I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up Dark Matter, but it certainly wasn’t this. By reading the blurb I was intrigued. I knew there would be mystery and thriller elements tied into my science fiction, and I was excited about that. But for me, Dark Matter has an extremely strong start which eventually tapered off and annoyed me. That said, this is a hugely contrary opinion to most of the bookish world at this point. Come at me.
Jason Dessen was living an imperfect but contented life. He gave up his potential as a physicist when he knocked up his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Daniella. Daniella also sacrificed much of her art at this time. But they are happy, in love, and have a wonderful 14-year-old son. They both could have been more. They both are sometimes envious of their friends. But that doesn’t make life poor in any sense of the word.
We’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.
Suddenly, Jason finds his life stolen from him. A man kidnaps him at gun point, steals his wallet, his clothing, his phone, and drugs him. The next thing he knows, Jason is waking up and a man he doesn’t know says, “Welcome home.”
Thus begins an incredible written rollercoaster. The sort where almost anything I say will be a spoiler, so don’t worry– all spoilers are hidden, but it’s the majority of what follows. O_o
…suspicion leads to bias, and bias doesn’t lead to truth.
Dark Matter is a complex novel. It grips the reader almost immediately by turning a safe and loving situation into something horrible. As Jason continues on his journey home there are deep philosophical questions being asked of him, and as a result, I found myself considering the same things. Who am I? Who was I? What can I become? What matters most in my life? How important are career and family? How should they be balanced? And most critically: What do I want? What do I need? And what should I have?
If you strip away all the trappings of personality and lifestyle, what are the core components that make me me?
I enjoyed how Crouch pushed me as a reader to consider my own life in a different way while still focusing on Jason and his plight. I appreciate the science:
quantum physics, string theory, even game theory and the mathematics of identity. While they were explained, they weren’t overdone. For many readers, I imagine this might be a flaw. I find that the semantics of how things are supposed to work to be dull, so I appreciated the lack of depth presented.
While I was hooked immediately and love what happened overall with this book, I really struggled with many aspects. First,
As long as I’m with you, I know exactly who I am.
I can’t help thinking that we’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.
The only spoiler-free concern I can address is this: I was incredibly frustrated by how Crouch explores the capability for humanity to become the best version of themselves. This story reinforces that there are choices which will lead us to variations of happiness, but we all have to make the choice between professional success and our love/family lives. In particular, Crouch emphasizes that love and family are superior to career in order to get us to cheer Jason on. This is incredibly unsatisfying to me. Crouch builds this story on the idea that you cannot have both or happiness is unattainable. We, as human beings, can only do what is best for us in the moment and we shouldn’t have to reconsider our life choices and wonder “Did I make the right choice?” We should be happy with what we have.
And, honestly, I don’t think that comes across very well in this book.
Overall, I’m glad I read this– particularly as I will be discussing it in book club with my friends. There is plenty to discuss, that’s for sure! I will be recommending this to any of my friends who like science fiction or thrillers, too. There is much to be gleaned. But, honestly, it just wasn’t for me.
What Do You Think?
- Have you read this book? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment?
- Are you interested in reading Dark Matter? Why or why not?
- What do you think of standalone science fiction?