The truth is it's hard to judge. Having never read Dark Matter, or any other Michelle Paver before I can't really say whether or not the fact of hearing the book rather than reading it made much difference to the overall feel. What I can say is that I loved Dark Matter.
The story is that of a classic ghost story, never trying to scare with bangs, crashes, blood and gore like much modern horror, instead it creeps and crawls, nagging at the back of your mind. There are no terrifying moments in the book, but it keeps gnawing at you, often sending a cold shiver down your spine. It had me flinching at shadows as I listened in the dark, suspicious of every creak from behind me. That is the telling of a great ghost story.
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 be the wireless operator on 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 book is written in the style of a journal, so our sole narrator is Jack and we are privy to his deepest thoughts. His main thoughts throughout the book are those of isolation. He is alone in the Arctic wasteland, no one to talk to, no one to confide him, no one to share the horrors. Just his journal. This insight draws you in, surrounding you with the feeling of loneliness that our lead feels, his sole voice in the dark. But then there are the glimpses of a figure in the snow, the creaking of floorboards, the scrapping of chains. Paver has crafted a masterful ghost story, simple and beautifully delivered.
As I've mentioned, I can't say what Dark Matter is like to read, but as an audiobook it is wonderful. Listening with headphones on, with no distracting outside noise, just the sound of the narrators steady, emotive voice, the frozen stillness and silence of Gruhuken is brought to life.
One criticism I have of the audiobook format is the easiness of losing concentration. With a book, if something distracts you, you look away, stopping the story. With the audiobook if something distracts you the narration continues, the plot moves forward and it is easy to get a little lost. I'd recommend you listen in an environment you can give it your full attention.
The book loses it's edge in the climactic last chapters. What had made the book so great was the slow burn, with little actual action. Because we are just experiencing it from the journal, there is little urgency, the events have already happened. The last chapters opt for a faster, action filled flurry, which jars with the feel of the book, but it is by no means enough to dampen the overall chilling, brilliant story of Dark Matter.
Whichever format you choose, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver is Highly Recommended.
Order your copy of Dark Matter in Audio book format from Amazon UK
Order your copy of Dark Matter in Hardback format from Amazon UK