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Dark Matter

by Blake Crouch

Wherever you are in life, all you have control over is your choices. Did you make the right choices yesterday? Last year? With your first serious partner? That’s what this book cleverly explores. In our youth, all this lies ahead:

“It’s the beautiful thing about youth. There’s a weightlessness that permeates everything because no damning choices have been made, no paths committed to, and the road forking out ahead is pure, unlimited potential.”

Jason Dessen, the hero, is confronted by a masked abductor who asks him “Are you happy in your life?”, forces him to drive to an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the city, and knocks him unconscious. When he awakes, he’s strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Or at least, they’re strangers to him – but he doesn’t seem to be a stranger to them – they know him, and greet him as a friend.

The Jason who is knocked out is married to a gifted artist, Daniela, whom he married fifteen years before when he found out she was unexpectedly pregnant with his child. Jason gave up his research into quantum mechanics, and took a job as a college physics professor at a quiet university. But in the world he wakes up in, he isn’t married to Daniela, he has no son. In this world, he’s a celebrated genius, who has achieved something truly remarkable, and held in awe by those around him.

I found the premise for the book dragged me right into it. The choices we make define us, but are there other versions of “us” who made different choices? How did those turn out? Better, or worse? The book picks this theme and runs with it flat out, leading to a thoughtful, complex, thriller, which explores the topics brilliantly. It’s also a great exploration of quantum mechanics, and some of the implications thereof. QM is weird – very, very, weird:

“We all live day to day completely oblivious to the fact that we’re a part of a much larger and stranger reality than we can possibly imagine.”

But somehow we cope with this. Is that a flaw in the theories of QM, which make predictions that – quite literally – are accurate to thirteen decimal places? Or is something else going on:

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 choose, moment to moment.

The pace never lets up, and the conclusion is brilliant, and entirely logical. Four stars, well deserved.

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Book review

The Invisible Library

by Genevieve Cogman

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