Review: Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

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 join 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. Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark…

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. Audiobook narrated by Jeremy Northam. Published by Orion Publishing Group Limited, 2010. Run time is 6 hours and 4 minutes.

*Triggers* Animal death / abuse.

I love a story set in the arctic regions, AND I also am a huge sucker for ghost stories. When you put ghosts in the arctic setting, how can I possibly resist it?? There is just no way I can say no to a book like that. So how have I never heard of Dark Matter before?

This book was picked as a Goodreads book club pick for the month of February. I went in to it knowing very little other then the title said “A Ghost Story.” I mean, honestly you had me at that so why keep reading about the plot? I had never heard of this author before, so I also had no idea what to expect for writing style.

Everything is set up very slowly. A mostly jolly crew of men going to the arctic north part of Norway to camp for a year. I say mostly jolly because our main character, Jack, is definitely not a jolly person. He is depressed, lonely and angry about his lowly lot in life. Sorry, Jack but things are not about to get better for you on this trip…

Now, be prepared for a very slow burn before you really have any idea what is even going on, and IF there even IS stuff truly going on at this dreadful camp. If you go into Dark Matter expecting “BOO!!! I’MMA GHOST!!!” right away, you will be disappointed. There is a lot of vagueness and unsaid things about what is haunting the camp area. There is a lot left up to your imagination to fill in the blanks.

Dark Matter is much more about the haunting sensation you feel more so then see. In fact, you don’t see much of anything because it is pitch black and misty almost the whole time Jack is at camp. Instead, you get this creeping, eerie sensation of being watched. You hear odd sounds around your camp. The sled dogs, a bunch of brave huskies, start to cower and whimper and stare in the corner of the room where nothing is visible to you. You are alone. It is dark. And you can’t see much beyond the slight amount of light your lantern is putting out. There are shadows and noises and you. Are. Alone. And you have nowhere to run to. I’m not scared of the dark but this book had even me starting to think “Hey, maybe I should turn this lamp on now….”

The author does a great job handling this creeping dread. The story is written in the form of journal entries and you see so much honest emotion that our main character goes through. You watch him as he slowly gets more and more terrified as he waits for someone to come back to the camp.

Now, a lot of people have said that the main character, Jack, was rather annoying. People complain that he had several chances to get out of camp with other people as they left, but he stayed because he was stubborn and had too much pride to leave. I don’t think that is true… to me, it felt like Jack was so desperate to impress Gus, his new and only friend, that he was willing to risk uncertainty to keep the camp going. He wanted Gus to like him so bad. He wanted Gus’ praise. That’s why Jack kept staying at the camp even though it was increasingly getting more and more spooky there. We’ve all had someone in our life that we wanted to impress. I don’t know if I would have stayed in a haunted place to impress someone, but I definitely understand Jack’s dilemma.

Now there is some animal cruelty. I always like to warn others about that. I know I don’t care for it much and I know other animal / pet lovers out there don’t like to see the animals get hurt (especially when it’s doggos). Most of the animal cruelty happens off page and you just hear about it as passing commentary. You do not “see” much and there is only one or two spots where it gets more detailed then that. None of it is prolonged or extremely detailed or overly graphic.

The narrator did an excellent job. He really put a lot of raw emotion into Jack’s sour attitude in the beginning and the increasingly frantic dread towards the end. It felt like the audiobook made Jack feel even more sympathetic due to the narrator. Nice job, Jeremy!

Dark Matter was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed this unique ghost story. It was a lot of fun. It felt like the book flew by because I was so eager to see what was going to happen next. I would definitely recommend this to ghost fans. I will be checking out more of this authors work.


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