Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
…a ‘textbook’ ghost story
You are invited to read Jack’s diary, a young man whose luck turns when he is offered the life changing experience of wireless operator which he sees as an opportunity to make a name for himself.
When unfortunate events start forcing the others to abandon the expedition Jack finds himself with the difficult choice of abandoning the trip or staying behind to face whatever is walking among them.
Sounds like a great premise doesn’t it? An Arctic winter, an era when communications were basic, something unknown walking around the camp, in the endless days of darkness. Enough to give you Goosebumps before reading the first page but does the story live up the hype?
Well, it would apart from one major problem. You end up not really caring about the main character, Jack. His bitterness of everything from what he perceives as the others not liking him, mainly because he is poor, to complaining he is poor and resenting the easy lives he perceives the others of having. Why they bothered taking him on the trip is beyond me. So if you can get over this dislike of Jack you might be able to enjoy him shudder and shake at every shadow in the dark. Hash, aren’t I?
There is one saving grace about this book, the description of living a lonely existence in the Arctic winter is both chilling and atmospheric, so much so you will start feeling the cold yourself. Yet it has to be mentioned that the ghost story itself is slightly predictable. Even in the 1930’s, when your weather-beaten Captain refuses to drop you off at the spot you requested with no further explanation and a look of horror on his face you must know there is a good reason for it. Perhaps as a modern audience our ghost sensors are mature and we are used to spotting the clues but this is simple ‘text book’ ghost story telling you wouldn’t expect from this novel.
Nevertheless, its a good story to keep you company over a couple of dark evenings even if it is just to experience being left alone through an Arctic winter. If it hadn’t been for the obvious ghost story this book would have received an ‘excellent’ instead of a simple ‘good.’