Book review – Dark Matter

Dark Matter Cover
  • Author: Blake Crouch
  • Publisher: Crown
  • Published July 26th 2016
  • Pages: 342


Bringing Dark Matter into Light

Blake Crouch, author of the best-selling Wayward Pines trilogy, delivers Dark Matter, a furiously-paced speculative sci-fi thriller about roads not taken and the extent of a man’s efforts in the pursuit of the path to his true self, not meant in spiritual terms at all.

Jason Dessen is an atomic physicist who abandoned his career dream of revolutionizing quantum physics  to settle as a professor at a small college in Chicago and start  a family. Out on a celebration with a friend one evening, Jason is abducted and drugged, and wakes up to find himself in an alternate  Chicago where he is confronted with a version of  himself who embraced career instead of heirs and assigns.

Dark Matter Cover


This other Jason has built his lifetime-dream machine aimed at replicating the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment with actual human beings. This is the point from which the mystery of Jason’s condition disentangles and the reader is invited to follow this man through a multiverse filled with infinite realities, in the best down-the-rabbit-hole style, except this time the protagonist  carries a skeleton key.


The good:

– The book reads easy and fast, and you find yourself wishing it to be made into a movie 30 pages in. Good news is you are not alone on this one: Sony Pictures preempted Dark Matter back in 2014, the picture will be directed by Roland Emmerick.  

– The science in Dark Matter is painless, manageable, because whenever it shows it is through Jason’s brief comments made to lay people as follows:

“There’s a theory in the field of aesthetics called the uncanny valley. It holds that when something looks almost like a human being—a mannequin or humanlike robot—it creates revulsion in the observer, because the appearance is so close to human, yet just off enough to evoke a feeling of uncanniness, of something that is both familiar and alien.”


The bad:

– Fragmented, oftentimes Haiku-esque paragraphs, like so:


“Tangles of cables.



Levers and pulleys.

Instrumentation panels covered with cracked gauges and controls.

Technology from another age.”


One could feel pretty comfortable with the pace if it weren’t his indiscriminate use of this device.  As the story advances, it feels rushed, unnecessary and unimaginative to tell it this way.

– I read some time ago about how bad for us overload choice  can be and was reminded of that while reading Dark Matter, because the protagonist opens way too many doors. It is not that he can’t close them, because he can. He can close them and move on to the next one and never think of what he encountered first again. It is his overly superficial exploration of the worlds behind each door that is bothersome. It is dull to follow him along the meaningless, seemingly interminable search for the right one, even knowing in advance that all the running will end after a set number of attempts.


The Ugly:

– The despise and sacrifice of characters whose development could have been pleasurable to follow. The book focus tightly in Jason and his mission leaving little to no space for the buildup of any of the other characters. You barely get to hear about his wife and son.

– I can understand this problem to some extent. It is distressing for a puppeteer to handle two marionettes simultaneously, it’s not hard to imagine what it would have been of this book if Mr. Crouch had attempted to follow more than one character through the infinity of worlds he proposes. It is overwhelming to be under a protagonist-centered narrative such as this one, although also justifiable given the plot conflict, which is impossible to be talked about without giving away the whole story line.


Despite the aforementioned issues, Dark Matter is spirited and enjoyable in its briskly-paced insanity. The reader is posed with enough philosophical questions to be left wondering for as long it takes to get to the end of the book, but after that point it is surely forgettable. Approach it as entertainment and it will serve its purpose.  That alone makes it worth the reading, doesn’t it?

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About the author

Kenia Santos

Sci-Fi geek. Book nerd. Art enthusiast. Comics dork. Board game buff. Crooked poet. Full time thinker. Weekend photographer. EFL teacher. Free spirit. Friendly soul. Fat kid.

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