Bük Kloob is a series of book reviews loosely related to a book club I started.
Have you ever wondered if another you exists? If you have, is this person a better or worse version of yourself? At what point did you and this other person become different? Do you think this person wants to be you or are they content with their own, independent existence?
These are the questions that Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter walks around in very explicit terms. The book uses fictional physicist Jason Dessen as a way to explore the subject by taking this average man with his average family and thrusting him into philosophical and scientific turmoil. How? Because another him covets his somewhat boring, unaccomplished life. Dark Matter is a 350 page exploration of what that tension between two alternative selves might be like.
But it’s more than that: it’s a throbbing knot of science fiction. While the book’s main thematic device will go unsaid, Crouch toys with the fabric of our worlds by questioning if our lives are our lives. Like Another Earth but markedly better, Crouch wonders if our lives could be plugged into another, similar life we didn’t know about. He does this with extreme scientific sleight of hand too, the type of intellectual waxing that makes an unknowledgeable reader feel both very smart and very dumb yet not confused enough to fact check his homework.
While Dessen’s journey is strange (and obvious), the book isn’t about questioning science or becoming brain butter for Stephen Hawking: it is unfiltered sci-fi fun. I wouldn’t call myself a “sci-fi fan” but I am a lover of the style: I’m the type of person who will turn to space or science media over any other genre (but horror or queerness). Dark Matter is a reminder of the simplicity of sci-fi and hints at the subtle complexities that masters like Phillip K. Dick made a career from. The book never lets you off the hook and very quickly throws you into the mind melting fun, running you for miles and miles and miles naked with only scientific shoes on.
There are few (If any!) lags and lulls and a generous amount of thrills across these quick reading pages. The book does get confusing at points in the final act, becoming a goulash of tropes like door roulette and Scooby Doo‘s confusing hallways. It never drops that tense fun though or gets distracted by stereotypes that would sink the bad parallel versions of this book.
If you’re looking for an exciting, strange popcorn flick in book form, Dark Matter is what you’re looking for. It’s one of the most fun (albeit predictable) reads in recent memory—and it might even inspire an existential wandering too.