I really enjoy a good ghost story and Dark Matter is a very good ghost story indeed. This had been on my tbr list since I read a number of favourable reviews when the book first came out last year, and the Book God was kind enough to buy me a copy as a present for either Christmas or my birthday (I can’t always remember which as they are so close together).
I had thought to save it for RIP this year but for some reason decided it was just what was needed for a humid and over cast August and was totally gripped by the story as soon as I picked it up.
So it is 1937 and Jack Miller is poor and unhappy and takes up the opportunity to be the radio operator on an expedition to the Arctic. There is tension from the very beginning; there are class issues (everyone else is much more posh than Jack) but he goes along anyway as this is his chance to prove himself – to himself as much as anyone. Through various incidents Jack finds himself alone at their camp on Gruhuken as the sun disappears for months, with only the huskies for company.
Well not only the huskies.
For there is something else on Gruhuken.
This is fabulous stuff. You know right from the outset that the expedition does not go well, that someone is injured and someone dies but not who or how. The bulk of the story is told through Jack’s own journal which gives it an immediacy that a third-person narrative wouldn’t have delivered so well. Whether or not you are afraid of the dark (and I’m not really) the idea of being in a world without the sun for such a long period of time and with no other people around (except for one rather touching interlude) is a daunting prospect to consider. And there is a real sense of foreboding which builds as the story develops.
I am not ashamed to say that this really creeped me out; I was reading in bed and absolutely had to stop, though I devoured the remainder of the story the next day. I found the ending really poignant and have gone back to it a couple of times as it was so affecting and effective.
If you love ghost stories you really must read this; it’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far.
I didn’t know anything about Michelle Paver but understand from Silvery Dude (who has read her back catalogue and has taken a copy of Dark Matter on holiday to France) that she has written a whole series of children’s books and I’m really tempted to give them a try.
But this is one story that will linger with me for a long time.