Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Crown (July 26, 2016)
352 pages; $17.32 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by David Simms
Jason Dessen, Daniela, Charlie—“Are you happy with your life?” It’s a question humans lie about all the time. Some truly are content, but how many torment themselves with enough “what ifs” until anxiety rears its ugly head? When a choice is finally presented in this intense, mind-bending novel, readers might just forget about those roads not taken.
Blake Crouch has written several fine thrillers in the past decade, but it wasn’t until the breakout success of the Wayward Pines trilogy last year that the world was alerted to this talented author (and original drummer of the kick-ass Killer Thriller band). M. Night Shyamalan’s television series gave the writer the spotlight he has long deserved. Yet, it’s always, “what’s next?” for the author, and can you top this?
Dark Matter answers both of the aforementioned questions in a resounding manner. To speak much of the plot would give away twists and turns that make a Crouch story so thrilling. However, a little won’t hurt—much.
College professor Jason Dessen lives happily with his wife Daniela and teenage son Charlie in Chicago where life is just fine. One night, he goes out to help his buddy celebrate winning an esteemed science award and is reminded that it could have been him who changes the world; later, he is surrounded by attractive grad students holding no strings. On the way home, a man in a geisha mask abducts him, seemingly knowing many details of Jason’s life. After he asks Jason the opening question—“Are you happy with your life?”—the world is spun into chaos. Jason wakes up in a world where he never abandoned the quantum physics designs he toiled over prior to having a family, where his wife never gave up her dream of becoming an artist, and life is no longer simple.
And the Jason in this world has just switched places with the other.
If this reads as simple, it’s anything but. Jason learns that the road back home has many paths, each of them contingent on a decision made or not made, environmental or societal change, or worse. To say more would spoil the story but just as readers believe the end is in sight, Crouch diverts down a side road previously unseen.
This is the best kind of thriller—fast paced, high concept, unique twists on plot, and characters readers actually care about. Already optioned for film, Dark Matter is poised to continue this author’s rise to the top.
Highly recommended for any thriller fan.