Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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“What if we live in a fifth-dimensional probability space? What if we actually inhabit the multiverse, but our brains have evolved in such a way as to equip us with a firewall that limits what we perceive to a single universe? One worldline. The one we chose, moment to moment. It makes sense if you think about it. We couldn’t possibly contend with simultaneously observing all possible realities at once.
So how do we access the 5-D probability space?
And if we could, where would it take us?”

A weird, speculative sci-fi about parallel worlds that just kept getting better, and one I devoured in one evening. It was unexpectedly good, though it good off to a slightly rocky start.

Jason Dessen didn’t immediately strike me as being likable. A once-promising physicist turned university lecturer, Jason was introduced as the kind of guy who led an unfulfilling life. He just wasn’t entirely happy with his decent job, wife and family. I just couldn’t relate to that, plus it annoyed me that the man was supposedly a genius yet made some pretty dumb choices within the first few chapters. It mattered not, as my mind was quickly changed.
We’re thrown quite quickly into the action as Jason is kidnapped on his way home from the pub by a man in a geisha mask. He is taken to a dark location, stripped, drugged, and wakes up in a laboratory with a hangover-type headache and a lot of questions. After several chapters of unnecessary confusion, Jason discovers that he is in a parallel universe and he doesn’t like it there.

At first, there were a lot of sciency-type world-building explanations, which was grand as I really had a need to know how this shit works. Credit to Crouch, I think he tried, but the science wasn’t as good as it should have been. It was very unclear what theory he was pushing as truth in this novel: Copenhagen or Many-Worlds. On a couple of occasions if felt like he was even pushing Schrödinger’s cat as a theory.

“You understand the concept behind Schrödinger’s cat?”
“Sure.”
“And how observation determines reality?”
“Yes.”

It’s unclear if Blake was actually pushing Schrödinger’s as a theory, but he definitely used the allegory to explain the Copenhagen interpretation. Which is a bit rude really, because Schrödinger specifically designed the allegory to discredit the Copenhagen interpretation. These days, Schrödinger’s cat is used in the scientific community sort of as a test, they’ll use the allegory to see if a theory can be disproved by it. To my knowledge, no one uses Schrödinger to say: “this is how quantum physics works using the Copenhagen interpretation“.

It bugged me. A fair bit. But I decided to forget about the science and willingly suspend my disbelief because I did want to see where the book went. And I had started to like Jason at this point.

Around 40% of the way in, it really kicked off in a way I didn’t expect. Jason’s thoughts and actions made me really, really like him. The book evoked strong emotions and did the best thing a book could do: made me think. Science and space and the concept of the multi-verse are subjects that I think we’re all aware about, but most of us don’t really bother ourselves with. If you’re interested in the idea of the multi-verse but all you really know about it comes from that episode of Family Guy, then Dark Matter could be very educational. It’s still “the multi-verse for beginners”, but maybe a Level 2 stage.
It’s great to find a book that makes you examine your life and the universe around you. It’s great to find a book that makes you imagine what choices you would make if you were living the life of the protagonist. And it’s just the best to find a book that keeps you up until midnight soaking it up. Dark Matter was fast-paced and highly interesting. The main character I thought was fabulous and the plot was kind of predictable, but not at the same time. But I’ve observed it now, so it’s predictability level cannot be related back to Schrödinger!

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