a review by Nalini Haynes
Release date: 4 November 2010
Michelle Paver‘s Dark Matter: A Ghost Story focuses on Jack Miller, who is a loner from a formerly middle class family who descended into poverty after his father was gassed in World War One. Grinding poverty and frustration with his lot in life lead him to apply to join an expedition to the Arctic Circle to monitor weather conditions with a team of strangers, none of whom are sufficiently experienced. Before setting out, one expedition member withdrew and another was injured in transit, reducing their numbers to 3, Algie, Gus and Jack.
Paver sets the scene quickly, revealing in the first few pages that an expedition member died. From this revelation the tension builds, along with a sense of menace, long before the expedition arrived at the camp site. Relations between expedition members began on a poor footing, friction building due to close continued contact. This could have been a psychological thriller but for the appearance of a menacing ghost.
The title Dark Matter for a novel is pure coincidence, or so I believe (Twilight Zone theme music please). I usually avoid ghost stories and horror, having read little of that genre in recent years. Having received this book for review I thought I couldn’t fail to review a book with this title.
Dark Matter was clearly well researched, adding to the realism and increasing the tension. I found this book to be gripping, menacing, well paced for tension build up to the climax – this book contained all the ingredients of good ghost and horror stories with the possible exception of a lack of copious quantities of blood. I certainly didn’t mind the lack of gore.
An intelligent horror story, highly recommended.
This review was previously published in Dark Matter issue 2, January 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.