An avid reader, Stephen's knowledge of Crime Fiction is fairly extensive, with The Golden Age is his greatest interest.
Crouch's Dark Matter is a gripping and fast moving psychological-techno thriller. Jason Dessen is a physics teacher at Lakemont College in Chicago. He is a family man comfortable at home with his wife Daniela and young son Charlie. When he decides to nip out for a quick drink at his old college room-mate's party at the Village Tap; and pick up some ice cream on the way back. Little does he know the train of events he is setting in motion, or where they will lead.
The steady suburban life is suddenly torn apart when Dessen is kidnapped at gun point on his way home. He is made to drive to a deserted building where he is forced to strip, then badly beaten and left begging for his life. He is then given different clothes to wear and drugged then finally dumped. When he comes round, he finds himself in some kind of hangar on a wheeled stretcher surrounded by people in Hazmat Suits.
Dessen is asked where he has been for the last 14 months.
Meanwhile, at his home his wife waits for her husband to return. After about four hours he returns home to receive her disapprobation. Life returns to normal, but his wife feels that their relationship is different, and seems renewed and almost like the early days of their life together.
Dessen is taken to a modern research facility where everyone seems to know him. He is told he will be debriefed about how he ended up in the hangar, but he feels completely alienated in this sterile building peopled by unfriendly occupants. He goes to the washroom to escape through the window and into the night. Still reeling from the effects of his beating and the drugs - he finds himself running through the dark streets, trying to fathom what is going on in his world and all the while chased by the security staff from the facility.
He knows he is still in Chicago and finds his way to his home, though it is his home, but then again it's not. There's nothing in it he remembers, and no Daniela and no Charlie. He calls his wife's mobile number but it belongs to a man. When he finds Daniela she is single and a successful artist dating his old college room-mate. He ponders how can he get his wife and child and his happy comfortable life back?
This book is something out of the ordinary; the premise that there are infinite universes running parallel with our own and there are versions of ourselves in them - is a mind boggling concept. Do we consider the significance of those big decisions we make in our lives, and think “what if?” Maybe there is a way to see through the “what if?” But, to see these other universes, one needs a scientific marvel of a very large metal box and a new drug.
Dessen it seems has created this box and his old college room-mate has helped create the drug required to help see these alternative universes.
This is a great feat of imagination from Crouch and he brings it off in style.
The narrative does play with your mind trying to cope with the parallel universes and what happens when characters move from one to another. It is emotional and touching too, the loss and longing, the pain of losing something dear are evocative. But most of all it is a breakneck read with many handbrake turns and hairpin bends to take.
It is one of those books that can get you turning pages fast, in anticipation of what will come next, so wear gloves in case of papercuts as you turn those pages rapidly because it is indeed a supercharged read.