Before I begin, I want to let you know that this is not a common thing. I don’t write reviews of books because I am a book blogger or want to be, I write because I find it exciting and as a goal to read a lot more books going forward in my life; I take these reviews as a way to keep myself accountable. All my reviews have spoilers and are opinionated, I will at points call a book or plot rubbish, even if you think it is good. I, like yourself, am entitled to my opinion, but by no means do I think I am always correct or even relevant. AKA take these reviews with a grain of salt, maybe the entire container.
What struck me as appealing at the beginning of the book is how solid the character of Jason seemed. Here was a man that had chosen his family over his career, and he was relatable. He worried about being a good father, wondered if he was a loving husband, questioned himself as a professor. It all made sense, and you may already notice that I may have liked this book a lot more than the previous one, and that is perfectly normal.
If you haven’t read “Dark Matter” and don’t plan on reading it, let me give you a summary. Jason Dessen (our main character) is a brilliant man, at the age of 27 he decides to give up on his dream and start a family. Fifteen years later, he gets kidnapped by an unknown person as he is out congratulating his friend for winning an award in the field of neuroscience. His friend gives him grief about giving up his dream and makes a lesson out of him in front of his students (yeah, really great guy here.) He gets mildly beaten and driven to an unknown location by someone who seems to have stalked him for weeks; it’s creepy. Dessen is then drugged and wakes up in another version of his world, a laboratory of people he has never known greets him with hopeful eyes. The other Jason or Jason 2.0 was a physicist who created a box that could allow others to venture into different realities, aka the multiverse. After being questioned in the lab, he escapes, it takes him a while to realize this as he tries to find his wife and son, but they don’t exist in this plane of reality.
Daniella Vargas could have been his wife was still as gorgeous as he remembered her, except he decided to pursue his research rather than marry her. He was never married to his wife, and they don’t have a son. Everything Dessen thought he knew and understood about himself becomes questionable. Dessen trying to cling to the only person close enough to what he remembers sleeps with his “wife,” but that only makes her a target.
He gets dragged back to the laboratory and beaten to reveal answers about who he was and what he experienced. He somehow escapes with the help of a psychiatrist, Amanda, into the box and begins the long trek home; he finds worlds of beauty and destruction, worlds where he has already died, or his wife is dead. Amanda leaves him out of frustration at how this journey is destroying his mind, but before she does, she leaves a note telling him to write his feelings and be true to himself.
When he returns to his world, he finds out that there are other versions of himself that made it back, two versions try to kill him. While wondering about how to eliminate the competition, he decides to make his wife come to him and take his family to someplace safe. It almost works out, but the other Jasons find him and nearly kill him. While running for their lives, they kill Jason 2.0 after listening to his reason for kidnapping Dessen from his family and starting this entire series of events. They decide that the only way to get a similar life back is to go back into that black box and leave this world behind. When they get to the black box, there are about thirty versions of Jason standing in their way; his wife is the one who convinces the others that he is what she wants.
The book ends with his son being the one to decide on which type of world they would live in; this makes sense because the other Jasons will keep coming to their original worlds and Charlie, his son, is the only factor that they can’t duplicate to find where they went.
Even with this summary, I left out a lot because I think you should read the book if you like SciFi or strange fiction.
The Hero’s Journey
You have heard of it right, a quest to the right the wrong. Our main character is the hero of this story; his family is in danger. The villain is himself, or a different version of himself. On his journey, he meets his companion, who also acts as a guide to help him find his truth. The ampules are his lifeline; without them or the box, he has no hope of returning home.
This journey brings the main character to their knees and when their worst enemy is themselves. It is gripping and disturbing at some points to watch the character development. After fighting different versions of himself and being reunited with his family, he has to face a horde of himself. Only then will he be allowed to live happily ever after.
My take away
For the past two years or so, I spent a lot of time thinking, what if I had the opportunity to make different choices, I began this downward spiral of regret about mistakes that I have made in the past. It was a tricky spiral, one that I wish never to go down again. This book tackles the idea of what if? And I find that immensely satisfying.
The characters were relatable; I found myself screaming at a book, jumping up and down in agony. The angst was so real; I had to put the book down for a few days before I decided to pick it back up.
I had no problems with the portrayal of the box and how each door represented life. I loved the part where the main character questions the type of father he is and how he can only hope for the best. The deep love and affection he has for his wife reminded me of how Mercy Thompson feels about her husband in the Mercy Thompson series. It was pure and beautiful. The underlying theme for me was love; looking back at all the things he did to get back to his family was admirable. Honestly, if I were thrown into a world and had to go through his journey to get back to his wife, I don’t think I would have made it.
I would rate this book a 9/10, solely for the plot and execution.