyable sci-fi thriller that’s even a little intellectually stimulating and highly recommend it. If I could figure out how to post stars on this page it would be 4 out of 5.