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Dark Matter by Juli Zeh

Dark Matter (2007)

by Juli Zeh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2941659,306 (3.45)7
"Sebastian and Oskar have been friends since their days studying physics at university, when both were considered future Nobel Prize candidates. But their lives took divergent paths, as did their scientific views. Whenever Oskar comes to visit from his prestigious research post in Geneva, there is tension in the air, and it doesn ?t help their friendship that he feels Sebastian has not lived up to his intellectual capacities, having chosen marriage and fatherhood as an exit strategy. A few days after a particularly heated argument between the two men, Sebastian leaves his son sleeping in the back seat while he goes into a service station. When he returns, the car has disappeared without trace. His phone rings and a voice informs him that in order to get his son back he must kill a man. As Sebastian ?s life unravels, the only person he can safely reach out to is Oskar. Then Detective Schilf comes on the scene, with a most unorthodox method of uncovering the truth." --Publisher.… (more)

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English (7)  Dutch (4)  German (3)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This dnf is really only because book is due back at library and I can't quite get into it - I will have another go one day
1 vote bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
This review first appeared on my blog: http://www.knittingandsundries.com/2011/03/in-free-fall-by-julie-zeh-book-review...

A strange, symbiotic friendship between Sebastian and Oskar . . . visits with each other that feel like confrontations . . . a doctor's patients that seem to have died from drug experimentation . . . a murder based on a misunderstanding . . . and conflict over the "Many Worlds" theory, which basically means that everything that can happen HAS happened on a parallel timeline . . .

These are some of the happenings in this unusual, sometimes confusing, tension-filled story. This one is not for the casual reader, as I found myself at times backtracking to figure out what just happened. Although I was interested in what was happening, it was not a quick and easy read. As the stories behind the kidnapping of Sebastian's son and the murder of a man with ties to a suspect doctor came out, however, I was stunned at the duplicity and conceit that caused them, even as I found myself confused by the motivation.


For Oskar, Sebastian is not just the only person whose presence brings him pleasure. Sebastian is also the person whose slightest movement can turn him white-hot with rage.

It is always three-word sentences that change the life of a human being in a decisive manner. I love you. I hate you. Father is dead. I am pregnant. Liam has disappeared. Dabbelink must go. After a three-word sentence, one is totally alone.

Ever since his conversation with Sebastian, the detective has been working on a formulation that he himself does not fully understand: The world is the way it is because there are observers to watch it existing.

Writing: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Characters: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 3 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING: 3.25 out of 5 stars ( )
  jewelknits | Mar 15, 2011 |
DARK MATTER is one of those books that I picked up with considerable happy anticipation, so was more than a little startled to find myself really struggling to get into the start of it. Until a point at which I found I wasn't struggling and was completely absorbed.

And I suspect that's very much what the book is set out to do. Set in Freiburg near the Black Forest, the book starts out with two men and their obsessions. Their friendship begins at University, studying physics - Sebastian, retains his love of physics opting for academia, sharing his love of physics with his love for his wife Maike and young son Liam. Oskar is less traditional, hanging onto many of the eccentricities of their university days - he goes onto research, pure physics. Despite a falling out between the two, they continue to meet on the first Friday of every month and debate - argue - discuss late into the night. Then Liam is kidnapped and Sebastian is told that he must kill a man to regain his son. Understandably his life shatters, he feels set adrift from everybody and everything and he makes some choices which seem to the reader, the outsider, inexplicable.

It's through the early phase of the book that I really found myself struggling - firstly with the relationship between Sebastian and Oskar which, whilst interesting, didn't seem to be telling me anything in particular, and secondly with how Sebastian, a supposedly intelligent man, managed to let himself be manipulated to that point (despite father love and the desire to do anything to protect your child, without giving the plot away, there are factors which seem inexplicable).

But enter the police Detective Schilf and things get really interesting - the book shifts focus from an almost mocking, frivolous tone into a profoundly emotional character study. Not just a character study, this book quickly evolves into one in which the reader is forced to consider some hairy questions - what would you do if you had weeks or hours to live, one final case, and a guilty man in extenuating circumstances?

It's also at this point that the structure of the book begins to makes sense - and those chapter introductions stop being slightly quirky (Chapter one in seven parts. Sebastian cuts curves. Maike cooks. Oskar comes to visit. Physics is for lovers. / Chapter four in seven parts. Rita Skura has a cat. The human being is a hole in nothingness. After a delay the detective chief superintendent enters the scene) and start to have a point - sometimes they ask a question / sometimes they state a thought to be explored / sometimes they just intrigue. All in all it's at this point that DARK MATTER stops being a slightly darker version of TV's The Big Bang Theory and starts to become a character study of depth, layers and great emotional impact.

All in all I'd have to say, stick with the early part of DARK MATTER. It's not crime fiction just for entertainment, and it's often confusing and slightly odd and there are parts of the book that will make you stop and think, and maybe back-track a bit. But this is crime fiction for thought provocation and boy does it manage to do exactly that. ( )
  austcrimefiction | Aug 6, 2010 |
I wanted to like this but it just seemed to get bogged down in details. It is the story of science and theory of more than one world. I think it was just not my style of book. ( )
1 vote awolfe | Jun 25, 2010 |
Would you commit murder as the ransom for your kidnapped child? Was physicist Sebastian's son, Liam, really kidnapped or is Liam's kidnapping a story his father invented? Is there a parallel universe where other versions of our lives play out? These questions all form part of the strange plot of Juli Zeh's intriguing police procedural In Free Fall whose quirky cast of characters include two physicists, a socially awkward female detective, and a senior detective with a terminal brain tumor.

While driving Liam to camp, Sebastion stops at a convenience store, leaving his son sleeping in the back seat. When he comes out of the store his car and Liam are gone. He then receives a call on his cell phone with instructions that include the statements, "Dabbelink must go." and "Then everything will be all right." Dabbelink is an anesthesiologist involved in a hospital scandal in which heart patients died when given unauthorized drugs. Sebastion knows there are also rumors that Dabbelink and Sebastion's wife, Maike, are having an affair. When he receives the phone call after his son's disappearance, Sebastion never really questions what he will do, only how he will do it. Thus begins a very unusual police procedural where observations about the nature of time, reality, and parallel lives are a natural part of the backdrop to solving the murder of Dabbelink. Fans of China Mieville's The City and the City should love this new offering from award-winning author Linda Zeh. ( )
  jmyers24 | Jun 20, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zeh, Juliprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keteleer, HildeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lo, ChristineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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As you approach it from the south-west, at a height of about five hundred meters, Freiburg looks like abright, worn patch in the folds of the Black Forest.
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