Random House LLC
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Dark Matter: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 342 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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I really wanted to like the book and I'm interested in where this author goes from here - I just didn't feel as though he had given himself enough scope to properly play out the problem and all the permutations of the primary issue. Final opinion: coulda been great, feels like the author settled for okay.
"Are you happy with your life?" There's your tag line, the pitch to the reader. Can any of us truly say we've lived life without any regrets? If you can then perhaps this book is not for you, but if you're like any normal person who spends day to day dealing with the consequences of life's little choices then Dark Matter's concept should speak to you. Opening with a seemingly random kidnapping Dark Matter quickly spirals down a path that bends the line between choice and consequence just as easily as reality.
Where this book truly shines is Crouch's masterful manipulation of science. Forced into a reality unlike anything he has experienced we follow Jason Dessen's impossible journey through worlds and self discovery. Literally. But you don't need to be a physics major to understand the balance here. There are concepts discussed that are probably foreign to those with even the most illustrious bachelors degrees and yet they are discussed and molded in such a way that even while fully present they fail to distract or discombobulate. They instead exist as a physical representation of minds most illusive concept: choice.
Dark Matter is such a hard book to critique, not because there are problems with it and not because it is perfect without flaw, more because it's so tightly wound together that discussing a single portion is enough to spoil it. This is a book where critiquing the characters or the setting or even the ending will get you no where because it's not about any of that. It's about the journey. It's about the path not taken, it's about self. Self understanding, self loathing, self regret, selfishness, and finally self acceptance.
But just as I spend this time talking about the cerebral portion of the book I will do it an injustice if I fail to mention the physicality of it. It's a subtlety cerebral book. More overt is the fast paced dash Jason makes as he tries to make it back to everything he's lost. It's nonstop movement with twists and turns that while unpredictable are wholly right. A reader can choose to focus on this portion just as easily as they can relate to the thought behind it. It's the reader's mindset that determines which point is more important. A person who is not interested in science fiction can easily find a foothold in the realism expressed, while a nerd can choose to follow the physical manifestation of the Schrodinger cat paradox through to its conclusion. Are you more interested in Jason's physical or cerebral journey? Are you here for both? It's hard to say.
How do you critique life? You don't. You make choices and you make the best of them. Reading Dark Matter is a choice. For me it was good one, wholly unexpected but rather refreshing and filling. Reading it is a choice I hope a lot of people will make in the future, but what you get out of it is entirely up to you, based on your life and your choices.
It is well written. It tells a complete story. It contains hard SF that is presented in a reasonably sound manner. The author is clearly an accomplished and skilled writer. And this story screams false. I apologize, the rest of this review may sound arrogant, but there is no other viewpoint from which to express my misgivings except as a reader who has already thought about quantum alternative universes and can relate to someone who might be smart enough to come up with the physics to reach them.
Unfortunately, the protagonist is a physicist, who in one version of his life creates a device to transport people into alternative realities. In another, he choses family over career and ends up a middling physics professor. This other life lived is upended one night when he is kidnapped and sent through the device his other version of himself invented. Unfortunately, the family man version of himself never thinks. He doesn't react with any intelligent thought when he is kidnapped. He never starts thinking. The protagonist should perhaps have been an investor instead of a brilliant physicist. That might have read as truer to life.
Most readers and most movie goers are not exceptionally smart, so perhaps this excruciating flaw may not detract from the novel for them. It may not detract from the novel for you. But hard SF is written first and foremost for smart people to evaluate how new advances might play out. If you are one of those people, you may find yourself thinking with irritation early on that the protagonist isn't behaving intelligently. It never gets any better. He never thinks like a physicist.
However, the story is sound. The writing is good. The story is thought provoking. Perhaps you will find the story engaging. There is a lot to like. But there is this streak of wrongness that you might find revolting. Try a sample. If you aren't put off by what you can read up front, perhaps you won't have any problem with any of it. If you do, beware, it won't get any better.
I chose to give the book three stars because it is word-crafted with skill. I might have given it an even lower rating because of the false behavior of the protagonist. However, not everyone will read this story and get the same vibe. And if the physicist's behavior doesn't strike you as false, you may really enjoy this story.