From the BLURB:
'What is it? What does it want? Why is it angry with me?' January 1937 Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he's offered the chance to be the wireless operator on an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken. But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return - when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible. And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark.
I have heard of Michalle Paver, or at least her critically acclaimed ‘The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness’ series (which I have been meaning to read!). So when her latest novel dropped in my lap I was ecstatic. And after reading, I can safely say that I now believe the hype surrounding Ms Paver. . .
The year is 1937. Jack Miller’s life is going nowhere fast. He lives alone in London, where the city is on pins and needles awaiting outbreak of World War. When Jack is offered the once-in-a-lifetime chance to go on an expedition to the Arctic Circle, he doesn’t hesitate.
But as the days slide into darkness, and the vast nothingness invades his psyche, Jack becomes convinced that *something* is terrorizing the expedition. Residing on the remote Gruhuken bay, Jack starts to hear and see things that his rational mind cannot explain. . .
The story is retold via the entries in Jack’s diary, and through Jack’s recounts, the truth behind the 1937 Arctic expedition is hauntingly revealed. . .
This was such a fantastically spine-tingling book. At first I thought it was going to be a glimpse into an increasingly deranged psyche, ravaged by isolation and loneliness. . . and to some extent ‘Dark Matter’ does just that. But this is also a great horror story. I don’t want to give anything away, because half the fun of reading the book (and being totally freaked out by it!) is trying to figure out if Jack and crew really are coming under attack from *something*. . . or if it’s all in their heads.
The Arctic is a deliciously devilish setting for this horror whodunit. The eternal night and the expedition’s bay is wonderfully reminiscent of ’30 Days of Night’.
Jack is a wonderful character – which is important since he gets a lot of page-time and is often the sole character in scenes. Jack has been alone for seven years, and from the get-go you sympathize with him. You do get the impression that taking on the Arctic expedition as a wireless operator was his last-ditch effort to make something of his life. I found that I really admired Jack – he gets put through the ringer in this book, and I was really rooting for him to hold strong and redouble his breaking point. He’s a great character to go on this crazy journey with.
I especially loved reading Jack’s increasingly fractured perspective. It’s a long, slow slide into madness for this protagonist and Jack’s slipping lunacy is made all the more heartbreaking because as a reader you really do start to root and champion him;
Like a recovering invalid, I shuffled about the cabin, tearing down blankets to let in the moon. I got the stove going. I didn’t light any lamps. I didn’t want anything to diminish that miraculous light.Jack’s slip into madness and the entire book’s slowly unravelling terror reminded me of Stanley Kubrick’s movie ‘The Shining’ (is Jack’s name just a coincidence? Hmmm?).
I ran to the west window and peered out. Nothing. The radio masts mocked my terror. I ran to the bunkroom window. Again nothing. I ran back into the main room and halted to listen. All I heard was the painful thudding of my heart.This is a surprisingly scary book. Paver wonderfully blends internal hysteria with outward paranoia, leaving readers in a constant state of flux between believing Jack’s outlandish claims and looking for truth in his madness. If you like a good scare or even appreciate a well-told unravelling, then definitely give ‘Dark Matter’ a read. You will not be disappointed, but you will be scared.
The clouds had cleared, and once again the moon shone bright. The snow in front of the cabin was smooth. Innocent. Nothing to show that something had stood thee. But it had. It had. I had felt its will. Its malevolence beating at me.
I've been wrong, wrong, wrong.
This is no echo.