Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dark Matter

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Crown/Archetype: 7/26/16
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9781101904220

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is a very highly recommended science fiction thriller that is ultimately about the importance of family and the choices we make.

Jason Dessen is happily married to Daniela and they have a 15 year old son, Charlie. Both Jason and Daniela gave up dreams for their futures when she became pregnant and they choose to marry and start a family together. Now, instead of the brilliant career in physics research that he imagined, Jason is a physics professor at a small college in Chicago. Daniela gave up her career as an artist. Their lives aren't what they dreamed of when young, but they have a good life.

Everything changes for Jason when he is kidnapped, drugged, and sent to an alternate universe, a universe where the Jason Dessen there chose the career path and developed a way to reach the multiverse, or inter-dimensional space. Some string theorists have long thought that dark matter is composed of something different than ordinary matter and it may be the key to the multiverse and alternate realities. Jason 2 discovered a way to travel the multiverse. Now he has switched places with Jason to experience what his life would have been like if he had married Daniela.

Jason is now in Jason 2's world and the company Jason 2 is working for needs answers from him that he can't provide. Jason is determined to try to get back to his family, but it isn't quite as simple as it seems. He's in a world where people are going to imprison or kill him and the only escape is into a multiverse where there are limitless alternate worlds.

The multiverse is tied to the paradox of Schrödinger's cat. Basically, referring to Wikipedia, Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It is an interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead, as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur. Until the event is observed, quantum mechanics treats it as a third state where it has neither occurred or not occurred.

Excellent writing and admirable character development make this an exceptionally compelling novel. The suspense increases as Jason finds himself in this unthinkable situation. Tension and apprehension escalate as Jason tries to navigate his way home without any real guide (other than, briefly, a fellow traveler). The only way to figure out how the multiverse works is through making choices. The narrative uses the science fiction elements of a multiverse as a vehicle to focus on the struggle Jason goes through to try and get back to those he loves, which makes it a novel about the importance of family and how the choices we make on a daily basis effect our lives.

While there have been many novels about alternate realities and the multiverse, Blake Crouch's Dark Matter is a welcome addition to the genre and will make a great movie someday. 

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

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