Dark Matter

Written by Michelle Paver

In January 1937, physics graduate and amateur radio buff Jack Miller is living a lonely life as an office clerk in London. When he is offered the chance to join an expedition to Spitsbergen in the Arctic, he accepts it, although the giant chip that he carries on his lower-middle-class shoulder makes him initially hostile to the public school types who are the other members.

Nevertheless, Jack signs on as the expedition’s wireless operator. When they reach Spitsbergen, the master of their chartered ship is reluctant to take them all the way to their destination, the lonely headland of Gruhuken, but he will not explain why.

Misadventures follow upon misfortunes, until Jack is left at Gruhuken with only the sled dogs for company; but is he really alone?

I took this novel for review because my father had often told me stories of a voyage that he had made to Spitsbergen in 1931 as a hand on a sailing ship. The descriptions in the book certainly match his account of a dark, icy, and menacing place.

To describe the story further would be to give it away, but nobody will be surprised to learn that Jack experiences ever more sinister and terrifying events, with only his dogs and wireless set to talk to.

As an aside, nobody ever called a gramophone a “gramophone player.”

I put down this novel admitting that it had delivered a chilly Arctic ghost story as promised, but it didn’t really scare the long johns off me.