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Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
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Dark Matter (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Michelle Paver

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4283124,653 (3.8)80
Member:EllieH
Title:Dark Matter
Authors:Michelle Paver
Info:Orion (2011), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:None

Work details

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (2010)

  1. 50
    The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill (bibliobeck)
    bibliobeck: Both beautifully written and menacing rather than horrific, both about men alone in baren environments and both perfect for reading on a cold night in front of the fire!
  2. 40
    Cold Earth by Sarah Moss (alalba)
  3. 20
    The Terror by Dan Simmons (Jannes)
    Jannes: More Arctic horror. Simmons might is a bit more viceral, but the heart of the horror - the cold, darkness and isolation of the arctic north - is the same in both novels.
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English (30)  Swedish (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
January, 1937. 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. Five men and eight huskies reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp. Gruhuken. But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, one by one, Jack’s companions are forced to leave. He has to decide, stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, the point of no return – when the sea will freeze. And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Something walks there in the dark. Summary Amazon

Not my usual fare--nothing wrong with venturing out of one’s habitual genres--but Librarything predicted I would *like* it. In judging my literary enjoyment, LT has seldom misstepped; I was motivated by that as well as by the stark title to get started.

Read it in two days; DARK MATTER is neither long nor complicated but full of cryptic foreshadowing and ghoulish hints to draw the reader on. Ms Paver skillfully revives the pre-World War II English lifestyles and attitudes which spawned such far-flung, under-equipped expeditions--although a cache of whiskey never missed the boat!--Jack’s middle class poverty drives him to prove himself over and over to upper-class Algie and Gus; the British team is far too “enlightened” and “scientific” to bother themselves with warnings from the Norwegian sea captain not to camp at Gruhuken; the way the three main characters keep a stiff upper lip, muzzling their fears and doubts. For Jack it is imperative to be the gentleman, to sacrifice himself for the others and never complain.

Ms Paver’s mood painting is relentless: early on you feel overwhelmed by Gruhuken’s dome of doom. I found the details of the expedition equipment, radio protocols and menus provided respite from the pervasive gloom.

DARK MATTER might almost have been written in the 1930s and I’m guessing this was intentional? I didn't catch any anachronistic attitudes in the characters or the narrative. The book could seem too simple to some readers, almost young teen level. This is Ms Paver’s first “adult” novel. I think classifying DARK MATTER as “teen” would set the reader up to enjoy a dark--but not too dark--ghost story.

7 out of 10 Easy read recommended to fans of ghost stories à la Nevil Shute. ( )
  julie10reads | Apr 21, 2015 |
Recommended in a review, Dark Matter is a story which actually makes a better blurb than a novel, and I'm glad that I borrowed rather downloaded a copy. Michelle Paver's research of the Arctic setting cannot be faulted, but the old first person 'Is That A Ghost or Am I Mad?' schtick should be left to nineteenth century authors with the last name of James.

An obnoxious middle class graduate fallen on hard times called Jack Miller agrees to go on an expedition to the Arctic with a group of Hooray Henrys. When they set up camp on Spitsbergen, there are only three men left of the original party - Jack, Gus and Algie. Jack gets the feeling from the start that something is amiss on the island, but of course he has his lower class pride to protect. Then Gus develops appendicitis, Algie has to accompany him back to civilisation - and then there was one. But has Jack merely developed cabin fever, stranded at the end of the earth with only a pack of dogs for conversation, or is the camp site at Gruhuken haunted?

Traditional 'ghost stories' like this one just don't work for me, so I was hoping for more of a psychological angle, but was sadly disappointed. Arrogant narrator, diary format, imaginary bogeyman, campfire recounting of tragic event - nineteenth century clichés abound. Yawn. Jack isn't even very sympathetic to begin with ('You know, Jack, sometimes you can be a tad oversenstive', as one character observes), so I couldn't bring myself to care whether he was going stir crazy or being stalked by a hunchbacked trapper. Isaak the huskie would have made a better protagonist. I think the author only set the story in the 1930s to eliminate modern technology, then had to resort to class-ridden stereotypes to conform to the 'classic' notion of that era - Gus and Algie? Really?

A short story - padded out with large text, spacing and black and white photographs of the Arctic setting - stretched to make a novel. The atmospheric detail is beautifully written, but the characters get in the way. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Mar 14, 2015 |
This is a very suspenseful and - in more than one sense - very dark story about a haunting during the Arctic winter. Due to a set of unforeseen circumstances, Jack Miller is the sole remaining member of a small research expedition in a lonely cabin during the Arctic winter, where the sun never rises for four months. The tension mounts as the light disappears, the isolation increases, and the rationally inexplicable occurrences become more frequent. The ending is quite exhausting and suitably dramatic.

As a sufferer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the prospect for me of four months of total darkness 24 hours a day is the ultimate living nightmare, so this novel had a particular impact on me, especially reading it during the dark, slightly limbo days between Christmas and New Year, though we have at least been blessed with quite a bit of sunshine, which reminds one how relative these things are.

A powerful read, though I initially found Jack a slightly irritating character, and the other expedition members are somewhat thinly drawn (with the partial exception of Gus) and a bit stereotypical. ( )
  john257hopper | Dec 29, 2014 |
Really gruesome at the end. Left a horrible vision that lingered rather badly for a few days. I wouldn't say it kept me awake, but while I was awake at night it kept repeating on me. Very well written which its why it kept repeating but I don't want to read too many like that! This is one of a number of fictional accounts based on expeditions to the Arctic (last one 'The Voyage of the Narwal')and I have another in my pile of books. After that I shall read about the voyage of the Fram and get back to real horrors..... ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
Atmospheric ghost story set in the Arctic - with a (slight) gay theme. Has its spooky moments - fairly enjoyable. ( )
  Dickon.Edwards | Jun 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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Dear Dr Murchison, Forgive me for this rather belated reply to your letter.
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This is a bad mistake. The one who walks. You have seen it. Ja?
Out of nowhere, for no reason, I was afraid.My skin prickled. My heart thudded in my throat.My body knew before I did that I was not alone.
Thirty yards away on the rocks, something moved
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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.

Out of nowhere, for no reason, I was afraid.
My skin prickled. My heart thudded in my throat.
My body knew before I did that I was not alone.

Thirty yards away on the rocks, something moved.


Haiku summary
It's winter in the
Arctic, and there's something
Stirring in the dark ...
(passion4reading)

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January 1937. 28-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. After they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year, Gruhuken, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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