By Blake Crouch
Starting the action, intriguing the reader, most writers of suspense and mystery do this pretty well. And then comes sustaining the gripping action and pile driving to a brilliant end; well, not such an easy task for many writers in this genre. Blake Crouch’s new sci-fi thriller grabs at the start. Even when you’ve figured out who is responsible for kidnapping Jason into a parallel universe, you still want to race on to see what happens to him, wife Daniela, and early teen son Charlie. And here is where the book goes wobbly in the multiverse, staggering through a denouement to a climax that, unfortunately, lacks any luster at all, given that it simply peters into nothing.
Briefly, without revealing too much, Jason lives in present-day Chicago, Logan Square to be precise, with his wife and son. He teaches psychics at a local, somewhat middling college. However, what motivates him out of bed everyday is the overpowering love he has for Daniela and the quotidian life they share. It’s the quotidian aspect of his life that he both loves and wishes might be different. Before he met Daniela fifteen years or so ago, he was a brilliant young physicist working in the most esoteric fringes of quantum mechanics, superposition and the probability of multiverses running parallel to our own. Here’s where the novel is particularly absorbing because the concept, along with the concomitant branching aspects, proves very stimulating, even if scientific supposition isn’t in your top ten things to think about for fun. In fact, once Jason’s on his adventure in the multiverse, you can forgive him for stepping out of the transporting cube into different versions of his Chicago that offer less than hospitable welcomes. This is because you’ll find yourself concocting your own versions of your world. (Yes, it has been done before; remember Sliders from the late 1990s?) It’s right about here that the intrigue and suspense parts of the novel began to fall apart. It degrades into finding Daniela, contenting with some back effects of branching, and running, running, and running.
Crouch has given us Wayward Pines, the first season of which was quite intriguing. Based on the acknowledgements at the end of Dark Matter and IMDb, Crouch’s newest will be turning up in theaters and maybe on TV. Hopefully, by then, he will have found the multiverse in which Dark Matter does a better job of sustaining thrills and interest. w/c