Dark Matter
Blake Crouch
Publisher:  Crown
Release Date:  July 26, 2016
ISBN 978-1-101-90422-0

When you read in an author’s Acknowledgements page, and he thanks his film and TV manager, and his entertainment attorney, and then you read the line, “I couldn’t ask for a stronger group trying to make XXXXX, the movie, a reality,” you might be tempted to think somewhat cynically that maybe the book is really just a vehicle for more lucrative endeavors.

But when I read that in Blake Crouch’s acknowledgements at the back of his new novel, Dark Matter, my kneejerk reaction was, “This might become a movie?  Cool beans!!!”

Yes, it is very cinematic in its telling.  And yes, it is very, very good.

Dark Matter tells the tale of Jason Dessen, a physics professor at a small college in Chicago. He could have been a superstar in the scientific community – he had the chops, he had the drive – but fifteen years ago, when his girlfriend Daniela (a promising artist in her own right) got pregnant, they decided to forego more demanding careers in order to raise their son, Charlie, in a more stable environment.  It’s a decision that Jason has never regretted.  Still, sometimes he can’t help but wonder, what might have been, if…

Then one night, after a bizarre abduction attempt, he wakes up to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by people in hazmat suits who are inexplicably thrilled that he’s “returned”.  He discovers that he’s in a world that seems so familiar, but is also vastly different:  his apartment is still there, but it’s filled with very stylish, expensive furnishings, and it’s obvious that he’s now the superstar that his earlier life always promised he would be, lauded, working with unlimited resources on something amazing, something absolutely groundbreaking.  It certainly seems like he’s “got it all.”  And yet he has no wife, no child.  No remnants of the life that surrounded him just the day before.  And nothing is more important to him than finding out what happened, and determine which of these two lives is the one he was really meant to live.

But this is far more than a “person out of place trying to find the truth” story.  Well, it is that, but it has twists and turns that I certainly didn’t see coming, and yet were gripping and believable (even if not pretty or easy).  In so many of these types of stories, things just fall into place – or go out of control – at the whim of the author, but in Dark Matter, everything feels connected and authentic.  And while the science behind the twists are fantastical (and at times mind bending), they feel uncomfortably plausible.  And terrifying.

Yet the pull of the book is not just in the action, but in the people involved in that action, especially Jason, the main character.  Jason is not always admirable, he doesn’t always make good decisions and he has to come face to face with his own selfishness.  But his honesty is relatable even if it is difficult.  After all, how many of us have wondered what life would have been like had we made different decisions in our past?  What would we do to hang on to that life, regardless of who else might get hurt?  Wouldn’t we struggle with doing the honorable thing when given the option of fulfilling a heart’s desire, even if that desire had been pushed way down in our psyches?

Pretty heady stuff, but engaging.

And then, just when you think you have a handle on what’s going on, author Crouch throws a heckuva twist that makes the final third of the book an absolute edge-of-your-seat thriller.  I mean, I was literally on the edge of my seat while reading it. Absolutely amazing.

Yup, this book will make one heckuva great movie.  But after reading Dark Matter, I can honestly say, no matter how good a movie of it might make, the book is going to be better.

Even if Tom Hardy gets the lead.

~ Sharon Browning

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