Danger awaits scientists in icy wastelands of the Arctic

Danger awaits scientists in icy wastelands of the Arctic

Dark Matter
By Michelle Paver
Published by Orion
ISBN 978 1 4091 2378 1

Michelle Paver is the author of the best-selling teen series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. The first novel, Wolf Brother, came out in 2004, and the series came to an epic end with Ghost Hunter - the sixth book - early last year.

And now Paver has published her first non-youth fiction novel, the terrific Dark Matter. This ghost story is certainly a compelling read for adults, but it also works well as a gripping piece of cross-over young adult fiction.

Older teenage fans of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness will lap it up, while teen readers who don't know Paver's work are in for a wonderful treat when they open Dark Matter.

Twenty-something Jack Miller is a hard-working scientist in London in 1937. When he is offered the chance to join a small expedition to the Arctic as communications officer, Jack jumps at the chance.

He is lonely in London, and this is a brilliant opportunity to get away from things and rebrand his life.

Expectation and excitement are high as the five-man expedition sails to the north of Norway, and into the Arctic land of the midnight sun.

But as they approach Gruhuken, the frozen isolated bay where they will set up camp, the captain of their transport ship becomes afraid and refuses to take them all the way to their destination.

What is wrong with Gruhuken? Why do the ship's captain and crew not want to sail anywhere near the place? There is nothing there except frozen land and tonnes of snow.

Eventually, Jack and his colleagues persuade the captain to take them to where they plan to set up camp. It is the end of the Arctic summer, and soon the watery sun will drop behind the horizon and the long months of the dark Arctic winter will begin. The sea will freeze and the expedition will be isolated in Gruhuken. There will be no escape.

The white Arctic wilderness plays a vital part in Dark Matter, and Paver's descriptions of the landscape and frozen terrain are masterly. Paver herself is a loner, drawn to the isolation of the Arctic, and in Dark Matter she really takes readers into this endlessly icy and inhospitable landscape.

It is a tradition of the classic ghost story that the central character is isolated with nowhere to turn to for help.

One by one, Jack's companions in Gruhuken are forced to leave the camp and he is abandoned as darkness descends. But Jack soon learns that Gruhuken is not uninhabited. He is not alone. There's something outside the camp, waiting patiently in the darkness.

Dark Matter is one of the best novels to land in bookshops in a very long time. Read it, and shiver.

John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com



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