Thursday, December 22, 2016

Book Review - Dark Matter

I haven't previously heard of Blake Crouch but Dark Matter was getting some pretty good buzz so I figured I'd take a look. The "back of the book" summary and blurbs further intrigued me and prompted me to give it a try.

(NOTE: I'm tempted to add "spoiler" notes for the next paragraph but really it's just a summary of the synopsis given by Amazon and other sites, so I figure it's fair game)

As the summary informs us, we are following the life of a man named Jason Dessen. Jason is a scientist who gave up a life of research and design to teach at a small local college and raise a family. The book starts off by taking us through a bit of his life and his interactions with his wife and child. He seems generally happy but holding a bit of discontent especially since one of his old friends/colleagues has just earned a scientific award that Jason believed he might have been able to win if he'd stayed on his previous life-path rather than settling down to be a family-man and professor. After meeting briefly with his friend and thinking about "what might have been", Jason is kidnapped at gunpoint, stripped down and knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, he's strapped down in a strange laboratory and finds that the life he knows no longer exists.

While the abduction was well written had elements of suspense and tension I have to admit that I felt the scenario and the (undisclosed) identity of his abductor to be a bit predictable. It was a little frustrating to me that it took Jason so long to figure it out...yes, it would have been a shocking and stressful situation but there were a few giveaways that would have been hard for him to have missed. I had to "suspend disbelief" a little bit and try to put myself in Jason's shoes...since Jason didn't have the benefit of reading the story synopsis beforehand.

Anyway, after Jason wakes up the plot twists start happening. Again, even though some of the general ideas felt a little predictable to me they were organized, written and carried out in ways that were very engaging and a lot of fun to read. I was truly uncertain just how he would go about carrying out the escape and return to normalcy that I predicted must certainly happen. And once things were set in motion and things finally got a little closer to normalcy another batch of brilliant twists and very smart elements came into play that were really a lot of fun.

For me, the second half of the book is where things really took off and the plotline got exceptionally fun and surprising. The scientific explanations and machinations where well explained and felt credible enough to keep the story together without being overly bogged down with highly technical descriptions. Some of the character reactions to situations seemed to stretch a little thin sometimes but were generally believable as well.

The plot and theme twists and turns and asks you to contemplate your life and the choices you make acknowledging that every choice takes you on a path with certain consequences. The book prompts you to take stock of your life and your priorities and to ponder more intently about the decisions you make with an emphasis on what matters most to you. Jason's character realizes that his family and the love and joy they share is the most important thing to him and that his choices need to be made in a way to ensure they are saved no matter what. The impact of that set of decisions has large implications for Jason's life in more ways than he initially imagined. Each of us must similarly contemplate what we love in our life and live in such a way to keep it safe.

Overall I had a lot of fun with this book. It started out as a slow burn that picked up momentum and intensity as time went on. Some of the predictable elements kept the suspense and thrills at bay but the story and pacing was still exciting. The writing was an excellent balance of crispness to bring tension and elegance to bring beauty and form. The result is a wonderful combination of heightened emotions that make this a wonderfully engaging read.

4 out of 5 stars

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