“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. From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.
I was so excited when we chose Dark Matter by Blake Crouch for our first official book club, thus officially birthing the Read & Wine/Drunk Ladies Book Club! (We're still working on our name, btw). I'd read some great reviews from trusted book bloggers, it sounded dark and spooky, and who doesn't love freaking yourself out by thinking about infinity and parallel worlds?!
Our meeting day got pushed off twice--once by the flu and once by a work trip--but we finally sat down to discuss with wine and about every type of cheese available in Kroger's fancy-cheese-sample box.
I don't have a pic of the spread, but here's a gif about cheese that sums us up:
What It's About
It's hard to give any details about this book (other than the blurb) without seriously spoiling everything. But I'll try!
Jason's incredible wife Daniela encourages him one night to go celebrate with a friend who's just won a major award in his field. This is an award that Jason once had aspirations of winning, so it's a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, realizing how far his life has deviated from his original plan. But he also loves his wife and his kid and is mostly content with his life. He goes, he has a drink, he leaves, he stops to get ice cream for dessert, he's kidnapped, he's given some kind of drug, and he goes under.
When he wakes up, people recognize him but he has no idea who they are. He's the star he always wanted to be but he doesn't know how he got to be that man. He goes to find Daniela, but she's living a completely different life. His son doesn't exist.
As he works to figure out what's going on and to try to get back home, he has to spend time figuring out exactly who he is and what life he wants. It becomes a dizzying ride of one poor choice after another, one bad world exchanged for the next. Dark Matter is about the choices we make and how they shape us for better or worse. It's a study on whether or not the life you have is ultimately the life you were meant to have.
Is it possible to outthink yourself?
What We Loved
Daniela. The most well-rounded, complex character. Part of it comes from Jason's devotion to her regardless of which world he's in. He always finds her and gets her story. As cheesy as it sounds, their love does span worlds, and it's the fitting center.
The snow world. Don't want to spoil anything for you, but it's one of the scariest and most disturbing sections of the book.
How heady it gets without being boring, cumbersome, or over-your-head. The science is both complex and clear.
Being thrown right into it, just as Jason is, and being made to figure it out as you go along. The writing has a very cinematic quality, and Dark Matter basically reads like a screenplay.
What We Didn't Care About
Jason. He isn't a super interesting or exciting main character. The things that happen to him certainly are, but he's kind of just a boring smart dude who has a pretty incredible wife. Is his desire to get back to her--to his Daniela--and his realizations about choice and identity enough? I'm not sure.
As long as I'm with you, I know exactly who I am.
The cinematic quality of the writing is a double edged sword. It's clear that Crouch wants this to turn into a film, like his Wayward Pines series did (I mean, he says it right there in the Acknowledgments). However, sometimes we end up with pages of short choppy sentences that are just clunky and distracting and just like whyyyyyyy.
Some are crying.
Hot, angry, desperate tears.
I am too.
So is Daniela.
There is a lot to this book, and certainly a lot to recommend it. It's got it all: action, love, terror, philosophical musings, science fiction, mystery. Whether or not I'd want to see a filmic version of this after reading it, I can certainly see it all in my head.
Check it out! The ride is worth the admission (currently $4.99 for a Kindle eBook)!
Published by Crown on July 26, 2016