Synopsis via Goodreads:
“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
Okay, wow. I could not put this book down. I mean, edge of seat, biting the nails, all in.
So… enough gushing. Let’s talk about why this is such a great read.
In Dark Matter, the author (a) creates a scenario that feels actually possible, even though it’s pure science fiction; (b) trusts that his readers are intelligent enough to follow the plot down the physics rabbit holes; and (c) creates characters who we can truly care about.
Poor Jason. Of all the ways a life can go wrong, I’m sure he never expected this one! One day he’s teaching college physics, married to a lovely woman, father of a pretty awesome teen boy. Next thing he knows, he’s kidnapped, drugged, and waking up in a strange lab to applause and cheers, surrounded by people who seem to be his super-impressed colleagues.
It all comes down to quantum physics. Of course. Years earlier, Jason and Daniela each compromised on their dreams — Jason to make the kind of physics breakthrough that changes the world, Daniela to achieve renown as an artist — in order to focus on family and marriage. But what if there’s a world where Jason made different choices? In the multiverse concept (as explained by me, a non-physicist, so be kind and forgive anything I get wrong), each decision a person makes spins off an entirely new universe from that decision point (okay, yeah, that’s totally simplistic, but best I can do in a quick digest)… and Jason, being a world-class physicist, can appreciate the dilemma of worlds colliding and splitting more than most.
I really don’t want to say too much about the plot of Dark Matter. It’s complicated and fast-moving, will occasionally make your head spin, and moves along its path in all sorts of WTF-ish ways.
I loved the complexity of Jason’s situation and the seeming hopelessness of his quest. The climax of the book includes scenes that are absolutely out there, but also kind of perfect. There are shades of grey and some practically impossible decisions that must be made. And oddly, beyond being a very cool and fascinating science fiction novel, I think it’s fair to say that Dark Matter is also a love story. It’s Jason’s love for Daniela and his son Charlie that propel him through his despair and force him to keep trying when all hope seems lost.
Title: Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Publication date: July 26, 2016
Length: 342 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley (and then bought myself a copy!)