Jason Dessen has given up a promising future as a top research physicist in favour of a quiet life as a college lecturer with his loving family. Does he regret that choice? Not really but sometimes it does haunt him a little. It’s only when it’s all abruptly taken away that he really realises how important that life and family is to him. Stepping out of the family home to join an old colleague for a quick drink he is abducted and eventually finds himself in a world he cannot understand where he has not only lost his loving family but has never even been married.
I really wanted to like this book and, to be fair, some of the time I did but at its core is the idea of infinite universes where anything that could happen, anything that had even the slightest probability of happening, has happened. In the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment both outcomes are true; the universe forks into two universes, in one the cat lives in the other it dies. Now this kind of multiverse theory has always struck me as utterly improbable because if it can happen at major decision points then it will happen at every possible junction; will this atom combine chemically with that one? Possibly yes possibly no. And two more universes are created. If this happens at all then it must happen trillions of times every nanosecond in every universe. There must be a virtually infinite number of universes out there that have been branching ever since the big bang. Now for the sake of the story I might have been able to suspend my level of disbelief sufficiently to ignore this inconvenient infinite creation of matter from nothing had it not been for one ham-fisted attempt at an explanation offered in the book that maybe this could account for the missing matter in our universe – dark matter – except that we’re only missing around 80% of the necessary matter and an infinite number of universes is going to provide rather more than that.
So right from the beginning I was struggling with the basic foundation of the story. But again I could have lived with this but the story just didn’t grip me and this is the one bit of surprise inspired by Dark Matter. All the reviews I have read are filled with words like mind-bending, exciting, gripping, compelling, suspenseful etc. etc. and yet I found the whole thing utterly predictable; every – and I mean every single one – every reveal and twist and turn was, to me, so obviously inevitable that I was never once surprised and I’m generally not that good at spotting plot twists before they happen.
One of the biggest intended (I’m sure) OMG moments comes towards the end when multiple Jasons all suddenly appear at the same time, the only surprise to me was that there weren’t more; there should have been millions or even billions of them, how many universe branches must have occurred in the couple of months that the book spans?
Dark Matter does explore some interesting ideas about identity and relationships but it was so lacking in anything that felt like novelty to me that I was largely bored by the book. Rather surprising in that almost everyone else praises it for being the exact opposite, so maybe it’s just me.
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