I’m a huge Michael Crichton fan. Since his death in 2008, I have been looking for a replacement for his style of high tech thriller and near future science fiction. In Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, which was released in July of this year, I found exactly what I was looking for.
Crichton’s career was filled with thriller after thriller, many of which involved some advanced technologies that we can only imagine. I, of course, am certain that all of the technologies are under development today: from the genetic research of Next to the nanotechnology of Micro to the time travel from Timeline. Aside from the technology that Crichton researched heavily for each book, I always enjoy the thought provoking ethics discussions that arose from his works. Just because we could do some of these things doesn’t mean we should.
Blake Crouch’s newest work, Dark Matter, had all of the same elements I love so much about Crichton’s works: high technology, great suspense and the big ethical question. The story begins in present day Chicago with college physics professor, Jason Dressen, content in his mundane life as professor, husband and dad. It’s a life he chose, we come to find out, when he abandoned a life of research for a life in the classroom, and a life with his beautiful wife, Daniela, who also sacrificed her dreams for married life.
It all changes one night when Jason, on his way home from his favorite, albeit bland (like his life) local bar, is kidnapped at gunpoint, stripped naked, and injected with some drug. When he awakens, he is in a world that might have been if he had stuck to research and not followed the path to domestic life. A world where he, or a version of himself, through his research, created a way to access the multiverse.
Crouch’s version of the multiverse is as large as the universe itself, with each decision point, for each person, creating another universe that plays out from that decision point forward. What follows is a breakneck race, as Jason tries to get through all of those universes back to his own, and back to the mundane life he loves so much with HIS Daniela and HIS Charlie, their son.
The book isn’t 100% grounded, but hey, it’s fiction. If you aren’t one for soggy science, this might not be for you. There are a few moments of unbelievability, but I was enjoying the countdown and the twists so much that I was able to look past them. It was soggy science and it was a few moments, it wasn’t soaking wet science.
There were a few character problems, most notably with Jason’s sidekick and fellow universe hopper, Amanda, who exits without enough conclusion to her story. She’s the beautiful pyschologist on the project in the world Jason is dropped in, and is there, it appears, only to tempt him as he tries to make his way back to his own universe. When the question is answered, she exits, although I had begun to like her and wanted to see more of her story.
The last few chapters are worth the wait. It’ll be a short wait too, because Crouch didn’t fill the book with mind-numbing science, so it is a relatively quick and enjoyable read. I can’t get through a Tom Clancy book because the high tech jargon and over attention to detail bogs me down. Dark Matter isn’t that, despite the main science in this story being quantum mechanics and an object’s superposition.
The movie rights to this story were optioned by Sony after only 150 pages were written, and I think it has real potential as a film. Crouch is no stranger to writing for live-action, as it was his trilogy of books that were the basis for the TV series “Wayward Pines”.
It was a fun read. I enjoyed the paradoxes. I enjoyed the exploration of character, including multiple Jason Dessens. And I most definitely saw some nice parallels to Crichton’s style (I’m not the only one who saw this). It’s fast, it’s fun, and because of both of those things, it’s definitely worth the time. And if you haven’t read Michael Crichton’s stuff, there’s a bunch. Get reading.
Final Score: 8/10
+ Fast paced
+ Easily accessible for a difficult topic
+ Great twist near the end
– Soggy science
– Some contrivances
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Pete Herr is the author of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two. Follow Pete Herr on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram . If you don’t he gets Grumpy. You don’t want to see him Grumpy.