Dark Matter, by Juli Zeh
Here is a strange hybrid of a book – a dark novel which centres on the odd relationship between two physicists. One, Oskar, continues to work at CERN in Switzerland on high level investigations into dark matter. The other, Sebastian, has a wife, a kid and has opted out of the high level physics world.
We learn that Sebastian and Oskar had a relationship at college, though from my reading never consummated. They would wear identical dapper clothes to lectures and complete theorems together – to the disgust of fellow students and tutors alike. We also learn that the two characters fell out, and continue to simmer over an obscure reading of the nature of time and matter, plus Oskar’s belief that he was and is so much better than Sebastian – that he would never amount to being a great physicist.
The story relies on a deadly game that is played out on Sebastian, leading to a particularly gruesome murder. Sebastian’s plummet into a dark world is sudden and shocking. At this point we are introduced to more characters in the form of police detectives: the cancer-suffering Detective Schlif, on his last case, is a treasure.
Dark Matters starts out giving and continues to give life to the main characters. Each has their own ideas of time and indeed life. There are many gems of philosophy spoken in particular by the bickering Oskar and Sebastian, and the whole book is a fictional experiment in this guise.
And the book is gripping too – a real page turner. That we can empathise with if not actually like Sebastian on his journey is impressive; meanwhile we are fairly sure that Oskar is to blame for what occurs, but cannot put our finger on how. And this leads to the downside of the book: the ending will disappoint – it’s a little too neat and a little too rushed. That said, it is a few months since I read the book, and it has haunted my dreams ever since, which I think means the story has affected me.