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Dark Matter: A Novel Paperback – May 2, 2017
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From the Publisher
A Conversation with Blake Crouch author of DARK MATTER
Q. In your own words, can you introduce readers to the premise of Dark Matter?
A. A brilliant physicist named Jason Dessen is living in Chicago with his wife, Daniela, and son, Charlie. He is a true genius, and while there was a point in his late twenties when his research could have made him a star in his field, he instead chose a family-focused life. One night, while walking home, he’s abducted by a mysterious masked man and injected with a drug. When he next awakes, his world has completely changed. He’s no longer married, doesn’t have a son, and has achieved professional success beyond his wildest dreams. This sets him on a thrilling, mysterious, and at times terrifying journey to learn what has happened to him, and to find his way home to the people and the life he loves.
Q. Where did the idea for the novel originate?
A. For the last decade, I’ve wanted to write a story that hinges on quantum mechanics. I tried several times to write a version of Dark Matter - getting into Spoiler Territory Here. Three different story lines had been teasing me, and I’d tried and failed to write them all separately. One story line involved the box. Another involved the idea of meeting yourself. And the last was about a man being hopelessly lost in time. The novelist Marcus Sakey is one of my good friends, and we always meet up at the inception stage of a new book to pressure-check each other on our ideas. While we were in Chicago two years ago, I was pitching each of these ideas to him separately when it occurred to me they were actually all part of the same story. They suddenly clicked together, like puzzle pieces, and I was off and running. I find the writing process endlessly mysterious and wonderful.
Q. Millions of readers will recognize you as the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy and for your suspense novels and short stories. Dark Matter is a new direction for you. Can you tell us a bit about what sparked the change?
A. In a way, Dark Matter is very much like the Wayward Pines trilogy in that it’s a thriller with a backbone of speculative science. But with this book, I wanted to push myself to do something bigger and better than I’d ever written before. The story opens up much faster than Wayward Pines and is larger in scope — about as large as it’s possible to get, really, given that it takes place (Spoilers Ahead!) in the multiverse. And the quantum-mechanics underpinning for the premise was a huge challenge to tackle. Trying to understand that science, even on a basic level — let alone incorporate it into a story without dragging the narrative down into incomprehensibility — seemed so daunting. But I knew that if I pulled it off, it would let me play with some really big ideas about our day-to-day existence and the choices we make that haunt us. It allowed me to build a really cool, far-out thriller plot around themes that felt very grounded and meaningful to me.
Q. Dark Matter is grounded in very real scientific theory and principles — quantum mechanics, superposition, etc. How did you go about weaving the science so seamlessly into the narrative and making it understandable to a lay audience?
A. I hope it’s seamless, thank you! I am definitely not a physicist. In fact, I took as few science and math courses as I possibly could on my way to my English degree at the University of North Carolina. If the science is understandable to a lay audience, it’s because I’m a lay audience. To prepare, I read a ton of books on the subject and pulled out the elements of quantum mechanics that intrigued me — and that I could actually comprehend. One of the most fascinating things I stumbled across was a Ted Talk by Aaron O’Connell entitled “Making Sense of a Visible Quantum Object.” Unlike most material on quantum mechanics, which focuses on subatomic matter and can feel very abstract, O’Connell’s talk is about how quantum mechanics might actually be at work at the macro level. At our level. And what that might imply about the world around us. His presentation (which is short and easily findable on YouTube) is worth viewing.
When the book was done, I hired a brilliant professor from USC named Clifford Johnson to read the manuscript and make sure I hadn’t gone too far off the rails. This is speculative fiction, and there’s still a certain leap the reader has to be willing to make, but I wanted to present the concepts behind the story with as much accuracy as I could.
Q. Do you yourself believe there could be other Blakes out there living in alternate realities?
A. According to the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, every choice we make and every event that affects us really does cause reality to branch into alternate timelines. So, as crazy as the concept sounds — sure, it’s absolutely possible. The idea of different versions of myself living different lives, with different careers, spouses, children, etc., was actually my main inspiration for writing this book.
Q. If you had the chance to enter “the box” and explore parallel universes, would you?
A. Never! I can’t imagine a more dangerous place to be. The chances of finding another world like ours are unimaginably slim. The odds of stepping into a world of ruin and fear and destruction are massive.
Q. While Dark Matter certainly has elements of science fiction and is a vivid suspense thriller, themes of love and family also seem to be at the heart of the story. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?
A. Absolutely. Dark Matter is a thriller, of course, but it’s also the first love story I’ve ever written, and I worked hard to strike a balance among thrills, science fiction, and genuine emotion. To me, it’s the love and family elements that make up the beating heart of Dark Matter.
Q. Daniela’s character is also essential to not only the plot of the novel but to the tone and emotional feel. What was the inspiration behind her character?
A. With Daniela, I wanted to explore the flip side of Jason’s experience. What would it be like to meet another version of your spouse? What if they were married to someone else or worked a different job or you two had never met? Would there still be a flicker of electricity? Would there be some recognition? Would the intensity of your relationship in your world bleed over, on some small level, into others?
Q. Do you see any of yourself in your characters?
A. Very much so. It never really occurs to me until I’ve finished a book, but all of my novels are ultimately therapy and reflective of what I’m dealing with personally during the writing. The last few years have been insanely busy for me on the professional front, and I often feel the tension between me the writer and me the father and husband. The pull of both worlds. It’s not as simple as either/or, but every day we make choices about the person we want to be, the life we want to have. So Jason’s story hits close to home, because I feel like I’ve been wrestling lately with the same push and pull between family and career, and trying to find that balance.
Q. Speaking of being busy, in addition to being a novelist, you’re currently adapting the screenplay of Dark Matter for Sony, producing for the Wayward Pines TV series on FOX, and writing/producing Good Behavior, a new TV series (based on another of your novels), for TNT. How are you able to move so fluently across mediums? And how do you find the time?
A. I view myself primarily as a novelist, but I love the process of taking a book and turning it into film and television. The mediums are quite different, but it’s all about story structure at the end of the day. The film/TV business lights up the extroverted part of my personality, while the novel writing very much speaks to my introverted self.
Time is becoming an issue, because I never imagined I would be lucky enough to have two TV shows going into production simultaneously and this script adaptation of Dark Matter to contend with. As much as I’m enjoying it, I also find myself getting more and more excited about that moment when I get to go back to the basics of being a novelist and figure out my next book. The brainstorming process of a new novel is my favorite part of writing. All potential and possibility.
Q. You’re originally from North Carolina and spend a great deal of time in New York and Los Angeles for your film and TV work, but you live in Durango, Colorado. What drew you there?
A. I moved to Durango out of college, sight unseen, because I love everything about the West. The wide-open space. The history. The mentality. Rain curtains over the desert. How much deeper and more rattling thunder sounds as opposed to everywhere else. Sage brush. Mountains. Desert. Snow. But most important, a serene, contemplative place to write.
“You’ll gulp Dark Matter down in one afternoon, or more likely one night… Alternate-universe science fiction [and] a countdown thriller in which the hero must accomplish an impossible task to save his family. There’s always another door to open, and another page to turn.”
—New York Times Book Review
"A mind-blowing sci-fi/suspense/love-story mash-up."
“A fast, tasty read with a killer twist. It’s a whole bag of barbecue chips…just sitting there waiting for you to devour in one long rush.”
“A hard tale to shake…makes its characters — and readers — wonder what life would have been like had they made different decisions. Relatable and unnerving.”
"Propulsive...Dark Matter has plenty of heady concepts and phantasmagorical plotting. But it is also beguilingly rooted in [its hero's] desperate travails, elevating this page-turning adventure into an entirely different dimension."
“A blockbuster read that channels Michael Crichton… I can’t remember when I last sat down and blew through a book in literally a single sitting.”
“A dazzling book for summer [with] a mind-bending premise, a head-spinning plot that’s dialogue-driven and adrenaline-fueled, and a gut-wrenching climax that gave me goose bumps.”
“Draws on questions and anxieties we all wrestle with in the dark hours...Crouch has invested [sci-fi motifs] with scientific plausibility, and more unusually, with emotional depth."
—Wall Street Journal
“Crouch takes a sharp sci-fi premise and infuses it with love…A gripping page-turner [that is] concerned above all with the heart, and what we do to it—or let happen to it—over time. Dark Matter is It’s A Wonderful Life for the 21st century”
“[A] mind-blowing speculative-science thriller that throws in an old-fashioned love story for good measure.”
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Enormously compelling...the fastest, strangest thriller you'll read this year."
"Might be the most helter-skelter, race-to-the-finish-line thriller you’ll read all year, with a clever, mind-boggling final twist."
"A pacy, action-driven SF thriller...terse prose, strong characterisation and clever twists make for a quick, smart, engrossing read."
"A high-tension thriller...always engaging and frequently moving. A strong piece of summertime get-away reading, perfect for those times when the mind wanders to contemplate an alternate reality of endless vacation."
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Exciting, suspenseful and frightening, yet also poignant and heartwarming, DARK MATTER is one of the best books of any year…or any reality.”
“A mind-bending odyssey of parallel worlds and causality [that] unfolds with all the suspense and strength of a more straightforward thriller, building up to a deliciously surreal climax…memorable and well-rounded characters add a big, beating heart to the tale.”
—New York Journal of Books
"Brilliant. A book to remember. I think Blake Crouch just invented something new.”
—Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher series
“Exceptional. An exciting, ingeniously plotted adventure about love, regret, and quantum superposition. It’s been a long time since a novel sucked me in and kept me turning pages the way this one did.”
—Andy Weir, New York Times bestselling author of The Martian
"A masterful, truly original work of suspense. Crouch delivers laser-focused prose, a plot that melds science fiction and thriller to brilliant effect, and a touching, twisted love story that plays out in ways you'll never see coming. It all adds up to one hell of a ride."
—Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author of The Stranger
"Wow. I gulped down Dark Matter in one sitting and put it down awed and amazed by the ride. It's fast, smart, addictive-- and the most creative, head-spinning novel I've read in ages. A truly remarkable thriller."
—Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of the Rizzoli & Isles series
“A mind-bending thriller of the first order, not merely a rollicking entertainment but a provocative investigation into the nature of second chances, all of it wrapped in a genius sci-fi package. I dare you to put it down, because I sure couldn’t.”
—Justin Cronin, New York Times bestselling author of the Passage Trilogy.
“The kind of book the word "thriller" was coined for -- a shooting star through multiple genres, posing fundamental questions about identity and reality before revealing itself as, at its core, a love story. Smart, fast, powerful, and ultimately touching."
—Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Guilty Minds and Suspicion
"An addictive read! When the quantum mechanics kick in (no kidding!), hold onto your horses -- you're in for an intelligent, breath-taking ride."
—John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author of The Fall and The Oath
“Blake Crouch yet again proves himself to be a master. Nonstop pacing, fascinating characters and an ingenious concept all come together flawlessly in a crescendo of pursuit, danger, and romance all the way to a surprising and satisfying slam-bang conclusion.”
—Barry Eisler, New York Times bestselling author of the John Rain series
“Excellent characterization and well-crafted tension…the rousing and heartfelt ending will leave readers cheering.”
“Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant.”
“Crouch keeps the pace swift and the twists exciting. Readers who liked his Wayward Pines trilogy will probably devour this speculative thriller in one sitting [as will] those who enjoy roller-coaster reads in the vein of Harlan Coben.”
About the Author
Blake Crouch is best known for the Wayward Pines trilogy, which has sold more than a million copies and was adapted into a prime-time event series on FOX. He lives in Colorado.
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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.
But the quantum mechanics angles (and research) are wonderful and pretty well explained to the layman, as well as the writing being, of course, very competent and professional. The man is, after all, a star already.
One reviewer mentioned that it reads like it was made for the movies (where it went) and I tend to think this is true. If it had lent itself a bit more to literary fiction than movie fare it would have been a powerful book.
One thing I will say is that you figure out the basic premise of the book pretty early on. I wasn't blown away by the concept, but in execution and particulars it was fairly original. However, about 78% of the way into the book (exactly, according to my kindle reader app) my mind was completely and utterly blown. To those that read the book, it was the first online chat room episode. I never saw it coming, and where he went with this concept through the end of the book just knocked me back on my heels. It made me think, and feel, how I would react in his shoes and have some of the same thoughts he did (what is reality and individuality anyway?). This book left me somewhat shaken and most definitely emotionally moved. I guess you can't ask for more of a benefit from a book you read for pure enjoyment, so mission was accomplished.
While I initially thought I overpaid for the book, especially since it didn't seem that long, the last 22% of the book made it worth every penny to me. Bravo Mr. Crouch, this was a stellar achievement.
"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 feels like a book written to become a movie. The beginning left you wondering, hoping for something original and exciting but by the end you're left with the same package you've received a million times but with a different wrapping.
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