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I read dead people: Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter

Written by Arts, Book Reviews, Editor's Picks

Dark Matter is a little-known ghost story written by an award-winning children’s author Michelle Paver, who turned her hand to a more sinister style. This is a novel to be read in dim lamplight one cold night over the Halloween season. Ideally not in an empty house, as you will jump at every creak.

The year is 1937 and as the dogs of war are beginning to growl in London, down and out Jack Miller decides to leave for Norway as part of a five-man expedition that is expected to last a year.

Having set out looking for money and a sense of purpose, he will instead find horrors which will plague him for the rest of his life.

Over the first weeks of the expedition unfortunate circumstances force Jack’s companions to abandon the mission, just as the last light of the year is draining and a polar night is setting in that will plunge the base into total darkness for several months. Jack is left with a devastating choice: return home a penniless failure or stay out the expedition alone in the frozen, abandoned town of Gruhuken. Having set out looking for money and a sense of purpose, he will instead find horrors which will plague him for the rest of his life.

“Paver’s great success with Dark Matter is in producing an ending that is scarier than anything the reader could imagine themselves, something very rare in horror fiction.”

Written largely in the form of diary entries, Jack’s unease and mental derangement escalate until the readers themselves become more anxious with each passing page. Paver’s great success with Dark Matter is in producing an ending that is scarier than anything the reader could imagine themselves, something very rare in horror fiction. Ordinarily, a horror writer builds tension to a fever pitch only to round the story off with a predictable and stale bloodbath, or they employ deus ex machina to save the brave hero in a far-fetched and ridiculous manner. Not so with Dark Matter.

Considering the plot sounds typical of most gothic horror story, Paver has borrowed from giants of the genre like Frankenstein to produce something innovative and far creepier.

Last modified: 27th October 2019

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