Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Jason has a content life; he made some difficult decisions in the past, choosing to give up a large portion of his ambition and career to make way for a healthy family, but he is happy now. When Jason leaves his house one night, a man in a geisha mask abducts him, asks Jason if he’s happy with his life before knocking him out cold. When he wakes up, Jason finds himself in an unfamiliar room surrounded by people in hazmat suits- all strangers, yet they seem to know him. Soon enough, Jason realizes that he hasn’t woken up in a different area. He has woken up in an entirely different world, a world where he hadn’t abandoned his career. A world where his wife is not his wife anymore, where his son does not exist, and a certain group of people are adamant on extracting information from him that he doesn’t even know…
Whew, what a complete mindfuck of a book. Quantum topics, when carried out well, are such a treat. Because you think you have the essence of the story, or the mechanics of the world under your thumb but it’s constantly surprising you. How do you tackle the subject of infinity in a narrative? We know what infinity means- we have the symbol tattooed meaninglessly on our wrists, we’ve used it to answer math questions in school exams, and we’ve held on to edgy quotes talking about it from young adult novels. But the sheer concept, the sheer scope of infinity is so mindbogglingly overwhelming. I mean, reading this book, I thought multiple times that the choices are running out, our protagonist is getting closer to his goal. But then I would pause and realize that there is no such thing as “running out” or “getting closer” in this novel because infinity does not know those concepts. And that alone just completely blew my mind, and the way it was tackled- I mean, major props to Blake Crouch.
Dark Matter travels at an alarmingly fast pace; if someone tells you that there are even four or five pages in this novel that are dull or boring, they are either lying or do not know what those words mean. The complicated, complex, scientific nature of this novel is complemented so well by Crouch’s very easy-to-follow narrative that it never feels confusing. Although there’s some scientific jargon in there, it’s never overwhelming because it is explained so expertly. There is an action-packed, gripping plot that will have you making inhuman noises under your breath out of shock, elation and devastation. It has an extremely lovable protagonist who you will root for and trust wholeheartedly. And at its very core, it’s an incredibly moving love story- about one man’s love for his wife and his son that transcends everything, that allows him the willpower required to try and overcome every obstacle.
Because despite the heavy subject-matter and the seemingly impossible concepts it tackles, Dark Matter is surprisingly relatable. We all have those choices we made that we think back to and wonder, “what if?” The very foundation of this book lies on that feeling of doubt, that feeling of regret – what if I’d chosen a different university? What if I hadn’t moved across the world? What if that relationship hadn’t fallen through? So many choices we make, so many ways we could have gone- what happens if you found a way to eliminate this regret? What if you found a way to live through the infinite possibilities of every choice you’ve ever made? Would you do it?
“We’re all just wandering through the tundra of our existence, assigning value to worthlessness, when all that we love and hate, all we believe in and fight for and kill for and die for is as meaningless as images projected onto Plexiglass.”
Blake Crouch makes you realize the importance of the minuscule, seemingly insignificant details of your life and your world. He makes you realize that every moment, every second and every little detail – from that hairline crack in the headboard of your bed to that one thread unravelling from the tapestry hanging on your wall – makes your life yours. He puts you in very uncomfortable positions where you are forced to ask yourself questions that these characters are asking themselves; for example, if an identical version of your loved one is standing in front of you, but you know that it is not precisely your loved one – would you be able to live with them? Would you be able to make that sacrifice of knowing it’s not the same person and try to align it with the very fact that it is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same person? DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY THIS BOOK WAS A MINDFUCK?! I am still reeling from every question it asked of me, and every impossible question I asked myself while reading it.
I had not known what a wild book looks like until I read this one. I don’t mean to sound elitist, in any way- I think this is the second adult sci-fi book I’ve read in my entire life, but it’s worth a thought. We talk about plot twists and character deaths in narratives, call them “wild.” And sure, they are, but they pale so heavily in comparison to a book that deals with science and physics. Because it’s all rooted in logic, rather than fantasy. It’s all rooted in theorems, research, hypotheses and predictions which makes you realize that it’s all somehow possible. That’s what’s so unbelievably scary about infinity. It’s possible, and our minds aren’t programmed to wrap around the very fact of its possibility.