“Imagine you’re a fish, swimming in a pond. You can move forward and back, side to side, but never up out of the water. If someone were standing beside the pond, watching you, you’d have no idea they were there. To you, that little pond is an entire universe. Now imagine that someone reaches down and lifts you out of the pond. You see that what you thought was the entire world is only a small pool. You see other ponds. Trees. The sky above. You realize you’re part of a much larger and more mysterious reality than you had ever dreamed of.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is a heart-pounding, yell-at-your-reading-method-of-choice, sci-fi thriller that begins in the home of Jason Dessen- college physics professor, husband and father.
Standing happy and slightly drunk in my kitchen, I’m unaware that tonight is the end of all of this. The end of everything I know, everything I love. No one tells you it’s all about to change, to be taken away. There’s no proximity alert, no indication that you’re standing on the precipice. And maybe that’s what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of no where, when you’re least expecting. No time to flinch or brace.
Jason has his world turned upside-down when he is kidnapped on his way home from an evening out. When he wakes up disoriented and amnesic surrounded by people who claim to know him and where he was, Jason begins to search for answers.
I return to bed, sit alone in this sterile, silent room, trying to court my last concrete memory. The mere attempt feels like drowning ten feet from shore. There are pieces of memory lying on the beach, and I can see them, I can almost touch them, but my lungs are filling up with water. I can’t keep my head above the surface. The more I strain to assemble the pieces, the more energy I expend, the more I flail, the more I panic.
As he gets deeper into the reality he has awoken in, he begins to question everything he thought he knew was true.
What if all the pieces of belief and memory that comprise who I am- my profession, Daniela, my son- are nothing but a tragic misfiring in that gray matter between my ears? Will I keep fighting to be the man I think I am? Or will I disown him and everything he loves, and step into the skin of the person this world would like for me to be? And if I have lost my mind, what then? What if everything I know is wrong?
What follows is a succession of rapid-fire plot twists that will leave you opened-mouthed, eyes popping. Crouch tackles some of physics’ most profound, mind-bending scientific theory and presents it in the most accessible way possible.
We perceive our environment in three dimensions, but we don’t actually live in a 3D world. 3D is static. A snapshot. We have to add a fourth dimension to begin to describe the nature of our existence. The 4D tesseract doesn’t add a spacial dimension. It adds a temporal one. It adds time, a stream of 3D cubes, representing space as it moves along time’s arrow. This is best illustrated by looking up into the night sky at the stars whose brilliance took fifty light-years to reach our eyes. Or five-hundred. Or five-billion. We’re not just looking into space, we’re looking back through time. Our path through this 4D spacetime is our worldline (reality), beginning with our birth and ending with our death. Four coordinates (x, y, z, and t (time)) locate a point within the tesseract. And we think it stops there, but that’s only true if every outcome is inevitable, if free will is an illusion, and our worldline is solitary. What if our worldline is just one of an infinite number of worldlines, some only slightly altered from the life we know, others drastically different? The Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics posits that all possible realities exist. That everything which has a probability of happening is happening. Everything that might have occurred in our past did occur, only in another universe. What if that’s true? What if we live in a fifth-dimensional probability space? 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. It makes sense if you think about it. We couldn’t possibly contend with simultaneously observing all possible realities at once. So how do we access this 5D probability space? And if we could, where would it take us?
Dark Matter explores how the choices we make affect our path through life, the road not taken, and what happens when worlds collide.
I can’t help thinking that we’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.
Be thankful you live in the universe where this book was written. Dark Matter is the science fiction thriller with a dash of romance to cure any reading slump.
We all live day-to-day completely oblivious to the fact that we’re part of a munch larger and stranger reality than we can possibly imagine.
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