“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
I love Thursday nights.
They have a feel to them that’s outside of time.
It’s our tradition, just the three of us—family night.
My son, Charlie, is sitting at the table, drawing on a sketch pad. He’s almost fifteen. The kid grew two inches over the summer, and he’s as tall as I am now.
I turn away from the onion I’m julienning, ask, “Can I see?”
He holds up the pad, shows me a mountain range that looks like something on another planet.
I say, “Love that. Just for fun?” “Class project. Due tomorrow.”
“Then get back to it, Mr. Last Minute.”
Standing happy and slightly drunk in my kitchen, I’m unaware that tonight is the end of all of this. The end of everything I know, everything I love.
No one tells you it’s all about to change, to be taken away. There’s no proximity alert, no indication that you’re standing on the precipice. And maybe that’s what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you’re least expecting. No time to flinch or brace.
The track lights shine on the surface of my wine, and the onion is beginning to sting my eyes. Thelonius Monk spins on the old turntable in the den. There's a richness to the analog recording I can never get enough of, especially the crackle of static between tracks. The den is filled with stacks and stacks of rare vinyl that I keep telling myself I'll get around to organizing one of these days.
My wife, Daniela, sits on the kitchen island, swirling her almost empty wineglass in one hand and holding her phone in the other. She feels my stare and grins without looking up from the screen.
"I know," she says. “I’m violating the cardinal rule of family night."
"What's so important?" I ask.
She levels her dark, Spanish eyes on mine. "Nothing."
I walk over to her, take the phone gently out of her hand, and set it on the countertop.
"You could start the pasta," I say.
"I prefer to watch you cook."
"Yeah?" Quieter: "Turns you on, huh?"
"No, it's just more fun to drink and do nothing."
Her breath is wine-sweet, and she has one of those smiles that seem architecturally impossible. It still slays me.
I polish off my glass. "We should open more wine, right?"
"It would be stupid not to."
As I liberate the cork from a new bottle, she picks her phone back up and shows me the screen. "I was reading Chicago Magazine's re view of Marsha Altman's show."
"Were they kind?"
"Yeah, it's basically a love letter." "Good for her."
"I always thought ..." She lets the sentence die, but I know where it was headed. Fifteen years ago, before we met, Daniela was a comer to Chicago's art scene. She had a studio in Bucktown, showed her work in a half dozen galleries, and had just lined up her first solo exhibition in New York. Then came life. Me. Charlie. A bout of crippling post partum depression.
Now she teaches private art lessons to middle-grade students.
"It's not that I'm not happy for her. I mean, she's brilliant, she deserves it all."
I say, "If it makes you feel any better, Ryan Holder just won the Pavia Prize."
''A multidisciplinary award given for achievements in the life and physical sciences. Ryan won for his work in neuroscience."
"Is it a big deal?"
"Million dollars. Accolades. Opens the floodgates to grant money."
"Obviously, that's the real prize. He invited me to a little informal celebration tonight, but I passed."
"Because ifs our night."
"You should go."
“I’d really rather not."
Daniela lifts her empty glass. "So what you're saying is, we both have good reason to drink a lot of wine tonight."
I kiss her, and then pour generously from the newly opened bottle.
"You could've won that prize," Daniela says.
"You could've owned this city's art scene."
"But we did this." She gestures at the high-ceilinged expanse of our brownstone. I bought it pre-Daniela with an inheritance. ''And we did that," she says, pointing to Charlie as he sketches with a beau tiful intensity that reminds me of Daniela when she's absorbed in a painting.
It’s a strange thing being the parent of a teenager. One thing to raise a little boy, another entirely when a person on the brink of adult hood looks to you for wisdom. I feel like I have little to give. I know there are fathers who see the world a certain way, with clarity and confidence, who know just what to say to their sons and daughters. But I'm not one of them. The older I get, the less I understand. I love my son. He means everything to me. And yet, I can't escape the feeling that I'm failing him. Sending him off to the wolves with nothing but the crumbs of my uncertain perspective.
I move to the cabinet beside the sink, open it, and start hunting for a box of fettuccine.
Daniela turns to Charlie, says, "Your father could have won the Nobel."
I laugh. "That's possibly an exaggeration."
"Charlie, don't be fooled. He's a genius."
"You're sweet," I say. "And a little drunk."
"It's true, and you know it. Science is less advanced because you love your family."
I can only smile. When Daniela drinks, three things happen: her native accent begins to bleed through, she becomes belligerently kind, and she tends toward hyperbole.
"Your father said to me one night-never forget it-that pure re search is life-consuming. He said ... " For a moment, and to my surprise, emotion overtakes her. Her eyes mist, and she shakes her head like she always does when she's about to cry. At the last second, she rallies, pushes through. "He said, 'Daniela, on my deathbed I would rather have memories of you than of a cold, sterile lab.'"
I look at Charlie, catch him rolling his eyes as he sketches. Probably embarrassed by our display of parental melodrama.
I stare into the cabinet and wait for the ache in my throat to go away.
When it does, I grab the pasta and close the door.
Daniela drinks her wine.
The moment passes.
"Where's Ryan's party?" Daniela asks.
"That's your bar, Jason."
She comes over, takes the box of pasta out of my hand.
"Go have a drink with your old college buddy. Tell him you're proud of him. Head held high. Tell him I said congrats."
"I will not tell him you said congrats."
"He has a thing for you."
"It's true. From way back. From our roommate days. Remember the last Christmas party? He kept trying to trick you into standing under the mistletoe with him?"
She just laughs, says, "Dinner will be on the table by the time you get home."
"Which means I should be back here in ..."
"What would I be without you?" She kisses me.
"Let's not even think about it."
I grab my keys and wallet from the ceramic dish beside the micro wave and move into the dining room, my gaze alighting on the tesseract chandelier above the dinner table. Daniela gave it to me for our tenth wedding anniversary. Best gift ever.
As I reach the front door, Daniela shouts, "Return bearing ice cream!"
"Mint chocolate chip!" Charlie says. I lift my arm, raise my thumb.
I don't look back.
I don't say goodbye.
And this moment slips past unnoticed.
The end of everything I know, everything I love.
Excerpted from "Dark Matter"
Copyright © 2016 Blake Crouch.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessaryto reveal certain aspects of the story in this novel. If you have not finished reading Dark Matter, we respectfully suggest that you do so before reviewing this guide.
1. For you, what was the biggest surprise as you followed Jason through the many twists laid out in Dark Matter?
2. What makes Jason 1 a standout amongst the others? Is our allegiance to him a matter of perspective? Or is there something fundamental to him that is more deserving of Daniela and Charlie than the others?
3. When the novel switches to Daniela’s point of view for the first time, were you surprised by the scene that takes place? Confused? What did you think was happening?
4. At its heart, Dark Matter is a love story. Yet we see Daniela in many different worlds and in situations where she is not with Jason and happy. Do you think they are supposed to be together? Do you believe that they would have been just as happy pursuing their career-driven dreams?
5. Many of the decisions in Dark Matter center around the notion of career and family. If you had to choose, would you rather live Jason 1 or Jason 2’s life? Why?
6. Jason 2 (and some of the other Jasons we meet later in the book) acts in morally questionable ways throughout the novel. Do you think that his life path has caused him to be less kind-hearted? Or is he merely self-interested and willing to do whatever it takes?
7. Without Amanda, Jason 1 might not have survived. What do you think of her decision to leave him? How did you feel about their relationship?
8. What kind of world do you imagine Jason, Daniela, and Charlie entered at the end of the book?
9. What did you think of the science and technology in the book? If this kind of advancement in science was possible, would you want it to exist?
10. Dark Matter has a somewhat unusual combination of qualities—it’s part thriller, part science-fiction novel, part love story. Can you think of other books or movies that combine these genres in similar ways?
11. What writing tricks and techniques does the author use to keep readers turning pages and make the book read quickly? Did you find them effective?
12. What was your favorite element of the novel? Your least favorite?
13. Is there a path not taken that you wish you could experience? If so, what is it? Do you feel you ultimately made the right decision?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I hate this book. I mean I love it and will re-read I many times, but I hate it. I bought this book two days ago and could not put it down! The story line is amazing. The book is well written. You always want to know what is on the next page. Even when I put the book down to be with my family or sleep was thinking about the book. An now it is done... Over... I hate this book.
This book was a wild fantasy ride, and I loved every minute of it. This story is brilliant. I have not read a book like this in a long, long time. Wow!
A book filled with ideas that are at once challenging, beautiful and terrifying. I had to finish it quickly because it left me feeling so disoriented. I will continue to think about it ...
Couldn't put it down. Loved the symbolism and the science.
This book is amazing! It hooked me from page one! I tried reading slow, reading just a few pages a day, trying to make it last as long as i possibly could. I finally finished it today :( but I am hoping there will be another Dark Matter where we find out WHERE Jason, Daniela and Charlie ended up and what adventuresthey encountered! Thank You Mr. Blake Crouch for one of the best books I've read in a long time!!!
This book reminded me of Michael Crichton. A well written, thrilling storyline with elements of science throughout. Highly recommend
The story kept me so engaged, would reccomend this book to anyone, one of my new alltime favorites!
Not only was this book beautifully written and edge-of-my-seat fun to read, but the story has a powerful message about enjoying life without regret that I will truly not forget.
The plot unfolds after Jason gets kidnapped. Makes you question who you really are in the infinity of the multiverse.
This book is by far the best book I have read ever, it was such a great thrill to read, literally kept me reading nonstop! I wish there were more books like this one. Next books to read are Blake Crouch's Wayward Pines series!
This is one of those books that makes you wonder why a 2nd book or a movie was not created. A truly captivating book. Had me hooked on every page for every second that I read it. This, science-fiction, almost-dystopian book makes you contemplate your life choices at night, and just how different your life, and even the world, would be had you not made those choices. The story takes place in Chicago, or should I say all the Chicago’s you could ever imagine, and then some. Jason Dessen, a college professor, is kidnapped one night on his way home and sent to another world where he and his wife broke up years ago, he has no son, and he made a completely different choice in his life earlier, changing his world (and the world) as he knows it. The book explores current theories about the multiverse, and that every choice you make creates an alternate universe. But it’s not just your choices, it’s everyone’s choices (by everyone, I mean all of the people in every single second after the big bang). The result: literally an infinite number of universes; where, in one, the apocalypse already happened; another, the apocalypse is happening; and one where you died 10 years ago. It makes you question what makes you so unique, and if this theory is real, what makes you different from the next you. As Jason meets 100’s of the same him, all killing each other to try and get the ideal life with his wife and his son, his concept of reality is twisted into what seems like a crazy dream. The plot is amazing. Every time I thought “Oh, this is going to happen,” or “That’s got to be his universe,” Crouch slaps me in the face with a twist, making me want to stay up until midnight reading this book. Blake Crouch’s writing style gives you the perfect amount of details and clues while still leaving you wondering, so you can lie in bed at night contemplating theories of the book. Jason, his wife, and all the other characters in the book seem so real, all with their major strengths and flaws, and their unique personalities collide, and work together, making the story feel as real as ever. Jason’s traveling from one universe to another makes you wonder how better or worse your (and his) life could be. In one universe he sits in front of “his” house, stalking “his” family for the day, feeling more home-and-love sick that anyone ever has. His emotional rollercoaster takes you along with it and makes you feel things you might have never felt before. The Author (Blake Crouch) has an extreme talent in writing, and his attention to detail makes it seem as if you’re watching a movie in 3D! Sometimes, I would become so immersed in this book that I would, for brief moments, literally believe that I was in his world, and I was reading a non-fiction article published in a science book! The only thing I didn’t like about this is the small (compared to infinite) number of universes our Jason visits, and at the end, (don’t worry, no spoilers) the biggest cliffhanger I have ever felt has had me thinking for months. Bake Crouch leaves the book to let you use your own imagination to choose how to finish Jason and his family’s story, and I wish there was a whole series based off of this novel. Dark Matter is suitable for all types of genre-lovers – if you like science, fiction, science-fiction, apocalyptic, dystopian, and even romance, then you will, just like I did, truly love and enjoy every second of reading this book.
This book draws you in and makes you expand your imagination, and just when you think you are about to figure it out here comes your twist.
I have never written a review for a book, but there was simply no way for me not to write one for Black Crouch's Dark Matter. It was honestly one of the best books I have ever read. It was a thought provoking, heart bounding, emotional roller coaster that I literally could not put down. It was so unpredictable and just when you thought you knew where it was going, a new twist would hit you smack in the face. Absolutely incredible, a must read for all ages. I never wanted it to end.
A masterpiece! A fictional piece of art! It made me contemplate and look at things from a different perspective. It really made the wheels in my mind turn. This book took me on a thrill ride from beginning to end. The entire book was non-stop action. There was never a dull or boring moment. It captivated me and sucked me in. I didn't want to put this book down for one second. This was by far one of my favorite reads of the year so far, if not the BEST read of the year. Jason-the main character- was strong, determined, and clever. He was the kind of man I would want for a Husband ( if I wasn't already married). He loved his family so much that he was willing to do whatever it took to keep them safe, even if it meant sacrificing his own life. All of the characters were realistically drawn and made me feel like I knew them personally. The love and connection between Jason and Daniella was beautiful. It is the kind of love from a man every woman dreams of. I could completely relate to Daniella in the end of the story. I would have had the same feelings and thoughts she did. This story was at times creepy and harrowing in the best possible way. It is one of those books that gets under your skin and makes you contemplate. It makes you think about the choices you make through life and who or where you would be if you had made a different decision at a particular time in your life. Did I make the right decisions in my life? Could I be living a better, more wealthy life right now? Would I be with someone else? Live in a different place? This piece of fiction felt like something that could happen in the future. It was believable, at least for me. It also made you look at what you do have in life and be happy and thankful for it. Towards the end of the book it started showing how fate plays into things. It made me think of how we are all where we are meant to be or need to be. This book was written in a way that was easy to follow. The sentences were short and sweet. The writing was never drawn out or dragged on. The descriptive writing was never overdone. I could see the book playing out like a movie screen in my mind. Speaking of movies, there is a big possibility that this is going to be one! :-0 So extremely excited for this!!! This author's work and writing style reminded me of Harlan Coben, one of my all-time favorite authors. I would put this writing right up there with James Patterson, Joe Hill, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. If you are a fan of any of those authors then you will definitely enjoy this book! * I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
What a thrill ride, I am so intrigued by this authors imagination. I learned of him through Wayward Pines series on FOX, which I love. If your a Science Fiction, Thriller fan, this is based on Technical Scientific theory that will blow the mind. I couldn't put it down. The book is based on intense research on Blake's part for his fictional characters story, into Quantum superposition, which was filled with mystery, romance, and thrill-a-minute page turning enjoyment. I had to go back and reread pages to let in sink in. Whew! if this is possible, which reality is real?? I will say no more not to spoil the story. Kudos to Blake Crouch. I received this book from Blogging for Books for an honest review.
Have you ever started reading a book that initially excited you, but then you read a little bit more of it and then you weren’t sure if you liked it enough to continue reading it? That’s how it was for me at first with Dark Matter. I was very excited to dive into it and hopefully get totally wrapped up in it. And I did – for a little while. The first couple of chapters had me totally hooked. But then, it started to lose me. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out why I began to lose interest in it. The writing was certainly good enough. This is the first Blake Crouch book I’ve read, but I was immediately impressed with his skills as a writer. I think, though, that the problem was more with me than with the book itself. I don’t read a lot of sci fi thrillers, so it probably took me a little longer to totally get into the story than it probably would for regular readers of books like this. Some of the more “scientific” parts of the story slowed it down for me towards the beginning and I wasn’t sure if I cared enough to keep reading. But I did. And I’m very glad that I did. Like I said before, Crouch is a talented writer and storyteller. He made the book very compelling and I eventually grew to care a lot about the characters. Also, the story itself kept getting better and better as it moved forward. In particular, the last hundred or so pages were especially interesting, clever, and exciting. So, my recommendation is to read this book. Chances are very good that you’ll love it all the way through. However, if you do struggle at all with it, well, don’t give up on it too soon. Stick with it and I bet you’ll like it. As for me, I ended up liking it a lot. I’ll be reading another Blake Crouch book very, very soon.
This book is part sick-fi, part love story and part thriller. Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had taken a different path? Haven’t we all wondered? I found myself unable to put this one down. The main character, Jason Dessen, is a brilliant physicist who decided to give up his dream of fame and fortune in order to have a family. His life is going along well until one night when he is kidnapped and his family is stolen from him. How will he ever get his life back? You must read to find out if he even does.
I wasn't sure I would like this story and after reading, I'm still not sure. It's a stretch of the imagination and towards the end it just became a stretch, period. I would recommend to those who love science fiction and believe in the idea of infinite parallel universes. It wasn't a bad book just not my thing.
Dark Matter is one of those books that makes you think about life, the universe and... well... everything! What if I'm not the only version of myself? What if there are infinite versions of 'me' and what if all these different versions are living their lives in parallel universes? These are the questions physics professor Jason Dessen must face when he's abducted and awakens in a place where everyone seems to know him but he doesn't know them. I really enjoyed Dark Matter and found it a refreshing read. Although the idea of parallel universes isn't new, Blake Crouch approaches it from a slightly different angle that is, quite frankly, mind-boggling! I felt as if I was trapped somewhere between Dr Who, Stargate and Sliders! The story isn't weighed down by tons of heavy scientific jargon, so those of us who flunked quantum physics at school need not worry. Towards the final quarter it all got rather bizarre, but in a good way. It really does make you stop and think 'what if....'
Have read this twice and have nothing but high praise for the crispness, action and imagination. Am a fan of Fringe series and this fits right in! Also Brian Green's String Theory book to explain plausibility.
One of a kind