Dark Matter - Michelle Paver

Genre: Horror/Dark Fiction
Synopsis: January 1937. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely, and desperate to change his life, so when he's offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year, Gruhuken. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return--when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible. Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark...


Review:I don't really like calling this a 'horror' novel, because to my mind the point of a 'horror' novel is to scare. I didn't feel that the point of Dark Matter was to scare, but to immerse the reader in the actual telling of a gently-paced ghost story with a creepy and atmospheric feel. Despite the unique setting of the story (or perhaps because) this novel really has the classic feel of a fireside tale, and it should definitely be read on a dark stormy evening in Winter for full effect!

Paver certainly has a way with words, capturing the desolation and bleakness of the Artic and casting it as both beautiful and terrifying. This was probably my favourite aspect of the novel, above the characters and actual story - but both of those were great too. I have to admit, a few weeks after reading the book, I don't recall all that much about the individual characters, even though I did like them. Jack himself largely feels like a vehicle for the reader, and a good instigator of the creepy atmosphere, but he and the other characters were definitely second to the atmosphere of the novel.

There isn't too much more I can say about this really, it's one of those books you just have to immerse yourself in and experience for yourself - it's one that is a genuine pleasure to get lost in. This lukewarm review really does it no justice - if you like wintery ghost stories, I can heartily recommend this.

Rating: 4/5

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