Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Dark Matter: A Ghost Story

Rate this book
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. Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark...

246 pages, Hardcover

First published October 21, 2010

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Michelle Paver

50 books2,054 followers
Michelle Paver was born in central Africa, but came to England as a child. After gaining a degree in biochemistry from Oxford University, she became a partner in a city law firm, but eventually gave that up to write full-time.

The hugely successful Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series arose from Michelle's lifelong passion for animals, anthropology and the distant past—as well as an encounter with a large bear in a remote valley in southern California. To research the books, Michelle has traveled to Finland, Greenland, Sweden, Norway, Arctic Canada and the Carpathian Mountains. She has slept on reindeer skins, swum with wild orca (killer whales), and got nose-to-nose with polar bears—and, of course, wolves.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
5,129 (31%)
4 stars
6,816 (41%)
3 stars
3,665 (22%)
2 stars
747 (4%)
1 star
149 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,207 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,253 followers
February 15, 2016
perfectly executed little ghost story set in the Arctic wastes in the late 1930s, featuring the adventures of AN AWESOME HUSKY NAMED ISAAK and I suppose some humans as well.

so Jack - a poor, depressed, dog-hating, lower class and very class conscious 28-year-old - finds the perfect solution to his angst and alienation: he will join a small expedition to the abandoned mining outpost of Gruhuken in the Arctic circle. there he will find meaning to his life, camaraderie and fellowship and an intense crush on one of his fellow adventurers, and an atrocious and deadly ghost. there are some other human characters as well but eh whatever, the most compelling part of the story is that Jack meets AN AWESOME HUSKY NAMED ISAAK! who will teach him that only morons hate dogs.

Paver does an excellent job at conveying the time and the place. she creates her characters quickly yet they retain nuance and realism. Jack is an interestingly almost-unreliable narrator. Paver is particularly skilled at painting a locale that is highly atmospheric, dislocating, and eerie. Dark Matter is essentially a haunted house story that takes place in a fairly original setting, full of wide, dark spaces although centered around a small, lonely cabin. of course the author's greatest accomplishment in this book is AN AWESOME HUSKY NAMED ISAAK. what an enjoyable character. he owns every scene he's in.

so Isaak may not be a particularly brave dog, but he is definitely a good dog. and he's a loyal dog too, which is sorta like saying a cat has claws because all good dogs are loyal dogs, but still it has to be said. Isaak's loyalty is outstanding. he also has beautiful blue eyes like most huskies and loves getting treats and enjoys running around and leaning against Jack. who cares if he hides under the bunk when the ghost comes a-calling, that's human business anyway. Isaak made me like Jack, which is quite an accomplishment because Jack is a self-important, self-absorbed grouch. I am also pleased to say that SPOILER Isaak has a happy ending. yay for AN AWESOME HUSKY NAMED ISAAK!

Profile Image for ✨Bean's Books✨.
648 reviews2,926 followers
December 25, 2018
Um yeah....
A small group of guys get together for an expedition in the wild northern Arctic. They've already chosen a spot for their observations. The problem is, the spot happens to be haunted!
So I got halfway through this book and realize that absolutely nothing has happened yet. I got tired of waiting for them to get to the punchline so I'm putting this book down. It was like nothing's happening.... nothing's happening.... ok he saw a shadow. And nothing's happening again.
It seems like the book took way too long to set up the scene and the characters when it was completely unnecessary to do so. Like I said I was about halfway through the book when I decided to stop reading it.
other people seem to have liked this book but it's just not for me so I'm not recommending it.
Profile Image for Mark.
393 reviews306 followers
January 9, 2014
Now I love snow. I long for it with every fibre of my red blooded being. I yearn and strain to hear and see and feel it falling. Where I live in Poole we hardly ever get it and when the rest of the kingdom is cloaked in it we have the normal talcum powder sprinklings which somehow manages to bring all normal progress to a grinding halt or we have absolutely none whatsoever whilst radio and tv bangs on about blizzard conditions and the horror that is the white stuff everywhere else. Yet with all this unrequited or at least unsatisfied love affair with snow on my part Michelle Paver still managed to make even me a little unnerved by the idea of the chill and bleakness and paralysing loneliness of a snowed landscape.

She manages to create a claustrophobic atmosphere in one of the greatest great outdoors there is. And it is not by blood and guts and grossness but by the gradual ratchetting up of tension as the hero, left alone, suddenly discovers that he is neither. He is not a hero, nor is he alone. And it is the uncovering of these horrifiying truths which gradually chills and frightens you as the reader.

One of the underlying themes of the story is hostility both imagined and real. The whole story is in the context of a diary kept by our hero and so we get only his opinion, his viewing of the situation but Paver enables us to see his mistakes and misunderstandings and misrepresentations because, when all else is said and done, he is an honest man.

Jack, setting off on a polar expedition, senses the supposed hostile sneers and low opinion of his more affluent and 'well-educated' companions; On board ship he encounters the seeming hostility of the captain of their transport ship, and gradually, as the adventure continues, he begins to sense and feel the hostility of the landscape even in amidst its beauty and then over-riding everything the glimpses he has caught of the 'dark figure against the glare, hands at his side, one shoulder higher than the other, something about the tilt of his head that I didn't like' suddenly morphs into the realization that this figure is not seeking recognition or help or comfort but revenge and that that hatred and hostility is focused directly on Jack.

It being a book by the author of the 'Chronicles of Ancient Darkness' the wolflike qualities of the huskies are analysed and celebrated and the relationship of Jack with the dog Isaak is well observed and wonderfully humanizing, if that is not a contradiction in terms.

The story is a relatively quick read and it is certainly one that you will not put down easily. If you love a good scare and chill, then I would very highly recommend you pick this up. Close your curtains or if you leave them open, make sure you move any posts far far away......and don't check on them, no really, don't start checking.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,434 followers
November 20, 2014
This is subtitled A Ghost Story, so I knew what to expect... or at least, I thought so. While it will be lapped up by lovers of traditional ghost stories - myself included - this novel also has a unique edge and great literary quality. Dark Matter relates the experiences of Jack, a former student of physics who, at 28, is poor, lonely, sick of London life and hates his job as an export clerk. On a whim, he applies to join an Arctic expedition as a wireless operator, and is thrilled to be accepted - even though he feels a little alienated from his rich, Oxford-educated teammates. Confiding in his journal, he writes of the group's journey to Norway, their arrival in Spitsbergen and first encounters with Gruhuken, the desolate bay they intend to make camp in. As the Arctic winter - permanent night - draws in and a series of mysterious accidents befall the others, Jack's misgivings about Gruhuken grow and grow.

The ghostly element of the book is executed beautifully, with a suspenseful build-up, a sense of great foreboding and brilliant subtlety. However, there's much more to the story than that. The real power of the novel is in its depiction of the frozen wastelands of the Arctic - the empty, untouched, lonely landscapes Jack at first relishes but comes to regard with horror. Paver's descriptions are so evocative I felt like I was actually there, and could imagine exactly what Gruhuken looked like with absolute clarity. There is so much packed into this little book and it's all done with such flair - the development of Jack's feelings towards his teammates and in particular Gus, his initial antipathy towards the dogs evolving slowly into affection for Isaak, his immense relief when he receives a visitor. The most striking part is the portrayal of Jack's increasing fear, paranoia and confusion as he faces the horrors of Gruhuken and its never-ending darkness alone. His experiences made me question my own love of/desire for solitude, and that is a rare thing indeed for me.

Michelle Paver has written a number of children's books and some historical romances that don't really interest me. I'm really hoping that Dark Matter will lead to more in the ghost-story mould from this author, as it's exactly the type of book that makes me want to read more. I know I've read something good when, upon finishing it, I immediately want to re-read it, to immerse myself in its world once again - this was one of the rare few to provoke such a reaction. Every time I think about it I immediately want to grab it and start reading again; I also want to travel to the Arctic and, at the same time, find myself feeling terrified of it. If you enjoy supernatural tales, suspense, or tremendous atmosphere, this book is highly recommended.
Profile Image for Ron.
394 reviews97 followers
September 25, 2016
1947. The story opens with a response to letter. ” I don’t think we’ll ever learn the truth of what happened at Gruhuken. However I know enough to be convinced that something terrible took place… No doubt the journal would, as you suggest explain much of what happened, but it has not survived, and I cannot ask Jack himself.”
1937. The one year research expedition to the Arctic is told strictly through the words of Jack Miller’s journal. Jack joins the expedition of 3 other men looking for a communications expert. It is a decision to escape poverty, and why not, since he’s very alone in this world. Jack doesn’t yet know how “truly alone” feels, but he just might.

There are at least two meanings for the term, Dark Matter, in this book. First, as stated in Jack’s journal:
”In one of my periodicals, there’s a paper by someone who’s worked out that what we know of the universe is only a tiny percentage of what actually exists. He says what’s left can’t be seen or detected, but it’s there; he calls it ‘dark matter’. Of course, no one believes him; but I find the idea unsettling. Or rather, not the idea itself, that’s merely an odd notion about outer space. What I don’t like is the feeling I sometime get that other things might exist around us, of which we know nothing.”

Secondly, it concerns the lack of daylight the men of this voyage are about to experience. During the winter period within the Arctic Circle (see Norway’s far northern island, Svalbard, in this case), the four months from late October to mid-February will experience Polar Night. This means the sun never rises. By the way, saying ‘winter months’ sounds so wrong when speaking about the Arctic. I’d call it winter all the damned time. But as I learned, there is winter and there is Winter. Same is true for the dark, and its effects on the human mind.
”In a month, on the 16th of October, we’ll see the sun for the last time. According to the books, there’ll still be some light for a few weeks after that, because at noon the sun won’t be all that far below the horizon. They call it ‘midday dawn’. After that, nothing.”

When Jack, Gus and Algie finally arrive by ship to their destination, they know that the captain believes the place is haunted. Something bad has occurred here. It’s only a feeling. All that speaks of past human inhabitance here is an abandoned mine and an old trapper’s hut that leans against the rocks above the bay, but Jack sees something else on the first day. “The one who walks.” I won’t go into the plot any further here, except to say that he will end up alone. There could be no other way, right?
”But the thing to remember, Jack, is that it’s only an echo. It’s like a footprint or a shadow. It can’t hurt you. All it can do is frighten. After that, nothing.”

Well, maybe Jack’s not quite alone.
Profile Image for Paul.
Author 115 books8,859 followers
February 24, 2012
I'm a sucker for creepy stories, or any stories really, set in the arctic or antarctic.

Snow and ice? Check.

Beautiful and desolate isolation? Check.

Spooky quiet and shadows on the ice? Check!

I liked the epistolary approach and there are plenty of genuinely goose-bumpy moments. Mild complaints: the diary approach was ditched at the climax (cheating!) and the end was a bit rushed. But minor quibbles really. An excellent arctic ghost story.
Profile Image for Michael.
423 reviews50 followers
September 14, 2011
Review from Badelynge
Michelle Paver's Dark Matter is a chillingly accomplished ghost story that takes place in the dark isolation of a snowbound base-camp of a small but ambitious scientific expedition, as the long dark night of an Arctic Winter sets in. The year is 1937. Unbeknown to the youthful group, their new home already has a black history and a reputation that makes the hardened seamen and trappers of the region reluctant to even speak of it.
Paver's love of the Arctic, first hand knowledge and experience of the region shine through the narrative. When A.C.Doyle wrote classic's like The Captain Of The Polestar, his experiences on Arctic Whalers' fueled the authentic tone and similarly Algernon Blackwood's tales of isolation and fear drew on his extensive trekking through the various wild places.There is an art to writing a good ghost story and one of the absolutes is in the appearance of authenticity. If the reader can't forget that the story is a fiction then the story loses its power. Paver certainly succeeds in that regard. Jack is well realised character, that I had no problem investing my interest in along with his horrific travails.
The narrative is in the form of a journal by the expedition's newest member and here again Paver excels in the form, using a journal's natural economy to provide ambiguity when needed but also to ride closely the mental battle taking place as our faithful scribe Jack details the occurrences. I've read other similar types of story that have been ridiculously large tomes, supposedly the diary of a few weeks stretched out to 700 page monstrosities, as if the narrator could possibly do the work that a professional author would have to chain themselves to the desk to achieve. There is a sort of infectious anxiety that slowly builds as the days slowly advance and the ill-fated expedition goes from one set back to the next. The ambiguity I mentioned has nothing to do with questions of whether the haunting is real or imagined - take it from me - the place is Haunted as Hell, no rather I ascribe it to the visual descriptions of the more visceral episodes. The scenes are painted with as few strokes as possible, so that in true classic style the reader has room to draw on their own nightmare imagery.
You could easily read Dark Matter in one sitting, though I spread it out over four. This is the sort of book you don't see too often these days, indeed you might be fooled into thinking it was written contemporaneously. Recommended.
Profile Image for Charlie Hasler.
Author 2 books211 followers
November 30, 2022
There were times reading the book that I genuinely felt an old type of fear, by old fear, I mean the fear/anxiety you feel as a child in a dark house or somewhere spooky etc. The way the author brings the levels of anxiety soaring by Jack just being on his own, never mind the malevolent spirit stalking him is just brilliant.

The part when Mr Eriksons trapper friend turned up to check on Jack I felt genuine relief for him and I myself felt completely at ease while reading the book, but as soon as he left I also felt my anxiety levels go up.

I found the book had a dry humour in parts which worked as I suppose in that sort of situation you would have to try see the dry funny side of things. I am not sure if anyone who has read this felt the same?

Furthermore I felt the love Jack felt for Gus was a beautiful touch and worked in the sense that in the dead of night, in the absolute pit of blackness, who do we/would we think of? the person/persons we love the most.

Great ghost story!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sandra.
233 reviews56 followers
March 4, 2019
‘There’s no dawn and no dusk. Time has no meaning. We’ve left the real world, and entered a land of dreams.’

In this period ghost story, Jack, an office clerk, joins Gus, Algie, Hugh and Teddy to prepare for an expedition to the Artic. Jack’s role in the team is a wireless operator.
The story is told through Jack’s eyes.
Jack seems to have a grudge when it comes to bonding with the others. His insecurities come from class differences.
The 1937 Spitsbergen Expedition is blighted from the beginning.
The skipper of the Isbjorn, Mr Ericsson, is reluctant to take them to the bay they have chosen, Gruhuken, and wants to drop them off ‘forty miles short’.....he will not say why. The workers on the ship, helping to assemble the camp will not stay overnight........ there are rumours and discontentment.
Once the depleted team are truly on their own, the realisation that they are in such an isolated and desolate location really hits home .
When the summer is over and darkness sets in, you can truly visualise the derelict trappers hut, the ice, the snow and harsh landscape.
When the moon is full, it circles the whole day, never dipping below the horizon. During the polar night it is the only time they have light, bathing their world in an eerie glow.
A touching part of the book is Jack’s bond with one of the huskies, Isaac. Although he was against the huskies being part of the trip at the beginning, he finds great comfort in his friendship with Isaac
The writing is sharp, you feel the eeriness, the coldness and the story sends a chill deep to your bones.
Profile Image for Empress Reece (Hooked on Books).
915 reviews78 followers
June 27, 2016
Ghost of "Gruhuken" - 4.5 stars....

I am immensely fascinated with the Artic so anytime I find a book set in the area, I snap them up. I also love a good ghost story so if you combine the two I'm in heaven! And that's exactly what you'll find in Dark Matter so I knew going into it, that it just had to be good. 
In 1937, a 28 year old, down-on-his luck guy named Jack, is offered the chance to join an Artic expedition to a remote uninhabited area named Gruhuken. From the start, the expedition is cursed with problems and after departing, the crew learns that Gruhuken may not be the picturesque & "uninhabited" area they were hoping for...
This is the perfect ghost story especially for a cold winter night. It's chilling, spooky and very atmospheric! I wish the ending was extended a little more though and that's the only reason I didn't give it a full five stars. The loose ends were tied up nicely but I felt like they were rushed and compacted into just a few pages. Actually the book was so good I could have used about 100 more pages but even a few more would have been nice. If you like ghost stories though, you don't want to miss this one. 
Profile Image for Lukas Anthony.
328 reviews362 followers
February 16, 2017
I spent the majority of this novel saying a silent prayer that the dog survives.

This novel was.....good. I say that with a gap because it was also not as wholly impressive as I wanted it to be either, but an entertaining ride all the same.

The whole thing just sort of left me wanting more. The ending was creepy (credit where it's due) but the suspense sort of needed to be featured a bit more throughout, it seemed like we were at the finale before we had time to really understand it.

The characters were also rather weak, and I didn't necessarily feel the pull that I'm guessing the author wanted me to feel. I LOVED the dog though, best character in the book.
Profile Image for Char.
1,681 reviews1,555 followers
January 19, 2021
Dark Matter is a slow moving tale, centered around some explorers isolated in the Arctic.

It came to me highly recommended and I usually love tales of isolation and distress, but for whatever reason this one didn't move me much. I thought the narrator was excellent though.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,061 reviews218 followers
March 23, 2018
“How odd, that light should prevent one from seeing.”

I’ve been in the mood for a good ghost story for a while, and when another book blogger told me that Michelle Paver’s novel Dark Matter was not only suspenseful and spooky, but also set in a wild remote place, I didn’t need any more persuasion! And I must say that it lived up to all my expectations.

Dark Matter features an Arctic expedition in 1937, when four young men set off in a Norwegian vessel to spend a year on the remote land spit of Gruhuken on the Barents Sea. For twenty-eight year old Jack, who narrates the story through journey entries, his role as wireless operator on the expedition is a way to prove himself and escape his drab job as clerk that has kept him afloat after his family was bankrupted, ending his hopes of finishing his university degree. After his family’s fall from grace, Jack has turned into a loner who has no friends and rarely associates with other people, keeping himself to himself. Gruhuken, in its remoteness, has a strange appeal to him, a way to make a new start, clean his slate. Both his background as well as his personality make Jack an interesting, rounded character whose voice is perfect for the era and drive much of story’s momentum as his initial reserve and preconceived ideas begin to crumble in the remoteness of the Arctic Circle.

Paver does an excellent job in evoking the spirit of the wild setting she describes so vividly. The initial beauty of the Arctic summer with its constant daylight, which makes the men optimistic and confident about their mission, feeling invincible even in the wild, remote region they feel themselves stranded in. As the seasons change, and the days become shorter, there is an obvious change in the men, their confidence eroded by the ever increasing darkness and the eerie silence of the surrounding land when all the birds have fled before winter. As daylight gives way to constant darkness, Paver creates an atmosphere so tense and claustrophobic that I could literally feel the cold creeping in through the cracks in the wall, grateful of my own bedside lamp that kept the night at bay whilst reading.

Tension soon mounts as the isolation plays tricks on the human psyche – or is the threat real? Jack is a man of science, and he is all too eager to explain away the feelings of dread and menace he sometimes feels when venturing outside. But as his last companions are forced to leave, and he is left on his own in this unforgiving place, he soon finds that his rational explanations are woefully inadequate to explain away the fear. Something evil is afoot at Gruhuken, and it is slowly closing in.

Paver has achieved the art of balancing her narrative on the fine line between reality and the occult, in a way that we are never quite sure if Jack’s accounts are the unravelling of his own mind due to the constant dark, the isolation and the absence of other human contact, or whether there really is something evil haunting Gruhuken. All I know is that it was so authentic and believable that I buried deep under my doona and wild horses could not have made me go outside alone in the dark! Personally, I find that it is very difficult to find a book where the supernatural element is just right – enough to make you very, very afraid, but not over the top to make you having to suspend disbelief. It is a balance achieved by very few, and Paver has absolutely nailed it! One passage about the bear post in particular had my hair stand on end as I pictured it so vividly in my mind.

For anyone looking for a good ghost story with a rich, atmospheric setting and a historical element (yes, this book has it all!), I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

*blog* *facebook* *instagram*
Profile Image for Maciek.
567 reviews3,413 followers
November 5, 2014
Michelle Paver is most famous for writing a series of fantasy novels for younger readers - which I have not read - and Dark Matter, subtitled A Ghost Story, is her first novel for adult readers.

The book opens in London at the eve of World War 2, where a young man named Jack is having a rough time: despite his Oxford education he has trouble finding employment and starting a career as a physicist, and has to work as an export clerk - a job he dislikes intensely. Jack is lonely and poor, down to his last pennies when he is approached by a group of four men who want to recruit him as a wireless operator on a voyage to the arctic. Jack is a character with whom most readers can relate and care for - he's lonely and confused, clutching at straws to stay afloat. The short beginning scene at the bar -where Jack has to count his pennies to see if he'll be able to afford to buy each of the men a beer, and realizes that he won't be able to afford it and sweats to find an excuse - is a touching and effective invocation of someone who suddenly found himself being poor, something which he never expected to happen.

Despite feeling the class difference, Jack jumps at the opportunity and sets out with the four men to Gruhuken, in the Svalbard archipelago of remote northern Norway - a geographical expedition to study weather patterns, glacial structures, and such. But the expedition seems to be cursed - even before their ship departs one member of the crew drops out. While tthe remaining three are decided on reaching Gruhuken, the Scandinavian captain of the vessel does not want to sail - although he eventually succumbs and sets course to Gruhuken, he does not want to share the reason for his reluctance. Shortly after their arrival, another member of the expedition soon falls sick and has to be moved away to the doctor - which leaves Jack alone to save the mission. Jack stays alone at Gruhuken, recording his thoughts in a diary - although he is determined to help his compatriots and prove himself worthy, he is soon convinced that there is more to Gruhuken that he initially thought; as the cold, endless night set in, he starts to see and hear things which he cannot explain, but which begin to convince him that he is not alone.

Jack's notes show how he changes throughout his stay: aside from his growing fear and paranoia of isolation, we see how he develops as a person - how he grows to care for his fellow expedition members, and develops great affection for their dogs which he initially loathed. Despite its short length, the novel's greatest strength is its sense of place and the atmosphere it evokes: while reading Jack's first person account you'll feel as if you were there beside him in the deep north, chilled to the bone. In the afterword Michelle Paver writes that she has visited Spitsbergen, the largest inhabited area of Svalbard archipelago, and it shows - although Gruhuken is ultimately imaginary, the place, climate and atmosphere that she evokes are not. Because of the theme and setting the book drew comparisons to Dan Simmon's historical horror, The Terror - but in my opinion it a more accurate comparison would point to the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, particularly his wonderful book Treasure Island, which is my great childhood favorite. Michelle Paver manages to do the same thing that Stevenson did in his classic - transport the reader to an unknown, strange and faraway place on an adventure. Although it is not as grand as Treasure Island, Dark Matter is at its heart an adventure - a novel of exploration: of the world around us, and of one's own self.

Although ultimately the book doesn't offer anything new on its plate, it is definitely worth reading - especially now, during the longer, colder evenings. It might not surprise you but it's atmosphere might envelop you, which is precisely what I sought from it and exactly what I got.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,065 reviews1,475 followers
March 7, 2021
Five intrepid explorers planned to leave the safety of their London homes for the unknown Arctic. Five quickly became three before their destination was even reached and with the endless night soon approaching will this number be enough to both complete their expedition as well as to ensure each other's safety and sanity?

This was an entirely unsettling read throughout, but also one less truly terrifying than I was anticipating. I did not begrudge this shifted focus as the first 100 pages read like an adventure or expedition story, spent predominately on following the characters as they journeyed to, secured, and settled into their base camp. I found this section intriguing and enlightening, with a beautiful evocation of icy setting.

The next 100 pages were slightly more chilling in design and sinister occurrences featured, with the resulting terror allowed to slowly seep through every scene that remained. I found this section added tension as the internal emotions, rather than external action, remained at the forefront of the focus.

During the final 50 pages the previous shifting shadows and distant dread crept closer. I was left a little disappointed that no final confrontation occurred but remained satisfied with the conclusion and, overall, found this was a solid chilling read, a thrilling adventure story, and an interesting historical insight.
Profile Image for SheriC.
682 reviews34 followers
October 16, 2017
Although technically a ghost story, the real horror for me is the sense of creeping dread and isolation and loneliness as the last man left in the endless night of an arctic camp. Most chilling of all is the man’s horror at contemplating the afterlife should he perish there and become a ghost himself – not just a winter of endless night alone, but an eternity.

Audiobook via Audible. Jeremy Northam proves he’s as wonderful an audio narrator as he is an actor, which certainly isn’t true of everyone.
Profile Image for Brandon Baker.
Author 14 books4,589 followers
October 7, 2022
A pretty unnerving and creepy slow burn with lots of animal violence/cruelty.
Profile Image for Cristina.
Author 28 books95 followers
September 16, 2019
I've been meaning for a long time to write a review of this atmospheric and unsettling novel by Michelle Paver that I've read quite a few months ago.

Set in 1937 in Gruhuken, Dark Matter chronicles an ill-fated attempt at Arctic research and the unfolding of the nightmarish stretch of time the main character, Jack Miller, is forced to spend on his own in an isolated hut plunged in the depths of the Arctic night.

Constructed as an understated ghost story in the mould of M.R. James, Dark Matter is built upon layers of events and accidents that slowly but surely increase the sense of unease and dread that we, as readers, experience along with Jack. It'd be wrong to share details of the plot here so I shall try to keep it vague, suffice it to say that the malevolent presence that stalks Jack in the night is the result of such tragic and horrifying events that I couldn't help but almost feel sorry for it and its unbearable solitude.

The ghost tries to take forcefully from Jack everything the young man cherishes: a sense of belonging, companionship, purpose and perhaps even a hope for love. It wants him to be isolated and fearful, cornered in the dark while surrounded by noises and visions.

It wants Jack to become just like him: another shadow prowling the Arctic night.

Jack is a difficult character to love at first. He's bitter, resentful, suspicious of his travel companions who seem to look down on him for being "a grammar-school boy with a London degree" and not part of their sophisticated social and academic circles. The way he grows into his own self and starts opening up to the others, Algie, Hugo, Teddy and, above all, Gus, is human and compelling.

The wide-eyed wonder at the expeditions's arrival in Longyearbyen and the first impact with the reality of the Arctic is an amazing part of the novel. The details conjure up the atmosphere of infinite space and edge-of-the-world reality faced by the group in a very convincing manner and the passage from the blinding light reflecting on the ice to the relentless darkness set a heavy weight on my chest as I was reading.

I love reading about Arctic expeditions and there are many novels that tackle this topic in a number of different ways, horror and suspense being amongst the more prominent genres (think of Dan Simmons' The Terror as a case in point). Dark Matter is unsettling without being bloody or unnecessarily gruesome, melancholic and full of compassion. I'd say it's probably one of the best ghost stories I've read recently and I highly recommend it.

Profile Image for Lance Greenfield.
Author 132 books237 followers
March 5, 2015
I wasn't sure that I would like this book as I read the first ten pages, but it gradually drew me in until I knew that I could not escape!

The opening is a letter to a journalist from Algernon Carlisle, a survivor of the ill-fated 1937 expedition to the deep Arctic Circle, which denies the existence of Jack Miller's journal. He admits that Jack wrote a journal during those continuously dark days in the far north, but, although it would probably explain a lot, he knows not what happened to it and requests that the journalist backs off.

Almost the whole of the rest of the book is a transcription of Jack's mysterious journal.

All the way through, I was wondering if Jack also survived, or if his journal was found next to his lonely, dead body, or of numerous other possibilities. Did Algernon have the journal, and have good reason to hide it? After all, he was now an aspiring post-war politician.

When I was a child at boarding school, we used to try to terrify our friends with our imaginative ghost stories. I therefore regard myself as a bit of an expert in the potency of such stories. Let me tell you that this rates as a powerful ghost story.

It also brings out the beauty and dangers of the cold and hostile frozen north.

I really loved this book, and it was nicely capped off with the author's notes at the end.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,746 reviews6,672 followers
October 24, 2022
"Once, I thought fear of the dark was the oldest fear of all. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it's not the dark that people fear, but what comes in the dark. What exists in it."
Dark Matter is the slowest burn ghost story I might have ever read but how I loved it. The isolation, the aggressive elements, the mental decay, and the dark. Oh, the dark. This is Arctic winter in the 1930's. Our main character Jack sets out as part of an ecological research crew to overwinter in the high Arctic where night reigns and the frozen sea traps everyone where they are. Things happen and Jack ends up carrying on the expedition alone... well, at least he wishes he was alone.
Profile Image for GG Stewart’s Bookhouse .
165 reviews23 followers
October 9, 2021
Slow moving book, mostly about setting the atmosphere for a scary moment. The story was good but the characters lacked…well character. It’s a quick read and at least there is an ending. One passage that I did like was “I knew with some ancient part of me, that it wasn’t alive.”
Profile Image for Nancy.
271 reviews48 followers
October 16, 2019
Publishers Summary January 1937. Jack Miller has just about run out of options. His shoes have worn through, he can't afford to heat his rented room in Tooting, and he longs to use his training as a specialist wireless operator instead of working in his dead-end job. When he is given the chance to join an arctic expedition, as communications expert, by a group of elite Oxbridge graduates, he brushes off his apprehensions and convinces himself to join them.

As the young men set sail from a gloomy Britain on the verge of war, Jack feels the overwhelming excitement of not knowing what lies ahead. Little can he imagine the horrors that await him in their destination, Gruhuken, a place that cannot escape the savage echo of its past.

My review is solely based on the excellent Audible version of this book. After giving a lot of thought as to whether reading this book would have given me the same experience, I can honestly answer "No!" Jeremy Philip Northam's narration brought the hero, Jack Miller, into life itself. If I had read this book, I could not have mastered the fear, loneliness, desperation, or bravery Northam was able to bring to Jack Miller. As the isolation brought Miller to the brink of despair; I was overcome with emotion for this brave insecure man that refused to leave in his attempt to prove himself to those he considered luckier in life than himself.

Author Michelle Paver was another wonder to me. Her knowledge of life in the Arctic is so extensive I had to find out more about her and read that Michelle traveled to Finland, Greenland, Sweden, Norway, Arctic Canada, and the Carpathian Mountains. She has slept on reindeer skins, swum with wild killer whales, and gotten nose to nose with polar bears and wolves to research her books. That explained why her book was so realistic and believable.

This is a long review for me and yet doesn't come close to expressing all the feeling I have for this book. Understand it won't be a book for everyone; not sure I'd have thought it was for me if I'd picked up a hard copy. I just know that listening to it has been one of the best experiences of 2019 for me.
Profile Image for Zuky the BookBum.
594 reviews320 followers
January 10, 2021
Historical horror? Check. Snowy and isolated location? Check. Diary entry format? Check. Malevolent spirit? Check. Emotional story? Check. Quite literally the perfect horror story for me! This book was absolutely terrific and a genuinely scary ghost story that I loved from page one.⁠

Paver has written a similar book to this one called Thin Air, cold snowy horror, ghosts & isolation etc, so I was worried this one would feel too samey for me to really appreciate it, but boy was I wrong! ⁠

This book is set in the arctic of Norway, where at certain points in the year there is never-ending night and the closest people to you are at least 2 days away. It's the perfect setting for a malevolent ghost story! As soon as we find ourselves stepping onto the bay of Gruhuken, with Jack, Gus and Algie, we know trouble is brewing.⁠

In the first part of the novel, Paver sets up some brilliant foreshadowing for what is to come, and even whilst our characters are in the comfort of company, there is a sense of foreboding building up in the shadows. ⁠

I don't often find myself spooked by books, but this one genuinely put me on edge, to the point where my heart would beat a little faster when checking the back door was locked at night. Paver does a magnificent job of not overdoing the spooks in this simply to create more "horror", she makes you wait for it and only gives you small bits at a time. It was perfectly paced to make it as scary as possible.⁠

Behind all the menace and spooks, this one had a really emotional story to it as well. Our main character Jack appears to finally find himself out in the middle of nowhere and it's a nice journey to follow. There is also the most precious dog bonding moments in this book that made me want to give my pets the biggest cuddles.⁠

In case you hadn't noticed, I LOVED THIS BOOK! If you're looking for a classic ghost story that's sure to scare, I'd definitely give this one a chance!
Profile Image for Imi.
378 reviews112 followers
May 15, 2016
After a few too many meh reads lately, this was exactly what I needed! The Artic is a really perfect setting for a good ghost story, one that is so utterly absorbing and beautifully atmospheric. In some ways this chilling backdrop was almost more powerful then the true ghost aspect of the plot. Paver's descriptions are so vivid, so expressive, that I could really see Gruhuken, and it was easy to understand Jack's increasing paranoia, in eternal and silent darkness. The plot itself is really very simple, without reliance on unnecessary "shock" moments or graphic descriptions of gore, which is often my problem with a lot paranormal or horror stories (in films as well as books). Paver really understands the power of the old-fashioned ghost story: the atmosphere, the gradual building of tension and suspense, the sense of the inevitable.

On a side note, this has reminded me that I really need to re-read Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness children series. I completely adored them as a child, but I did that awful thing called growing up and forgot about the series before the final book was released, so I never read it.
Profile Image for Barry Cunningham.
Author 1 book185 followers
August 6, 2019
Just fabulous, so well constructed and well written - a journey that will send your brain into spirals. My journey in the world of books with the title 'Dark Matter' continues, Juli Zeh next.
Profile Image for Yana.
11 reviews
December 28, 2022
It is truly a tale of terror and beauty and wonder, as it was stated by FT. I would add that this story is incredibly tragical at its core. I loved it!
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,217 reviews137 followers
January 1, 2022
This was billed to me as an absolutely terrifying ghost story, and while it is not that, it was unnerving enough that I was happy to have the company of the cat purring next to me while I read it in my darkened bedroom to ring in the new year.
Profile Image for Jaksen.
1,377 reviews65 followers
August 29, 2018
I love reading about the Arctic, about people traveling to the Arctic, about getting lost in the Arctic, about the never-ending nights of winter, the aurora, the weird twilight, the running about by the light of a full moon trying to 'get things done while there's some light.' I love the dogs, the huskies, and the wind blowing and the snow coming down so fast and furious it all but covers your hut/tent/makeshift shelter. It's just so damn creepy.

Three men go to a remote island off Norway to do some scientific work: send back info. on the weather: wind, rainfall, temps, etc. They're young men, living close to the onset of WW2, 1937, but they're English and gonna suck it up, get on with it, have their tea and make the best of it. (Yeah I'm part English so I know the vibe.) No complaints, laddie, or mate, or chum, and if you get a little pain or bleed here or there or it's cold and you're lonely then - SO WHAT. Be a man, take in on the chin, etc., etc.

Well what happens is that three men become one when one of them takes ill. (Yes, they're in communication with civilization via the 'wireless,' and yet civilization is several days away in any emergency.) Plus there might be a ghost? A spirit? Or is it just your imagination? And what about all those flensing knives they found buried in the ground? Ahhh .....

The tension is great in this short novel. The atmospherics intense. The author has traveled in the Arctic, knows the terrain, the wildlife, the quickly-shifting weather patterns which can leave you dead fifty feet from shelter if you lose your bearings in a storm. I read this on one of the hottest days - ever! - and yet felt the Arctic cold and as my fans blew all over me, (on my Cape Cod porch it was 88 degrees), I had to go put socks on. Yes, the book made me COLD.

Great ghost story. Great book.

Five stars.
Profile Image for inciminci.
397 reviews73 followers
February 22, 2021
The subtitle to Michelle Paver's enthralling "Dark Matter" states that is a ghost story, and it indeed is. But the horrors Jack Miller endured during a 1937 arctic expedition to Gruhuken, the most haunted (fictional) place in the Arctic, are also in big part due to his isolation, his being cut-off from the civilization he loathed so much under normal circumstances. And that aspect, so timely and insightful these days, is what interested me the most here.
No need to remark that Paver, as a real connaisseur of the big ice, does great at describing the polar landscapes and the awe-inspiring impressions they have on us. The character development was very plausible, making it easy to feel with and root for Jack and, on a last note, I really liked the tragic story of the ghost itself too.
So it was an all around delightful experience to read "Dark Matter". I hear the author has published other ghost stories, so I'll definitely have a glance at those too.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,207 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.