Something to pass the time at home
Blake Crouch is best known for his Wayward Pines trilogy, a heavily Twin Peaks-influenced entry into the "what is even real anymore" style of imaginative fiction. Dark Matter more or less follows suit, though in this case the conceit is science fictional. I won't tell you what the conceit is, as a great part of the enjoyment is finding out on your own. And honestly there isn't all that much more to recommend outside the page turner shtick, which admittedly is quite fun.
Dark Matter centers on Jason Desson, a once promising academic who has settled into a comfortable rut as small college lecturer, husband and father to one. One night he goes out to celebrate the accomplishments of a much-more-successful colleague, who was once a romantic rival for Desson's wife. Both, it seems, envy the other for what they were not able to have.
On the way home, Desson is kidnapped by a masked assailant with a gun. After a harrowing ordeal, Desson finds himself in an underground laboratory, strapped to a gurney and facing a mysterious scientist who welcomes him "back." But as he soon finds out, the life he led is gone.
Dark Matter is, in essence, a mystery box with shock twist. The race to that twist is fast paced and suitably exciting. And when it does come, it shines a new light on all the events up to that point. I guessed what it was, but that did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.
Unfortunately, the post-reveal half of the novel isn't as fun. It's fine, just not better than fine. As with most mystery boxes, you lose a good chunk of the fun once you know what's inside.
In terms of craft, I found Dark Matter to be a solid thriller with prose that won't win any awards but also doesn't get in the way. It's perfectly suited to a long plane ride or, perhaps, a few days out of an extended lockdown.
Baseline Assessment: 6/10
Bonuses: +1 for a mystery box where the contents of the box are not a complete disappointment; +1 for this is a thoughtful and brainy airport page-turner
Penalties: -1 for it's just not as interesting after the box is opened; -1 for I'm not really an airport page-turner guy.
Nerd Coefficient: 6/10. "Still enjoyable, but the flaws are hard to ignore"
POSTED BY: The G--purveyor of nerdliness, genre fanatic and Nerds of a
Feather founder/administrator, since 2012.
2021 Hugo Award Winner: Best Fanzine / 2023 Ignyte Award Finalist: Critics Award
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