Author: Blake Crouch
To put it simply, this book will have you going “Whaaaaaaaaaa thisissogoodIcannotbelievewhatishappening!?!?!” You will look like this monkey, but with a book in your hands instead of a lemon or whatever that is.*
Dark Matter is the edgy, gritty, mind-blowing thriller embodiment of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” poem. The plot races like Nascar, somehow makes quantum physics accessible to the masses, and delivers a villain that is closer to home than anybody realizes.
Are you happy in your life?
Those are some of the last words Jason Dessen hears before his masked abductor knocks him unconscious. When he wakes up,nothing is as it was. He’s in a lab full of people he doesn’t know. He’s in a Chicago that does not match his memory.
He’s in a world that is not his own.
Rewind 20-some years to a critical turning point in Jason’s life. As an up-and-coming physicist, he’s faced with having to decide between pursuing a family life with his now-pregnant girlfriend and enveloping himself in his groundbreaking research. He chooses the former.
But according to the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics (which funnily enough, also appears in The Invisible Library, another of my recent reads), for every decision we make an alternate universe is created where the opposite is true. Somewhere out there, a Jason exists who dove into his research and cracked the secrets of the multiverse. Unfortunately, academic success did not bring him happiness, so he has come to take what”our” Jason has – a loving family.
“Our” Jason has been dropped into the world of the man we come to know as Jason 2. He never married his wife. He never had a son. Our Jason’s grip on reality begins to shake as he toys with the horrific notion that his former life was all part of some grand delusion.
Dark Matter is, at its core, a struggle for identity. What makes us “us?” Are we still ourselves if we pursue a different path? If you were suddenly confronted with another version of yourself, which is the “real” one? If that all sounds dauntingly philosophical, don’t worry – Dark Matter strikes an incredible balance between the brain-bending identity questions and the pulsating drama of Jason trying to get back to his own world.
The central conflict is an Inception-esque mix of character vs. character and character vs. self. On one hand, they are distinctly different. Jason 2 created the ability to jump between multiverses, and our Jason is a run of the mill professor who has to wrack his brain to understand the science Jason 2 has unlocked. But on the other hand, they are the same man. So similar, in fact, that Jason 2 can take our Jason’s place in the “original” world. How is our Jason supposed to outsmart himself?
If this book doesn’t drive you to read at lightspeed, I suggest you check your vital signs, because it is a sci-fi thriller of the highest caliber. The extraordinarily complex science is explained in terms accessible to any reader without losing its smart, sharp feel. The grey ethics of multiverses are portrayed so compellingly that I found myself wondering whether or not I was siding with “our” Jason simply because he was the narrator – or is the other man not also fully “Jason?” In hindsight, the cover art is also brilliant, and perfectly encapsulates the story.
I would absolutely recommend this to pretty much anyone. It is a gritty, unsettling brain-bender that goes 100 miles an hour all the way up to the very last word, and will leave you grappling with the unnerving question of the road not taken.
*I was only a Zoo Science student for three semesters. My coursework did not include exotic monkey diets.