Review: Blake Crouch – Dark Matter (2016)

8/10

I had a great time with this novel! It is short, fast, and very cinematic, like an edge-of-your-seat thriller. As the story starts, we don’t know much yet about the main character, Jason, but when he’s unexpectedly kidnapped and pushed into a frantic story of running and figuring things out, I was gripped right away. Will he find his way back to his family? What is going on?

It is actually not that complicated to figure out what is going on, especially if you’re used to thrillers with science fictional elements. I basically guessed a lot of it after the first chapter and then had to wait for Jason to catch up. The following is already explained in the marketing blurbs: Jason leads a humble life with a family, while he could have been a high profile scientist. His kidnapper, before injecting him with something, asks if he’s happy in his life. Then Jason wakes up in an alternate reality where he is in fact a celebrated genius who just returned from some experimental dimension hopping. 

It’s not all running and screaming; not just about Jason but also about his family. Jason’s choices impact their lives and we see different ways of what could have been. This of course leads to familiar themes like success versus family and the grass is greener on the other side and so on. It’s not deep or original, but it is well done. Interesting moral questions come up once you see the lives of loved ones change depending on your choices.

The thing is, it’s easy to criticise the book for its writing, but it is very effective if you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller. Crouch’s writing style is very simple and plain, like it was written with a screenplay in mind. Short sentences, one line paragraphs, simple characters, bite-sized information, cliffhangers spaced throughout. It’s like Crouch got the advice not to use paragraphs, because that is too complicated for people. Also, don’t expect the science to be worked out. For example, I have no idea why it is called “dark matter”, because it has nothing to do with that. I guess it just sounds cool.

The story cranks up a notch at the halfway point, keeping my interest all the way through. Although, Jason isn’t the smartest. I realise the whole situation messes him up emotionally, but I was often annoyed by his actions. I think that is because Crouch simplified his writing so much that every thematic lesson is made obvious and every emotional journey is spelled out for you.

Despite my grumbling, I really admire how Crouch kept the story fresh and exciting all the way through. It really is quite a ride.

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10 Responses to Review: Blake Crouch – Dark Matter (2016)

  1. Ola G says:

    Glad you enjoyed it!
    I was more annoyed by this book than entertained, but that’s probably me and my nitpicking. I felt that psychological side of many Jasons was just very much ham-fistedly dumbed down for the sake of drama, and that the “science” was, as you said, totally unexplained. I agree that this seems to have been written with a movie in mind – not to bright but shiny (“dark matter,” “time travel,” etc.) and fast-paced so that you may not notice the holes. That said, it was indeed quite a page-turner, even if somewhat tropey 😉

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yeah. I suppose Jason was in shock all the way through his journey. That could explain much of his behaviour that I found annoying at times. He loves Daniela, I get it already! His partner Amanda was much more levelheaded. After they visited some life-threatening dimensions, she got the right idea of just setting out for a world that was at least safe.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ola G says:

        I feel like for all its supposed smartness this book just conforms one of the arch-tropes of US audience: that of a Family Man, who’ll do everything for his wife and/or kids.
        For a genius, Jason is sure acting quite dumb for the most part 😉 Amanda was indeed much cleverer and down-to-earth reasonable. And that remote house/gun scene at the end seemed quite like something from a different movie altogether ;).

        Liked by 2 people

  2. bormgans says:

    Yes, liked it a lot too. His next book tough was a serious letdown: he tried to copy the success of this, but forgot inner consistency.

    Liked by 1 person

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