Friday, January 13, 2012

Just Finished: Dark Matter, by Michelle Paver

In Michelle Paver's Dark Matter, a man is alone in the deep night of the Arctic Circle in winter.  As he gains knowledge and understanding of his situation, he becomes more afraid.  What menaces him is very bad indeed, and as his understanding grows, so does his fear. 

Dark Matter is a ghost story.  I am inordinately fond of ghost stories, so that put it on my radar when I saw it reviewed a year ago by dovegreyreader.  I'm even fonder of ghost stories set in the Arctic (not nearly enough of those, to my mind), possibly because of the opening scene of Frankenstein.  Remember--the human-but-not human-creature, embodying tragedy, seen from a distance, driving the team of dogs into the frozen, empty, uninhabitable end of the earth?  It was a genius combination.

Dark Matter gave me what I hoped for:  a creeping sense of dread as the man loses his companions one by one and is finally left alone in the months-long darkness, the increasing evidence of something unnatural threatening him, and a ghost that is genuinely scary.  (Admittedly I am easily scared.)  This ghost was just right.  Its reason for being arose logically from the setting, and the scenes in which it appeared did not deteriorate into gore and perversity, for which I also have a low tolerance.

If I would quibble with anything about Dark Matter, it would be the writing style, which is to say, the narrator's speaking style, since the book is in the form of the main character's journal.  The period is 1937, and the speaker, Jack, is English.  This voice was a bit too modern-sounding and that jarred just a little. 

Still, a lovely, moody ghost story.

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