Dark Matter: A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver
Orion Fiction: paperback published 2012: 252 pages
Out of nowhere, for no reason, I was afraid. My skin prickled. My heart thudded in my throat. My body knew before I did that I was not alone…
London, 1937. Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life, so when he’s offered the chance to join and Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway and at last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year.
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. Soon Jack will see the last of the sun, the sea will freeze and escape will be impossible.
And Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark…
I love a good (brief) ghost story every now and then. And I read the first of Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Darkness series (Wolf Brother) so I knew I’d like her style. I’ll start by saying that I wasn’t blind terrified in this ghost story (it’s no The Woman in Black) but it played on one of my biggest fears – the dark. Or, more accurately, the dark outside a window when you’re inside in the light. It’s impenetrable and my imagination means that I keep picturing faces suddenly appearing at the window looking in at me. It freaks me out.
The story is so atmospheric it’s charged with emotion. Paver keeps it simple enough to be a children’s story, but intense enough to make it an adults. There is a Q&A session at the back of the book which means you get to find out more about why she chose to write a story set in the Arctic, but I think the story explains itself pretty well.
The ending – although suitably frantic and confused at its peak, followed by a slow, sad reflection chapter – was somewhat dimmed by the tension built up in earlier chapters. The love story is a little forced, but the relationship between Jack, the protagonist, and Isaak the husky, is believable and you get invested in it. I think it could have gone on longer than 200-odd pages – and I would certainly have carried on reading if it had. Overall a gripping and entertaining read, though the target audience seems somewhat blurred.