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111 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilly thrill!
Michelle Paver is best-known for her very enjoyable young adult series `The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness'. Dark Matter is not Paver's first adult novel but it is her first ghost story. It is an eerie story set in the Arctic in the late 1930s. Dark Matter is told in the first person through the journal of Jack Miller. Jack Miller is poor and eager to change his life so...
Published on 26 Oct 2010 by Charliecat

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad
Michelle Paver has written a lot for children and on one level this story is told in a very simplistic way. Aspects of the book however are quite spooky. The main character, for example, talks about how he doesn't like to wear his snow shoes when he is out in the Tundra alone; they make a sound like someone is following in the darkness. It is not difficult to imagine the...
Published on 19 Feb 2012 by Goldenmoon


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111 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilly thrill!, 26 Oct 2010
By 
Charliecat (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dark Matter (Hardcover)
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Michelle Paver is best-known for her very enjoyable young adult series `The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness'. Dark Matter is not Paver's first adult novel but it is her first ghost story. It is an eerie story set in the Arctic in the late 1930s. Dark Matter is told in the first person through the journal of Jack Miller. Jack Miller is poor and eager to change his life so when four upper-class young men offer him the chance to be a wireless operator on an Arctic expedition he jumps at the chance even though the difference in their class makes him the odd man out.

The expedition seems to be doomed from the start and there are inklings of chilling things to come on the deserted bay of Gruhuken.
What makes Dark Matter so effective is Paver's clever evocation of the stark and desolate landscape of the Arctic and Jack's increasing isolation as the novel progresses. It is more of a psychological novel than a gory sort of ghost story but the best ghost stories often are. It is the suggestion of the ghost which creates the most suspense and there is a genuine sense of unease throughout the novel which Paver manages to keep up all the way through.

What I also liked is the relationships in the novel which I felt lifted it from the normal, run-of-mill ghost story into something really interesting. The tense relationships between Jack and his fellow explorers - Gus and Algie being the main ones and Gus in particular- and Jack's relationship with the husky Isaak which is finely portrayed and the most warming part in a very chilly novel!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very effective, 21 Oct 2010
By 
M. Dale (East Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dark Matter (Hardcover)
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It's hard to write much about this book without spoiling the plot, so this will be brief. Set just before WWII in the 30s, the book follows the story of a scientific expedition to the Arctic in the form of the journal of one of its members.

Although it's slow to start, what follows is a genuinely creepy and at times intense story. Fans of blood and gore won't be impressed as this is very much a psychological thriller, but I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to others to read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 23 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Dark Matter (Paperback)
I'm not a fan of ghost stories, but I like the odd one or two and this one is no exception. A crossover/adult novel which definitely gave me the creeps and I'm not easily moved. Set in Spitsbergen in 1937, 5 young hopefuls plan a geographical expedition to study weather, glaciers etc, but just before departure two have to drop out and three set off. The Norwegian ship captain is reluctant to take them to their exact destination, but with much persuasion eventually does, without telling them the reason for his reluctance. However once there, Jack Miller starts to experience strange feelings and premonitions which he records in his diary. When another colleague gets sick and the two of them have to depart for a while, Jack offers to stay and as it approaches the time of year for perpetual darkness, so his fears, imaginings and visions increase. He discovers that the area is believed to be haunted by a former miner who was murdered, but is it, or is it the madness of lonliness and darkness setting in? A very good read, keeping you gripped as the ending approaches and not at all fully predicatble. More please. Also remind me of The Solitude of Thomas Cave.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, 19 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Dark Matter (Paperback)
Michelle Paver has written a lot for children and on one level this story is told in a very simplistic way. Aspects of the book however are quite spooky. The main character, for example, talks about how he doesn't like to wear his snow shoes when he is out in the Tundra alone; they make a sound like someone is following in the darkness. It is not difficult to imagine the eeriness of Jack's plight but as the story gains momentum it seems to end a little abruptly.

If you like ghost stories do read this book, but don't read it laid on the sofa whilst the kids play on the Wii. Read it in bed at night with your bedside light casting shadows and the wind whistling at the window - you will be chilled. As for the reviewer who read it alone in an isolated farmhouse, I wouldn't do that in a million years!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A proper page-turner, 25 Oct 2010
This review is from: Dark Matter (Hardcover)
I ordered this book on the strength of a review in The Guardian - and I'm so glad I did! I was intrigued by the premise: living the long Arctic night in the company of a ghost. The writing is superb - so evocative, and the descriptions of both the natural environment (northern lights, the colours of sunset on snow) and of the expedition members' day-to-day lives was beautifully done.

The shocks in this book are well-placed. I'm a lover of a good ghost story, and I found I was holding my breath and pulling away from the page through some passages - the literary equivalent of watching from behind the sofa! I found that once I'd started, I couldn't leave Jack and needed to find out what happened next. I loved his relationship with Isaak, and had my heart in my mouth as much for him as for Jack on some pages.

Jack's assertions that what he has seen is real, the discomfort of the chartered ship's captain, and foreshadowing of some events combine to create unease about the reliability of the narrator - when reading the book, I was sure that Jack was right, but on reflection...? Perhaps images of Algie's over-enthusiasm for hunting, or of the Thames man, or simply the stories told by the captain had been working away at the back of his mind, to torture Jack during the long night. Whichever way, it's a fabulous piece of writing.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Text Book Ghost story, 10 April 2011
By 
Reader, I Read It "Sarah" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dark Matter (Hardcover)
When a group of friends set off on an exploration of the Arctic, eager for adventure, they are oblivious to the danger and darkness they face ahead.

You are invited to read Jack's diary, a young man whose luck turns when he is offered the life changing experience of wireless operator which he sees as an opportunity to make a name for himself.

When unfortunate events start forcing the others to abandon the expedition Jack finds himself with the difficult choice of abandoning the trip or staying behind to face whatever is walking among them.

Sounds like a great premise doesn't it? An Arctic winter, an era when communications were basic, something unknown walking around the camp, in the endless days of darkness. Enough to give you Goosebumps before reading the first page but does the story live up the hype?

Well, it would apart from one major problem. You end up not really caring about the main character, Jack. His bitterness of everything from what he perceives as the others not liking him, mainly because he is poor, to complaining he is poor and resenting the easy lives he perceives the others of having. Why they bothered taking him on the trip is beyond me. So if you can get over this dislike of Jack you might be able to enjoy him shudder and shake at every shadow in the dark. Hash, aren't I?

There is one saving grace about this book, the description of living a lonely existence in the Arctic winter is both chilling and atmospheric, so much so you will start feeling the cold yourself. Yet it has to be mentioned that the ghost story itself is slightly predictable. Even in the 1930's, when your weather-beaten Captain refuses to drop you off at the spot you requested with no further explanation and a look of horror on his face you must know there is a good reason for it. Perhaps as a modern audience our ghost sensors are mature and we are used to spotting the clues but this is simple `text book' ghost story telling you wouldn't expect from this novel.

Nevertheless, its a good story to keep you company over a couple of dark evenings even if it is just to experience being left alone through an Arctic winter. If it hadn't been for the obvious ghost story this book would have received an `excellent' instead of a simple `good.'
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely gripping, 6 Dec 2011
By 
Paul (Crawley, West Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dark Matter (Paperback)
Forgive the cliché but I really could not put this down - I was gripped from first to last page. The novel's setting is part of the key - the gathering gloom of the Arctic night is a perfect backdrop to a ghost story - but Paver's writing is also superb. Buy it. Read it. But don't expect to sleep in peace afterwards.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It made me shiver, 28 Nov 2011
By 
Noel (Belfast, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dark Matter (Paperback)
This book made me shiver, not with ghostly fear but by the evocation of the ice and cold of the Spitzbergen winter. The author's descriptive skills were augmented by a real storm which battered my bedroom window as I read late into the night. The style is reminiscent of a Victorian melodrama, though set in 1937.

This is more of a novella than a novel, 250 pages of large font type liberally scattered with full page sketches of icebergs and other cold things. A very quick read and it is probably best read in one sitting to maximise the atmospheric effect. Scarey it is not, though I did suffer mild shock when my next door neighbour's dog unexpectedly poked his head around my bedroom door. If you want a more genuinely frightening read about Spitzbergen try the true story 'Ice Bears and Kotik'.Ice Bears & Kotick: Rowing on Top of the World
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Thirty yards away on the rocks, something moved...", 15 July 2011
This review is from: Dark Matter (Hardcover)
In 1937 Jack Millar is working as a clerk after his dream of a career in research physics looks likely not to be realised. Lonely and dissatisfied he jumps at the chance to join an Arctic expedition, as a radio operator. The other four members of the team are well to do amateur Oxbridge explorers. Jack is more than aware of the social gulf between him and his fellow companions best illustrated by the mortification he feels when he says 'OK' instead of 'Grand'.

Jack cuts a lonely, awkward figure, out of place amongst his team mates and possible out of his depth. Two of the party are forced to drop out even before they reach their destination. On arrival at the uninhabited, desolate ice bound Gruhuken, things quickly start to unravel. It is the beginning of the Arctic winter and the days tare shortening eventually the only light is from the Moon and the glitter of the ice. Two more of the team have to leave and Jack is alone with only the team of Huskies for company.....or is he? This is a slow creeping terror, reminiscent of a M R James story, the author builds the tension and you can feel Jack's growing sense of dread and panic of whatever is out there on the ice.

Beautifully written with breathtaking descriptions of the Arctic landscape and a believable narrator whose mental deterioration is convincingly conveyed. I especially love his relationship that develops with the dogs, initially detesting them to them being his only source of comfort and companionship.

If you like shivery, spooky tales this I would recommend Cold Earth, similar premise except this is set in Greenland and is an archaeology expedition
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, 22 Sep 2011
This review is from: Dark Matter (Hardcover)
I've been fascinated by Svalbard and arctic Norway since visiting a few years ago. It was therefore the setting of the story which made me buy the book initially. I wasn't disappointed, Paver's descriptions of the landscape, wildlife and sounds of Svalbard and the unique atmosphere of the place were excellent.

If I'm going to be critical, I would agree with other reviewers who've noted that the characters lacked depth. I think that this element of Paver's writing was more suited to a younger audience, adult readers may expect more complexity and depth to their characters. I couldn't really engage with anyone besides Jack and I didn't feel any more than a passing interest in the relationship between Gus and Jack (which I think was intended to be a major theme of the story). However, I was really taken up with Jack's developing bond with Isaak the husky, which, to a person who loves dogs, seemed well observed. In the end, besides the spookiness and suspense, it was this more than anything that kept me riveted.

After having said that, any lack of character development didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story at all. I loved the building suspense and was totally gripped from the start. I never finish a book just for the sake of it, and I've lost count of the number of books I've half finished, but this one kept me glued to the end. Disappointingly (I wanted it to last longer!) I finished reading it in a day.

In summary, although Dark Matter has some minor faults, I'd say it was the most enjoyable read I've had in a long time.
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Dark Matter
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (Hardcover - 21 Oct 2010)
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