I was a latecomer to Blake Crouch’s world, having just caught glimpse of the first season of WAYWARD PINES on TV last summer. It pricked up my ears enough to set about reading his trilogy on which the series is based. Suffice to say, I have been a fan ever since. His latest reminds me of PINES, the story of a man caught in a different world where nothing is like it seems. You could say the author did a copy and paste job for this particular novel, except that DARK MATTER is more than a recycle of his greatest success. It is also a better defined exposition of a man trapped in his own nightmare, what Crouch calls quantum superposition where one has many parallel lives going on. In other words, the hero can pick and choose the life that suits him best. If he can forget his previous one, that is. Not an easy task when love and family interfere.
In DARK MATTER (Crown Publishing), however, the protagonist barely has time to make a decision as he is pulled off from his secure but imperfect life and pushed into one that feels completely new to him. When he ends up in a lab—one his parallel-self has built from the ground up, he learns later on—that’s when hell really breaks loose. How does he go about returning to his previous life? Is it even possible? And if it is, is it the right choice for him? These are just a dab of the many questions orbiting around this compelling piece of Sci-fi slash thriller. Blake Crouch weaves his tale like a pro giving enough leeway to hook the reader for the ride. His Dean Koontz-like approach (from the man’s earlier work, mostly) gives us a pretty good idea what he’s capable of achieving. Though the novel first half is captivating (when the main character is clueless to what’s going on, just like in PINES), it is the second half that really shows his savoir-faire as a writer. His hero’s many encounters from his alternative lives give a gloomy if sometimes oppressive atmosphere that ends up being utterly unsettling. Moreover, Crouch’s characterization really shines up from there on as the reader finds himself rooting for the good guy.
Topped by a clear narrative and a blockbuster-like approach DARK MATTER is one of the coolest rides this summer. It may not always re-invent the wheel, but has enough spunk to keep the fun going for a very long time.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Until next post—Martin