Dark Matter by Black Crouch - Excerpt, Interview, Review
Published: May 03,
2017 | 07:55
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was published in Trade Paperback on May 2nd by Broadway Books. Today we are sharing an excerpt from Dark Matter and re-posting our interview with Blake and review from July 2016.
An Excerpt from Dark Matter
I’m aware of someone gripping my ankles. As hands slide under my shoulders, a woman says, “How’d he get out of the box?” A man responds: “No idea. Look, he’s coming to.” I open my eyes, but all I see is blurred movement and light. The man barks, “Let’s get him the hell out of here.” I try to speak, but the words fall out of my mouth, garbled and formless. The woman says, “Dr. Dessen? Can you hear me? We’re going to lift you onto a gurney now.” I look toward my feet, and the man’s face racks into focus. He’s staring at me through the face shield of an aluminized hazmat suit with a self-contained breathing apparatus. Glancing at the woman behind my head, he says, “One, two, three.” They hoist me onto a gurney and lock padded restraints around my ankles and wrists. “Only for your protection, Dr. Dessen.” I watch the ceiling scroll past, forty or fifty feet above. Where the hell am I? A hangar? I catch a glint of memory—a needle puncturing my neck. I was injected with something. This is some crazy hallucination. A radio squawks, “Extraction team, report. Over.” The woman says with excitement bleeding through her voice, "We have Dessen. We're en route. Over." I hear the squeak of wheels rolling. "Copy that. Initial condition assessment? Over." She reaches down with a gloved hand and wakes some kind of monitoring device that's been Velcroed to my left arm. "Pulse rate: one-fifteen. BP: one-forty over ninety-two. Temp: ninety-eight-point-nine. Oh-two sat: ninety-five percent. Gamma: point-eight seven. ETA thirty seconds. Out." A buzzing sound startles me. We move through a pair of vaultlike doors that are slowly opening. Jesus Christ. Stay calm. This isn't real. The wheels squeak faster, more urgently. We're in a corridor lined with plastic, my eyes squinting against the onslaught of light from fluorescent bulbs shining overhead. The doors behind us slam shut with an ominous clang, like the gates to a keep. They wheel me into an operating room toward an imposing figure in a positive pressure suit, standing under an array of surgical lights. He smiles down at me through his face shield and says, as if he knows me, "Welcome back, Jason. Congratulations. You did it." Back? I can only see his eyes, but they don't remind me of anyone I've ever met. ''Are you experiencing any pain?" he asks. I shake my head. "Do you know how you got the cuts and bruises on your face?'' Shake. "Do you know who you are?" I nod. "Do you know where you are?" Shake. "Do you recognize me?" Shake. 'Tm Leighton Vance, chief executive and medical officer. We're colleagues and friends." He holds up a pair of surgical shears. "I need to get you out of these clothes." He removes the monitoring device and goes to work on my jeans and boxer shorts, tossing them into a metal tray. As he cuts off my shirt, I gaze up at the lights burning down on me, trying not to panic. But I'm naked and strapped to a gurney. No, I remind myself, I'm hallucinating that I'm naked and strapped to a gurney. Because none of this is real. Leighton lifts the tray holding my shoes and clothes and hands it to someone behind my head, outside my line of sight. "Test every thing." Footsteps rush out of the room. I note the sharp bite of isopropyl alcohol a second before Leighton cleans a swatch of skin on the underside of my arm. He ties a tourniquet above my elbow. "Tust drawing some blood," he says, taking a large-gauge hypoder- mic needle from the instrument tray. He's good. I don't even feel the sting. When he's finished, Leighton rolls the gurney toward the far side of the OR to a glass door with a touchscreen mounted on the wall beside it. "Wish I could tell you this is the fun part," he says. "If you're too disoriented to remember what's about to happen, that's probably for the best." I try to ask what's happening, but words still elude me. Leigh ton's fingers dance across the touchscreen. The glass door opens, and he pushes me into a chamber that's just large enough to hold the gurney. "Ninety seconds," he says. "You'll be fine. It never killed any of the test subjects."
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. You've written over a dozen novels. Has your writing process changed (or not) over the years? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Blake: Thanks for having me! My writing process has definitely evolved and is continuing to evolve from book to book. The hardest thing for me is finding the right idea. It involves lots of hemming and hawing and self-doubting and journaling and outlining before I finally commit to something and get underway with the writing itself.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Blake: I would describe myself as a plotter who, along the way, is very open to becoming a pantser when inspiration strikes. In other words, I go into a book having a pretty good notion of what the first half of the book is going to be and a vaguer idea of the latter half. But along the way, I want to be surprised. By characters. By sudden reversals I never planned. So I go into the process with a game plan that I hope inspiration and magic will dramatically alter.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Blake: Lately, it’s a combination of two things. 1. My own life: the challenges and struggles I face seem to work their way into the psychology of my main characters (and sometimes villains). 2. A strong interest in emerging technologies and how they are changing our world, our species.
TQ: Describe Dark Matter in 140 characters or less.
Blake: If Christopher Nolan directed It’s a Wonderful Life.
TQ: Tell us something about Dark Matter that is not found in the book description.
Blake: At it’s heart, it’s a love story.
TQ: What inspired you to write Dark Matter? What appeals to you about writing Thrillers?
Blake: I wrote it because I’m fascinated by quantum mechanics and what that field of science suggests about the universe we live in. I love writing thrillers because I love reading thrillers. I write the kinds of books I would want to read.
TQ: Do Dark Matter and the Wayward Pine Trilogy (Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town) share anything thematically?
Blake: Yes. They share man questioning his reality, and at times, his identity. They also share the idea that as we progress as a species and reach higher levels of scientific achievement, that threatens to not only change the world around us, but also what it means to be human.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Dark Matter?
Blake: I read books, articles, abstracts for the last decade, just trying to wrap my brain around quantum mechanics. I still don’t fully understand it. To truly grasp the insanity of how sub-atomic particles behave requires advanced mathematics degrees, and I took as few of those courses as possible in college. When I finished Dark Matter I sent the book to a physicist named Clifford Johnson who teaches at USC. He was kind of enough to read the science-heavy passages and make sure I hadn’t gotten too far off track in my representation of certain theories.
TQ: In Dark Matter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Blake: Jason was far and away the easiest because I feel like he and I are pulled in similar direction in terms of career vs. family. And being in my mid-thirties, I find myself looking more and more back toward the path not taken. Amanda was the hardest character for me, not to write, but to do justice to. She’s a fairly minor character in the book, but she is with Jason during his hardest moments. I didn’t want to short shrift her character, while at the same time, I didn’t want her journey to overshadow my main character’s.
TQ: Which question about Dark Matter do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Q: Was this the hardest book you ever wrote?
A: By a factor of about 10.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Dark Matter.
Blake: I really like this one, from early on in the book. We’re deep in the main character (Jason’s) head here and beginning to understand where he is in life:
“There’s an energy to these autumn nights that touches something primal inside of me. Something from long ago. From my childhood in western Iowa. I think of high school football games and the stadium lights blazing down on the players. I smell ripening apples, and the sour reek of beer from keg parties in the cornfields. I feel the wind in my face as I ride in the bed of an old pickup truck down a country road at night, dust swirling red in the taillights and the entire span of my life yawning out ahead of me.
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.
I love my life, but I haven’t felt that lightness of being in ages. Autumn nights like this are as close as I get.”
TQ: What's next?
Blake: That’s a great question. Remember what I said about how hard it is for me to fall in love with a new idea? I’m speed-dating a bunch of them right now.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Blake: Thank YOU! Awesome questions.
Dark Matter Broadway Books, May 2, 2017 Trade Paperback,368 pages Hardcover and eBook, July 26, 2016
“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. Hiswife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.
Jason Dessen's life is about to change dramatically. He's kidnapped. His life is wrenched away from him. And all he wants is not the fame and glory of the new world he wakes up in, he just wants his wife and son and the life they've made. Jason is not a typical hero. He starts out a happy man who understands what he has potentially given up to have the life he has with the woman he loves deeply and their son he loves as much. This love is palpable and deeply felt. He will do what he has to do to get home if he can while coming to a deeper understanding of what makes the world around him his world. I didn't always like Jason's attitude and some of things he did, but I understood and respected his decisions.
Dark Matter is tightly plotted and beautifully written. There are moments of deep introspection and of pulse-pounding action. There is science that stretches the boundaries of what we know and what is possible. Crouch raises questions about identity, the multiverse and who we are and wraps these questions in an extremely entertaining, often tense, moving SF thriller.
Dark Matter is, for me, essentially a story about a man's love for his wife and family and his journey to be with them. And it's about quantum mechanics and human entanglement. It's about perseverance in the face of nearly insurmountable odds and finding your way home. It's also mind-blowingly twisty and wonderful. Dark Matter will make you think, question and wonder.
Photo by Jesse Giddings
Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of the novel, Dark Matter, for which he is writing the screenplay for Sony Pictures. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX, executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, that was Summer 2015's #1 show. With Chad Hodge, Crouch also created Good Behavior, the TNT television show starring Michelle Dockery based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He has written more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Crouch lives in Colorado.