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Dark Matter Paperback – September 1, 2011
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A genuinely suspenseful and really quite chilling tale * TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT * Dark Matter builds suspense brilliantly ... As well as a ghost story, it's a great portrayal of Svalbard and the experience of spending a winter in the Arctic. * ADVENTURE TRAVEL * Ghost stories don't frighten me much but this one did. Quite a lot, actually ... Chilling in every respect. -- Richard Madeley A genuinely terrifying tale ... I cannot recommend this novel enough, especially in these dark nights, you will certainly get more than you bargained for. I did. * SAVIDGE READS Book Blog * More than just a ghost story, this is an exquisitely told psychological thriller. Unputdownable! * WOMANS WEEKLY * A chilling period piece, Dark Matter cunningly illustrates how fear, rather than death, is the great equaliser. * INDEPENDENT * An atmospheric ghost story that would give Susan Hill a run for her money * INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY * Paver's descriptions of the topography are marvellously vivid and add to the sense of menace that suffuses the story -- Joan Smith * SUNDAY TIMES * This gripping ghost story has moments of horror and beauty * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH * Evocative, chilling and superbly unsettling, it is very good indeed. -- Sarah Broadhurst * BOOKSELLER *
About the Author
Born in Malawi to a Belgian mother and a father who ran the tiny 'NYASALAND TIMES', Michelle Paver moved to the UK when she was three. She was brought up in Wimbledon and, following a Biochemistry Degree from Oxford, she became a partner in a big City law firm. She gave up the City to follow her long-held dream of becoming a writer. She is the author of the brilliantly successful children's series, THE CHRONICLES OF ANCIENT DARKNESS. DARK MATTER is her first adult ghost story. It arises from her lifelong love of the Arctic, which has taken her to northern Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia and Spitsbergen.
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When I began reading it, I got the mistaken idea that it was going to somehow resemble Frankenstein (Shelley), because it began with a letter and is composed as a series of journal entries, which start with the main character beginning a journey to the far north. However, any resemblance to Frankenstein (a novel I hated), quickly faded as the story picked up. It's well-written, but in a very simple style. Perfect for what it's supposed to be.
I enjoyed this novel, and found that I could not read it right before bed. However, it doesn't compare to Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, which is incredible. It's young adult, but so well-constructed that any adult fan of good literature will enjoy them as well. I highly recommend the audiobooks, read by Ian McKellen.
I won't go into a summary of what the story is all about, as many reviewers have done that and I can't top their efforts. However, what I will say is that I don't agree with the impression of the main protagonist being seen as a whiny academic, lamenting the loss of a wonderful future in physics and the like. To me, I could relate to his sense of disappointment and failure. If you had the chance to start over, to get that chance again, you'd be rushing to the Arctic in a heartbeat, just for your dream, but it's a shame, such a shame, how things turn out in the end, because I didn't want the protagonist to suffer.
Overall, the writing was great. Sometimes it rhymed, which I really don't think should happen in a story so eerie and bleak, but the style is consistent, intimate, and strange, revealing quite a bit about the way such places affect you, if you're out there all alone. If you purchase the Kindle edition like I did, you'll get an Afterword and interview section at the end of the book. It helps you discover how the writer could record the Arctic landscape with both clarity and realism - she went to Spitsbergen herself, sailed in the Arctic summer, hiked in the dark with and without a headlamp, and spent some time with the huskies, just like Jack, Gus, and Algie. Everything she wrote about was taken from her experience, as well as from reading accounts of other people's expeditions. I think this is why I could believe what she wrote.
I like the setting too, just after the Great War, just before the dawn of World War II. It isn't modern, so you have to imagine what it's like to live in a time without mobiles and internet, and what a cabin in the Arctic must be from the character's descriptions. I had trouble understanding what a Stevenson screen looked like and had to Google an image, but everything else was very clear, especially those moments where the haunting starts to feel real and not just a concept you can swiftly dismiss.
I didn't know this, until now, how terrible it is to know what happens afterwards. I felt, once the protagonist escaped from the haunting at last, that I shouldn't have known how his life went from there. I just didn't want to know, not after all that, and I say this not because I was bored and thought that the story had reached a decent climax - no, I thought this because it left this weight in my heart, left me with this absence of a beautiful thing which had just been introduced then snatched abruptly away.
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Highly recommended for anyone who loves a good ghost story.