Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Book: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had made a different decision? If you went back and took the road not traveled? Atomic physicist professor Jason Dessen did. On his way to buy ice cream one evening, Jason is abducted and drugged, and wakes up to find himself in a version of Chicago that isn’t his own: he’s not married, he has no child, and he now appears to be an award-winning quantum physicist. Jason journeys through various nightmares to find his way home, or is it his home anymore?

Prices as low as $4.88 on Amazon!

I recently discovered this book at our local library’s recommendation list. We’ve been searching for a book to read together, and the book’s cover and name had hooked my attention. I’ve always loved fantasy/sci-fi fiction books and it’s been awhile since my last Michael Crichton book. I thought I might try something new.

Read it for:

  • Mind-blowing, epic and nerve-wracking journey with a scientist through different universes. Due to the intensity of the events, I stopped reading halfway through the first chapter. I know, weak, but the beginning was rough. When I finally regained my courage to continue, I was hardly able put the book down. Crouch’s prompt and no-nonsense narration of the sequence of events keeps me at the edge of my seat (or more literally, bed).
  • The deep themes of regret. The million of times I spent wondering what would have happened. Dr. Dessen sees both his lives first hand, and has to decide what’s best. The big looming question in the book is something that I’ve fretted countless of hours over before. Do I choose a path that will lead me to success or a path that takes me to true love? These are tough questions and helps me redefine my own views. And if you’ve somehow had a perfect past without regret, there are themes of loss, selfishness, love, fear, and trust in it for you too. I feel the pain that he feels, I experienced his grief, longing, hunger, cold, anger. Where does that leave me? I started to get existential on this roller-coaster ride of emotions.
  • The possibility of something impossible. It was surprisingly easy to follow the physics to it. There were abundant amounts of WHOA, whaaa-?, and aha! moments in this book as I trail behind Dr. Dessen’s series of unlikely events. Picture an alternate you in another universe is dead or that the world is apocalyptic. No one can possibly know what happens. It’s a beautiful mash of Star Trek, Fringe, Doctor Who, and Inception.

Not so fond of: 

  • There’s not a huge character development across the board. It mainly focuses on Dessen, his thoughts, and his discoveries. Side characters could be more dynamic.
  • The big nerdy science theories and excitement aside, the fast paced and action-oriented book seems as if it’s written to become a movie. Sure enough, Crouch already has plans with Sony to get it on the big screen. Regardless, the final chapters of the book made it completely worth it. Read the book. Then watch the movie, because it will be epic.

Overall

The concept of the book is excellent, I was hooked from beginning ’till end. Despite the thriller movie vibe to it, the mind-boggling ending is worth the read. <3

Review: Sunset Boulevard Starring Glenn Close on Broadway for $55

There’s nothing like waking up Saturday morning and finding out we won lottery tickets to the Broadway production Sunset Boulevard for $55. Widely considered the highest level of commercial theater, we were quickly hooked on Broadway performances. Typically, Broadway shows usually range about $100-$500. In the past four months, we have won over ten Broadway show lottery tickets consisting of Tony Award-winning shows Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Chicago, Kinky Boots, and School of Rock. Because we win so many shows in a short amount of time, when we won Sunset Boulevard this morning, we had to decide whether it was worth going to. Never hearing of that production before and running out of time to get there before the show, I concluded it was too much hassle to buy the tickets.


With that decision, I went about my usual morning routines. Out of curiosity, I did a casual internet search, which surprisingly revealed that the production is a revival from an award-winning Tony Musical in the 1990s with the award-winning lead actress herself performing today. Gaping at the success of this strange title, I only had minutes left before the purchasing window closes, so I quickly bought the tickets. We had just enough time to grab $1 pizza for lunch, then rush to the theater.

Sunset Boulevard tells a story of a Hollywood silent film fading star, Norma Desmond. She yearns for the glory days of the past, taking the audience through her emotional roller coaster of frustrations, insecurities, and everlasting hope. Wishing to make a “return” to Hollywood, Norma writes a script for a film. When a struggling screenwriter, Joe Gillis, accidentally stumbles into her mansion, Norma hires him as her editor. She then takes him on her roller coaster ride of a life. Without much freedom to decide his fate, Joe is forced to accompany Norma through her bouts of depression, bordering insane.

The female lead role is played by Glenn Close, the same lead actress who won the Tony Musical Award for Lead Female Actress twenty years ago. Close performed a chilling performance, her character was so fragile, determined, hopeful. Since her performance twenty years ago, Close came back with a role that matches with Norma Desmond. Both were huge stars in the past, and now coming back into the performing world. Her performance was so real, it was difficult to tell if it was Norma Desmond or Glenn Close who was on the stage. Her special return to Broadway did not disappoint. Halfway through her song “With One Look,” her voice cracked, as if it was too much strain on her. Whether it was a real strain on her voice or if she is just in character as Norma, it was hard to tell. However, it was unanimous by the end of the night that her portrayal of Norma is ever more fragile and bitter than twenty years ago.

In all the hype of Glenn Close’s performance, it might have been easy overlook other supporting characters. However, it was Michael Xavier, playing Joe Gillis, that took us into Norma’s mad world. It felt as if I was following Alice and her bizarre, wonderful and terrifying journey through Wonderland. Xavier did a fantastic job depicting the lurking horrors of the mansion through the song, “Sunset Boulevard.” Max, Norma’s trusted companion and butler, shows undying loyalty towards her. He supports her by directing all her performances and protects her from people who may hurt her.

Sunset Boulevard embodies several key themes. Norma is consumed by her desire to be famous. She is blinded by that, only believing that she is still the star the audience is waiting for. She had manipulated Joe into staying with her by threatening to suicide. Max lied to Norma to save her feelings from getting hurt. Hollywood was fake, and the fakeness is contagious; to be part of it, Joe becomes fake too. Unbeknownst to him, Joe becomes a victim of the Sunset Boulevard life.

Like many other Andrew Lloyd Webber productions such as Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, and Cats, his musical score turned Sunset Boulevard into a masterpiece. There was that familiar Webber signature in the theatrical  music that made it his own. While listening to the music pieces, I detect similarities that could be something from Phantom, School of Rock, and Cats.

Despite my skepticism of the musical in the beginning, I was immensely glad that I had purchased the tickets. The chilling, theatrical musical scores spun with story will keep me humming for the weeks to come.