Saturday, April 1, 2017

Dark Matter - Blake Crouch

Dark MatterI'm not a huge sci-fi person, but Blake Crouch's Dark Matter caused quite a stir last year, being nominated for a Goodreads Choice award, selected as a book for Book of the Month (where I obtained it) and also being the April selection for The Deliberate Reader's virtual book club!  It's a book that's pretty impossible to talk about without spoilers, so beware.

The general story follows Jason, a physics professor in Chicago who's kidnapped one night on his way home and wakes up to find himself in a life where people know him, but isn't the life he's led, in a world that's his own, but not.  This is the premise the entire book revolves around: the alternate worlds theory, in which every choice a person makes splits off another, new reality parallel to our own but unreachable in which that person made a different choice at the same point.  The realities are, of course, infinite, because they continue branching off of each other to no end.  Jason's familiar with the theory, having worked on it before he quit research to have a family, and wants to return home to his own reality via the device that an alternate version of himself created, because he wants to get back to that family, particularly his wife Daniela.  On the way, he wanders though various other realities, inhabited by other Danielas, and ultimately inadvertently creates other versions of himself by his choices...all of whom also want to get back to "his" Daniela.

This is a really intriguing premise and overall the book was good, but I didn't find it to be great.  The writing is a little stilted and shaky, mostly consisting of a lot of one-line paragraphs.  And while the proliferation of Jasons and worlds and the possibilities of how different a reality only a few steps away from own could be were fascinating, I felt like, in the end, there were just too many questions left unanswered.  Is our Jason the real Jason, or does he just think he is?  What's going to happen in the new world?  What happens to all the Jasons left behind?  Why aren't the other Danielas good enough for the other Jasons, even though at least one of them was good enough for our Jason?  Crouch doesn't go into any of this, and while I can accept that some of it is probably meant to be left vague as "food for thought" upon the conclusion of the book, I think that there was just too much left up in the air.  It felt like Crouch knew there was too much he couldn't wrap up, so he left it all vague to add to the "mystique" of the book and hoped no one would really notice.

But I did like some of the stuff here.  The idea of the world-hopping was great, as was how the box was ultimately "steered."  I wish more books dealt with alternate-worlds theory; it's so intriguing, and I think it really can be handled well, though it would be difficult to do so.  And I have to say, while I think some of the loose ends don't really have logical conclusions, they do make for great book club discussion material!

3 stars out of 5.

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