by Blake Crouch
Crown Publishing Group (340 pgs.)
In general, I’m not the world’s fastest reader. If my Goodreads activity is any indication, I usually read about fifty books a year, or a little less than one a week. That seems about right to me – I like to take a bit of time and inhabit a novel, getting to know the world and invested its characters a bit before I completely give myself over to the plot.
Some books, though, so thoroughly grab me from the beginning, though, that I pretty much tear through them in one sitting. Dark Matter is one of those books. In it, Blake Crouch, who is probably best known for the Wayward Pines series that Fox recently adapted for television, spins a thought-provoking tale that’s equal parts sci-fi and thriller. In broadest terms, it’s about a college quantum physics professor named Jason Dessen who gave up a promising career as a researcher when his girlfriend became pregnant with their son Charlie. One night, he’s abducted at gunpoint and drugged, and when he comes to he finds himself in a reality where he made the opposite choice and focused on his career instead.
On a deeper level, Dark Matter is a meditation on the choices we make on a day-to-day basis and the alternate lives we could be leading if we’d chosen a different path. It’s a surprisingly moving book, with a protagonist who is eminently relatable and incredibly sympathetic. It’s also very readable, despite the heavy and occasionally science-y subject matter. A lot of that has to with Crouch’s writing style, which tends towards shorter sentences and not a lot of description, meaning that the book reads very quickly. He’s also good at breaking down the few scientific theories—like dark matter and Schrödinger’s Cat—that are necessary to the plot so that they’re understandable to a general audience.
If I have any complaints with the book, it’s that everything ties up fairly neatly and more than a little sentimentally at the end, but that’s a minor complaint. Dark Matter is easily the best new book I read in 2016, and I’m definitely looking forward to the film adaptation that’s apparently already in the works.