As the Joni Mitchell song goes: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
Despite a couple minor logistical gaps, this sci-fi thriller by Blake Crouch is a super charged adventure where college physics prof Jason Dessen finds himself in a dark dilemma of his own making, sort of.
Once a promising and focused young physicist, Jason’s life diverts onto a more travelled path after he meets, impregnates, and marries the beautiful Daniela. Jason puts scientific research behind him and takes a job as a college professor. Daniela whose star as an artist had been on the rise settles in as mother to their son Charlie.
Their ho-hum but happy existence is about to be turned on its head.
Jason reluctantly heads off to go to a celebration for Ryan, an old friend and fellow scientist. Ryan has won a major science prize and Jason is envious.
During the celebration, Ryan needles Jason for walking away from research. Ryan tells him he was a smarter and better physicist and it should be Jason collecting the scientific awards.
Jason heads home feeling depressed and wondering what his life may have been like had he not married Daniela and, instead, pressed on full-throttle with his scientific career.
In a strange series of events, Jason is abducted, gets away and finds the world around him is inexplicably changed.
Dark Matter is a smart bit of story-telling that, like the best of sci-fi, relates a story about the struggle of a man thrust in unusual circumstances trying to hold onto the beautiful mundane of everyman’s life.
The writing flows wonderfully and the characters are drawn in great detail. The complex plot left me doubting whether the writer could manage an ending that wasn’t contrived or weak but Dark Matter’s windup in my view is the best and most imaginative part of the novel.