Leah’s Review of “Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch

Originally posted on Leah’s Books.

Dark Matter

  • Author: Blake Crouch
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Publication Date: July 26, 2016
  • Publisher: Crown

CONTENT WARNING: violence, blood, murder, gore, death

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Plot Summary

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this life or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves?

The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could have imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange, and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Overall Impression

You know that trend that was going around social media in December, where we put up a grid and 12 people each suggest a book for us to read in 2022? Well, this was the first one of those 12 that I read, and it blew my mind. I was kind of expecting something along the lines of the Netflix show, which I had watched, and this definitely ran along those lines, although instead of being a short snippet, it was a full-length story. 

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you made even one decision differently in your life? Because this book takes that to an extreme — every single choice we make in our life leads to a different branch of reality somewhere in the multiverse. And while it’s fascinating to think of all the other Leahs running around out there living lives that are altered by a single decision, the idea of jumping into a different Leahs life is super creepy. But that’s exactly what this book explores.

“There’s a weightlessness that permeates everything because no damning choices have been made, no paths committed to, and the road forking out ahead is pure, unlimited potential.”

Jason Dessen is happy in his life, even if he knows that he passed up on his full potential to have what he currently has. But then suddenly, he’s snatched up and out of his life, and thrust into a completely different version of his life — one in which he has absolutely no knowledge of his own place in that world. Nothing is the same. All the things that make him happy are missing in this life, and he’s got the things that he missed out on. But it doesn’t make him happy, and all he wants is to get back to his old life. Of course, there’s a problem. People in his new life are expecting him to give answers that he doesn’t have.

“The dynamics of my situation haven’t materially changed. My safety still depends on my usefulness. As long as they want something from me, I have leverage. The moment I tell them everything I know, all my power goes away.”

Can you imagine how lonely this must be? Trying to even explain this situation? I can’t imagine that it would be anywhere close to believable, and rather than focus on the hopelessness, Jason uses his brilliant, scientifically-trained mind to view this as a problem that needs to be solved:

“I feel insanity stalking me again, threatening to curl me up fetal and shatter me into a million pieces. But I shut it down, returning to my new mantra. I am not allowed to think I’m crazy. I am only allowed to solve this problem.”

Instead, Jason is forced to confront his fears, his hopes, his dreams, and basically his entire life. He finds an unexpected ally, and takes the scariest journey of his life. The places that it takes him were absolutely terrifying to even think about, and there was definitely a sense of claustrophobia and pressure throughout the book. Even with the scientific talk, it was still fairly easy to understand, which is helpful because I have nothing more than a basic understanding of physics. It was suspenseful and fast-paced, and I’m really glad that the person who recommended it did so, even if I forgot who specifically mentioned it to me.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 9

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