Who Should Read It:
All fans of suspenseful thrillers and science fiction
Why Should We Read It:
It is a page-turner with shocking plot twists.
What Will We Learn:
The multiverse isn't as rosy and clean as the comics make it out to be!
"What if we had a story in which the consequences of tampering with the multiverse were thought out?"
The “multiverse” has become a popular plot device lately, and it seems like nearly every comic book have jumped on this proverbial bandwagon. And why not? It is an area of actual active real-world research, and the trope helps draw in fans, new and established, back to see an overused superhero (read: dollar signs). All these mainstream franchises- the Avengers, the Arrowverse, all of DC comics- ask us to do one thing: suspend our disbelief and don’t think too deeply about the plot. But what if we did? What if we had a story in which the consequences of tampering with the multiverse were thought out? That story would probably be Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch.
What if I had done [this] instead?
Whereas the stakes in most “multiverse” stories is nothing less than the fate of all of existence, Dark Matter focuses on the fate of one man: Jason Dessen, a physics professor at a local community college in Chicago. In this universe, Jason walked away from a brilliant career to be with the love of his life, Daniela. Together, they have a son, Charlie, and all three are the picture of perfect familial bliss. But in some different universe, Jason Dessen did not choose Daniela. This Jason- Jason 2- walked away from Daniela for his physics career instead. Jason 2 went on to discover how to access the multiverse, and there was only one logical next step: use this technology to steal Jason 1’s life.
Schrodinger's Cat is alive...or not...or both
Central to the plot is a novel application of yet another real-world thought experiment: Schrodinger’s cat. In quantum mechanics, subatomic particles like electrons behave very oddly, and it has been difficult to explain why. One hypothesis is that the act of observing an electron with any machine inherently changes the nature of the electron itself. Therefore, we can never know how an electron “actually behaves”. If we take that idea to its logical conclusion, then we cannot know if a cat inside a steel box with cyanide is dead or alive until we open it. Paradoxically, quantum mechanics would state that the cat is both alive and dead…until we open it to “measure” the cat. The possible statuses of Schrodinger’s cat are infinite, as Jason 1 and Jason 2 will soon discover.
"...paradoxically tragic and triumphant..."
How Jason 1 fights to reclaim his stolen life is suspenseful and gripping. It is the stuff of movies, and I would not be surprised if it is picked up as a movie option one day. To avoid spoilers, I will not speak of any further details. I highly recommend reading this book. I will share, however, that the ending legitimately disturbed me for at least 2 weeks. Like Schrodinger’s cat, I could not fathom how Dark Matter can be paradoxically tragic and triumphant at the same time. I am left with only one conclusion: some people, no matter how infinite the possibilities, are simply destined to have unhappy endings.