Blake Crouch’s latest novel begins as a Hitchcockian thriller before taking a left turn into ambitious sci-fi territory, and that is a huge amount of fun.
It starts with science professor and family man Jason Dessen popping out for a drink while his wife makes dinner. He’s abducted, driven to an abandoned building, stripped naked and asked, “Are you happy in your life?”
Next thing he knows, he’s awake and being treated as a returning hero by the team at an underground science facility. Clearly, they think he’s been somewhere, but what is it that they think he’s accomplished? And why does his wife not know who he is?
‘Page turner’ is obviously a fantastically clichéd term, but really, Crouch never really gives his readers time to draw breath. From the moment Jason is approached by a man in a kabuki mask to the final life-changing decisions, we’re on a gripping journey through questions of identity, time and physics, with each revelation spawning greater and greater moral problems.
Dark Matter gives the readers characters to care about. Jason’s quest to find his family and a way to set things right becomes increasingly complicated, not just practically, but morally too. Crouch gives him a companion halfway through in Amanda, but she’s not just someone to bounce ideas off; she’s a human being who he’s actively putting at risk with every step, and they’re both aware of it.
Dark Matter is a hugely entertaining and often affecting thriller that you will struggle to put down. The most likely scenario is that you’ll suddenly realise it’s over, and you won’t know where the last few hours have gone.