Would you be happier if you had spent more time pursuing your career than tending to your personal relationships? Conversely, would your life be improved if you had devoted as much attention to your nearest and dearest as you did to the professional greasy pole? Both questions are raised in this brisk, propulsive sci-fi thriller from Wayward Pines trilogy author Blake Crouch. But the book really hinges on a third query: Could you defeat an alternative-dimension “you” in a battle of wits and maybe even a fight to the death?
Crouch’s protagonist—and antagonist, for that matter—is Jason Dessen. Seemingly destined for a brilliant career as a physicist, Dessen instead opted for a life based around his wife, Daniela, and son, the now teenage Charlie. One night, he is drugged by a masked and armed man and wakes in a world where he has a brilliant career but no wife or child. What is going on? Well, as Crouch reveals early in the book, the masked man is a Jason Dessen from a different dimension, one in which this Jason2, as “our” Jason calls him, has developed a way to travel between alternate universes. Desperate to experience the domestic satisfaction of Jason1, he decided to change places with his doppelgänger, leaving the latter marooned in a strange and increasingly dangerous world. The bulk of Dark Matter tracks Jason1’s seemingly impossible attempt to reclaim the life and loves that have been stolen from him.
The concept of interdimensional travel has been previously explored in a host of fantastical fictional works, from Robert Heinlein’s 1980 novel The Number of the Beast to the Fox TV show Fringe. Dark Matter has plenty of heady concepts and phantasmagorical plotting. But it is also beguilingly rooted in Jason1’s desperate travails, elevating this page-turning adventure into an entirely different dimension. B+
MEMORABLE LINE “Whole Foods smells like the hippie I dated before Daniela—a tincture of fresh produce, ground coffee, and essential oils.”