Author: Blake Crouch
Type: Fiction, novel
I read it: January 2017
It’s destined to be a decent movie. This is apparent not only from the writing, but from the author’s background as a screenwriter. Oh, and because in the acknowledgements he mentions working on the movie version. So it’s somewhat forgivable that the book reads as a screenplay draft.
The forward momentum is constant and the protagonist is fully root-for-able, an almost-regular guy trying to get home. The settings are both unique and familiar, and have a draw of their own—the various permutations of Chicago make me want to visit (the non-destroyed version of) Logan Square. However, the “science” part of the science fiction is interesting in only the most superficial way. In the target audience, the concept of the multi-verse might be casually understood well enough for Crouch to not need to dwell in the details… yet I’d definitely like more details. I want a crazed scientist who takes us deep into the search for and essence of dark matter. At the very least, I want to come away having a better grasp of what dark matter is or could be. I don’t think I gained that.
Another sore spot I can’t skip over is the formatting. A lot of the book is in prose, yet there’s a weird choice of having large strings of one-sentence-long paragraphs to push you down the page. If the author squeezed all those together into a more conventional style, he could free up a bunch of space to explore a bit and slow things down. There were also a couple times where the point-of-view switched from the protagonist, Jason, to his wife, Daniela. This was purely to serve the plot and not for the purpose of really giving Daniela a perspective. It was a half-measure that rankled.
There’s a cool and dangerous box though, like in the movie Primer. (Although this is not a time travel story, I got that much.) The story also effectively makes you stop and appreciate your life and want to live in the present. I’m just not sure it really needs to be a book. As it is, the idea takes precedence over the execution. And it’s a fine idea. I’m sure Matt Damon will do it justice.