Title: Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Format: Audiobook, 10 hrs 8 mins
Narrated by Jon Lindstrom
We’re introduced to the, admittedly tipsy, narrator, Jason Dessen, as he enjoys what will turn out to be his last evening with this version of his wife and son. The rather direct foreshadowing of his impending abduction mixes with musings about how his life could’ve been different. If Jason hadn’t traded his clean room for marriage and fatherhood, then he might have the coveted award his old roommate received that very night.
The adventure through possible alternative realities starts as Jason is drugged by a hooded man and left in a box. He wakes up and exits the box to find a world with a new set of characters claiming to be his coworkers. He escapes that building to find his home upgraded and bachelor-like, showcasing that coveted award with his name on it. His wife and son are gone. A few days later, Jason pieces together that another version of him lived in this reality, the one that chose to pursue his career over love. This world’s Jason had invented a box to allow travel to alternate realities. Our version of Jason makes a friend with the female office psychiatrist and together, they use the box to travel through multiple versions of possible Chicago. The scenes tumble onward with physics rationale, male emotion, and fast-paced action until Jason finds his version of Chicago. But just when you think you can relax and enjoy the happy reunion, we are tossed into a hot, twirling dryer again. I will not spoil the end, but it was much harder to press pause after this point.
I appreciate Crouch’s ability to make themes stick through a plotline that required great skill in maintaining believability. He gives enough detail for the reader to grasp and plant in their imaginations. The growing visuals distract the reader from picking apart the possibility of it all.
The themes I connected with most in this story were exaggerated reminders not to take life for granted, and little choices can make a big impact on how your life could turn out. The extenuating circumstances made Jason realize he loved his wife just the way she was, and he would do anything to get her back. This message is repeated many times in not so different words. I can relate to how much Jason misses his family, and I appreciate the details he recalls when he remembers them. Jason is surprised by how the small things he took for granted appeared suddenly with paralyzing effects. Jason narrates many lessons learned throughout his adventures, which demonstrates growth as a person. He develops a new self-awareness and realizes he’d never be able to live with some sins, even if they’d get him back what was stolen from him.
The characters developed in equal proportion to Jason’s connection with them, as appropriate with only one first-person narrator. We get a great sense of what his wife looks like and how she interacts with him, then his son, and the psychiatrist. Other characters are presented with just enough information to remember them vaguely, as Jason likely did. I appreciate the commitment Jason’s character demonstrates when he resists sleeping with the psychiatrist in a moment of action-fueled, emotionally charged intimacy. With so many other high-stakes scenes, this one makes me like Jason the most. All of a sudden, my imagined version of him elevated above that line of typical men. There are only a few men I’ve met in my life that are up there. I filled in the rest of his character based on their traits. The rest of Jason’s actions lived true to these expectations, and I appreciate Crouch’s loyalty there.
While the writing style was skilled, and the content was easy to follow, I did find the material a little heavy. The suspenseful final chapters were a welcome invitation to finish quickly. However, I do appreciate the lessons I learned while carrying this weight.
I am grateful for the timeless reminders presented in such an original format. When I go for walks with this story on my mind, I use all my senses to appreciate the good in the life I have and where I am now. The love and loyalty Jason has for his wife are rare, and I appeciate such intense beauty when I see it. There are some dark and gross places along the path as well, where Pepper usually grabs a mouthful of something disgusting. Although apparently delicious, those places are not ones I want to explore at this time. Going down those “what if” possibility paths are not for me today.
Some other questions Dark Matter made me ponder: What would you do to get those you love back? Would a different version of you feel the same?
Rating Summary: 9.5
Sparks introspection, action-packed, a little heavy