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Dark Matter: A Novel Hardcover – July 26, 2016
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“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 world 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’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
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.
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From Publishers Weekly
- Publisher : Ballantine Books; 1st Edition (July 26, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1101904224
- ISBN-13 : 978-1101904220
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.35 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #29,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #171 in Technothrillers (Books)
- #780 in Science Fiction Adventures
- #957 in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Action Fiction (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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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.
I don't normally leave bad reviews. But there's a lot of good reviews here and frankly, I can't understand why, other than poor, and I mean, like, really poor judgment on the reader's part. That's unfortunate - because there is truly great writing out there. We don't have to settle for this drivel. Shame on the publisher, who not only brings this to market, but pushes it, while the sheep all follow along.
"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.
Top reviews from other countries
It’s hard to explain what the storyline is without giving away any spoilers but we follow Jason, a fairly normal guy with a wife and 14-year-old son as he goes from having a quiet family night at home to being abducted at gunpoint, stripped naked and taken to an abandoned warehouse. From there, Jason embarks on a strange journey to try and find his way back home and to his loved ones.
Although the actual storyline is pretty complex and various scientific theories are explored, they are presented in a comprehensive manner that makes them accessible to all readers. We learn about alternative universes, alternatives realities, a better or worse or completely different version of yourself and it calls into question all the choices that make you ‘you’.
It did take me until nearly half-way through this book to really get into it but once I was in, I was hooked. Dark Matter really starts the action early on and the pace never really slows. Jason is the main character but we meet various other characters along his journey. As others have mentioned, the writing is stilted and can be difficult to get into a flow but I found myself getting used to it fairly quickly.
I enjoyed this book, although it felt very familiar to me at times...I am not sure if it is similar to something else I have read maybe. I would recommend this if you are a sci-fi fan and it’s an exciting and quick read.
I really wanted to like this book and, to be fair, some of the time I did but at its core is the idea of infinite universes where anything that could happen, anything that had even the slightest probability of happening, has happened. In the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment both outcomes are true; the universe forks into two universes, in one the cat lives in the other it dies. Now this kind of multiverse theory has always struck me as utterly improbable because if it can happen at major decision points then it will happen at every possible junction; will this atom combine chemically with that one? Possibly yes possibly no. And two more universes are created. If this happens at all then it must happen trillions of times every nanosecond in every universe. There must be a virtually infinite number of universes out there that have been branching ever since the big bang. Now for the sake of the story I might have been able to suspend my level of disbelief sufficiently to ignore this inconvenient infinite creation of matter from nothing had it not been for one ham-fisted attempt at an explanation offered in the book that maybe this could account for the missing matter in our universe – dark matter – except that we’re only missing around 80% of the necessary matter and an infinite number of universes is going to provide rather more than that.
So right from the beginning I was struggling with the basic foundation of the story. But again I could have lived with this but the story just didn’t grip me and this is the one bit of surprise inspired by Dark Matter. All the reviews I have read are filled with words like mind-bending, exciting, gripping, compelling, suspenseful etc. etc. and yet I found the whole thing utterly predictable; every – and I mean every single one – every reveal and twist and turn was, to me, so obviously inevitable that I was never once surprised and I’m generally not that good at spotting plot twists before they happen. [spoiler] One of the biggest intended (I’m sure) OMG moments comes towards the end when multiple Jasons all suddenly appear at the same time, the only surprise to me was that there weren’t more; there should have been millions or even billions of them, how many universe branches must have occurred in the couple of months that the book spans?[/spoiler].
Dark Matter does explore some interesting ideas about identity and relationships but it was so lacking in anything that felt like novelty to me that I was largely bored by the book. Rather surprising in that almost everyone else praises it for being the exact opposite, so maybe it’s just me.