Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is a thriller/science fiction novel about destiny, the multiverse, and loss. The novel begins with Jason Dessen’s simple choice to leave the house on a Thursday night but ends with his entire life permanently changed. Readers follow Jason on the hardest journey he’s ever had to take; one that will force him to make hard decisions and confront the many alternate realities at his fingertips.
The Good Stuff
Dark Matter certainly has a lot of ideas for readers to unpack by the end of the novel. My biggest take away is how important choices are in each of our lives. The multiverse is a concept that relies on choice. The premise is that every choice you are faced with is a fork in the road and each side of the fork branches off into its own possible reality and each possible reality forks off into thousands of other choices and realities. I’d heard about the multiverse concept before, but this was the first time I read a thriller based on that premise. The theories surrounding the concept were fun to read about. Crouch has a way of making the theories accessible and intriguing which I really appreciated because it felt like I was getting much more than just the story about Jason.
The theme of loss is also very strong in Dark Matter, and for me, that was the most emotionally engaging part of the novel. Not only are the experiences of loss painful to read about, the nature of the story creates a plot in which loss is experienced over and over again in different ways. I appreciated how Blake Crouch was able to make so many moving parts fit together and then create a functioning machine out of them.
The Bad Stuff
I was really frustrated with the character development in this story. Daniela (Jason’s wife) comes off as a very stereotypical woman and a flat character. She’s quick to get emotional, doesn’t seem to have her own motives as a person, and for some reason, she pushes Jason out of the house in the middle of family night which seemed very odd to me and unrealistic. In general, the women in this book seem to be ploys for emotional resonance used against the reader that just end up not hitting the mark for me. I also saw a lack of character development in Jason at the beginning of the novel, but I felt that his desires deepened, and his abilities became more defined as the novel went on which made him more of a well rounded character.
There were a couple of plot points that seemed too conventional for this kind of story and weren’t as engaging as I would have liked them to be. Without going into spoilers, I’ll say the scenarios in which Jason interacts with the antagonists sometimes feel as if they’re being set up by the author to look like big obstacles but soon, those obstacles are wrapped up rather quickly and smoothly. It felt a little too contrived for me. Some of the dialogue pulled me out of the story for the same reason. It didn’t feel authentic and seemed like easy fixes to the conflicts of the story.
Overall, Dark Matter is an impressive novel given all that it sets out to do. Several of the themes really hit home, and readers can empathize with the overwhelming decisions Jason has to face. For avid readers of plot focused fiction, Dark Matter will stand out for it’s complex story and heavy subject material, but for character focused readers the lack of development may be a little difficult to stick with for the whole 300+ pages. To each his own. For me, Dark Matter is a solid 85 out of 100% or 4 out of 5 stars.
Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.