In an alternate universe, I didn’t move back home with my parents after graduating college.
I travelled abroad for a year. Feel in love with a fellow expat and settled down in a city with a giant castle.
Or applied for grad school. And got into the Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. Or Columbia. Or Anaheim. Or Syracuse.
Or moved directly to New York City.
Or Los Angeles.
I’m a published author.
Or a literary agent.
Or a documentary filmmaker.
Or an on-air multimedia journalist.
Or a radio producer.
I’ve won a Pulitzer.
I’m married by now with a dog and kids.
Or maybe I found out I physically can’t have kids.
Or perhaps I’m divorced, but happier than I’ve been in years.
Or perhaps, none of those things.
It’s impossible to know how your life would have been different if only you made different choices.
Not in this life anyway.
But knowing these alternate realities are possible in Blake Crouch’s sci-fi thriller novel “Dark Matter,” which seems like it’s written with a movie in mind.
Crouch describes these alternative realities as fish tanks with us as fish swimming in our own bowls of dark matter — unaware that these other fish tanks with other versions of ourselves exist simultaneously in other realms we can’t access.
The fictional man who discovers this phenom of quantum mechanics — that these other realities exist and that it’s possible to travel between them is a version of Dr. Jason Dessen, a scientist who gave up the possibility of romance and family to achieved the impossible — building a black tardis (whose inside is a never-ending corridor lined with endless doors to other realities) that makes it feasible to travel between fish tanks.
What he does with his life’s research: Steals the life of himself, Jason Dessen — the happily married college physics teacher living a cozy life with the woman he loves and their 13-year-old son, Charlie — by transporting his doppelgänger to his own world and replacing him in his.
Meanwhile, the “Dark Matter” reader also travels — not as accomplices to the scientist who engineered a bridge between worlds, but through the tedious hallways of endless doors and the mind of wronged victim Jason, who had his whole world stolen from him.
What we see in the sea of possibility though: Only one singular linear path in this multiverse of unlimited ones.
That’s part of the problem.
As much as Crouch cleverly reinvents what we know, redefining the definitions of identify theft (Is it still identify theft if you’re stealing your own identity?), suicide (Is killing yourself still suicide if you’re killing another version of yourself?) and existence itself (Is the cat dead or alive?), “Dark Matter” is also limiting in that it eliminates choice and only offers us one possible possibly predicable outcome in a world where every possible reality supposedly exists.
That doesn’t necessarily make “Dark Matter” a bad choice — just a flawed and less satisfying one. At least in our own fish tanks where we can’t see other reflections of ourselves, we can choose our own endings.