Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

“Are you happy with your life?”

These are the final words Jason Dessen hears before a masked stranger knocks him unconscious. When he wakes he is strapped to a gurney and surrounded by people he does not recognize. A man Jason has never met leans over and with a smile says, “Welcome back, old friend.”

In this new world, Jason’s life is not the one he remembers. He was never married and his son was never born. He doesn’t teach physics at a local college, he is instead a celebrated physicist who has somehow achieved the seemingly impossible.

Which life is real and which is the dream? Jason is finding it more and more difficult to tell. And should the other life be the real one, how is he going to return? The answer lies in a mysterious box and the stranger who accosted him.

Dark Matter is a story about the road not taken. It is a story of “What if…?”s and “What would happen…?”. It is a story about choices, and what one man’s choice can ultimately accomplish.

Jason Dessen is a family man. Married to his lovely artist wife Daniella, they have a teenage son, and for all intents and purposes they are happy. Still, Jason cannot help but wonder if things might have turned out differently. When he and Daniella married, they were both on the cusps of their respective careers. If they had not married, what would have happened? Would Daniella have become a famous artist? Would Jason have become a famous physicist?

What Jason does not know is that there is another version of him that made a different decision to the one he had made. This second Jason didn’t marry Daniella and instead focused on his career. After winning an elite scientific award, this Jason joins Velocity Laboratories where he eventually creates a device that allows travel between the infinite dimensions of the vast multiverse.

While the first Jason wonders if he made the correct decision in starting a family, the second Jason regrets his decision not to. This leads second Jason to actually use his device and cross the dimensions in order to switch places with first Jason and have the family he desired. When first Jason realizes what has happened, he decides to use the device himself in the hopes of returning home.

That last sentence reminds me a great deal of the television show Quantum Leap. In it, the scientist Sam Beckett leaps from life to life trying to find his way home. There are numerous differences between the two stories, but the essence is alike.

On the whole, Dark Matter is an interesting book. The majority of the characters are well thought out and written in a believable manner. Others, sadly, are not and are very one dimensional. For instance, Jason and Daniella’s son Charlie; aside from his age and his love of drawing, there is almost nothing else given about him. This is sad because for Jason, the thought of seeing Charlie again is one of his reasons for continuing his search. Yet we the readers are never let in on why.

There is a good deal of heavy science referenced in Dark Matter. Generally, Crouch does a good job of parsing the information in an understandable language, but there are a few passages that get bogged down with techno-babble. Crouch’s prose is rarely, if ever, ambiguous and aside from some of the science speak, hard to understand. Readers who like an engrossing read will do good to pick this one up. I found it to be an exciting page turner and one that held me from beginning to end.

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