Just look at this cover. This is it, a design that really gets a book, and not only that, but it is totally and completely captivating. The moment I saw this, I knew I had to have it, without knowing at all what it contained.
The fact that it’s engaging, cinematic (what else would you expect from the Wayward Pines creator?), mind-blowingly brilliant, layered, and still character-driven through all its action/sci-fi/thriller/horror blending just makes this perfect cover the icing on the cake.
I was reading Dark Matter last month, just after the Netflix Original Series Stranger Things craze was really gaining steam and media attention. If you haven’t dug into this eight-part series yet, drop everything, take a deep breath, and turn on Netflix. You can thank me in about eight hours.
It was almost impossible for me to not see similarities between the two narratives, to not think about them in tandem. There is something about alternate realities, worlds just beyond ours that echo ours in sinister ways, that the collective “we” of the American public (or the world?) find really captivating right now.
Trying to pin it down, I found myself thinking a lot about the alternate worlds that already exist within our world: the internet, social media, and all the multitudes of self that so easily replicate out of that. Now that we all carry around our smart phones, those worlds exist literally at our fingertips and at times, it seems like we immerse ourselves in them more frequently than we engage with the real, tangible world around us.
Every single moment is documentable, making it a recorded piece of online identity, one that is potentially viewable by anyone: friends, strangers, people in different countries who don’t speak our language or know our culture. But is that who we really are?
Or is it just the persona that we want to be, so we create and mold this online presence to our liking?
Or is it something completely separate from us, but something that just looks like us?
Or maybe it’s pieces of all of that?
Not that there’s anything wrong with the way technology has developed or with having ways to release creativity online through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogging, and the like—you are probably only reading this now because you found it on some social media site (and I thank you!)—but there is a bit of pervasiveness and even invasiveness that goes along with this brave new world, most of which we don’t stop to think about on a daily basis. And it can get dark—not all people are using their anonymity innocently.
Dark Matter, and Stranger Things too, consider (and prey on, because what fun is horror if you aren’t a bit scared!?) what it means to actually inhabit these other realms that lie beside our reality. But while Stranger Things is undeniably set in a very specific time period, one that precludes smart phones and check-ins and selfies, Dark Matter is very much of our time.
Sorry to be a bit cryptic concerning what this book is actually about, but honestly, it will be better if you head in a bit blind. For the short version, there’s a smart guy who chose family over career and winds up with a beautiful wife and son and a job as a teacher, even though he probably could have changed the world with his research on particle physics.
One evening, he is kidnapped, drugged, and forced inside a box. When he wakes up, he has no idea where he is, but everyone there acts like they know him. He wants to go home, but it’s not the wife he knows, and his son doesn’t seem to exist. What is going on? Who was the mysterious stranger who forced him to come here? And how can he get back to his family and his life?
This book is about defining moments and looking back at those moments where our lives branched one direction and saying, “What if? What if I’d taken the other path?” Those What Ifs are multi-faceted and easily spiral out of control, cracks on a windshield, and we can’t take them back.
But this book imagines the splintered realities as living on, moving away from us as we move away from them, imagined, dreamed, real, not real, every iteration of infinite possibilities pulsating just on the other side of our plane of existence.
What if we had access to those other planes? And what effect would our access have? This book takes the idea of the butterfly effect and interdimensional travel to greater extremes than I had ever previously imagined—it gets CRAZY.
Dark Matter at its heart is also very much about fulfillment and what that means. Having great ambition and curing cancer might bring you fame and accolades, but have you potentially wasted your time if you come home to an empty house each night, if you have no one to share your life with? Is personal fulfillment and leaving a legacy through having children, and being able to actually raise those children, more important?
I was so impressed how this sci-fi–thriller managed to be so character driven and really centered on such personal themes, digging into the main character’s head, while at the same time having a lot of external action scenes. Crouch has a very deft hand for encapsulating the internal world of his character’s and the external world that surrounds them and in a book like this, where boundaries are shifting and unclear, that attention and preciseness is appreciated.
More than anything, this is just a great story. It leaves you thinking, and that’s what a really excellent book should do—not leave you alone. And maybe you’ll think about the multiple iterations you’ve left out in cyberspace, and look at the world around you a little differently when you’re finished.
Get your copy of Dark Matter
Find out more about the author, Black Crouch
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Find out more about the publisher, Crown (Penguin Random House)
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Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.