Review - Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

Title: Dark Matter

Author: Michelle Paver

Publisher: Orion

Release Date: 21st October 2010

Source: Own Copy

January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. 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.

But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. 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. 

And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark...

The frozen north really brings out the dormant explorer in me, I often find myself down a internet rabbit hole after researching one desolate island and then discovering another one.  Svalbard is one island I really want to visit, there is something beautiful and eerie about this vast wilderness that draws me to it.  

It is the main setting of this wonderful tale which takes place in the 1930’s,  when exploration was rife and people thought nothing of jumping on a boat and setting sail for a potential no mans land for the sake of science.

Jack finds himself on one such journey, a young man, down on his luck he finds himself travelling to the far Arctic with his well to do travelling companions, gentlemen scholars who are several class levels above poor Jack.  

Their destination for the men and their group of huskies in Gruhuken, an uninhabited bay where they will conduct their scientific experiments and live for a year.  Naturally they are excited about the prospect of this thrilling adventure but was they grow closer to their destination Jack starts to feel a growing unease.  The captain of their ship shows reluctance at approaching the bay, but they arrive and Jack is blown away by their majesty of the area.  

They have arrived prior to sun setting for the winter months and they quickly set up camp and get going with the scientific observations, the unease never leaves Jack and when one of his companions need to get medical help taking another with him to look after him, Jack finds himself alone with only the huskies for companionship just as the sun sets for the last time leaving him in the cold darkness with an ever growing feeling of dread and that feeling is justified when he sees something rise from the water.  He is not alone.

I really enjoyed this, I’m a sucker for anything Svalbard related and this did not disappoint, I think it also helped that I recently visited the RRS Discovery in Dundee and saw how their expedition was planned, this gave me a better idea of what Jack and his friends had with them.

It is certainly spooky, the description of the area is suitably eerie yet also paints it as quite beautiful.  As Jack succumbs to the dark around him you keep expecting monsters of the deep to batter down his door but he remains strong and his story will keep you enthralled till the last.



  1. Great review, Heather. I've read Paver before, but a long time ago... Thank you for sharing.


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