Book Review: Dark Matters by Michael Dow. Asteroid hunters, emerging technologies, insidious consortiums, and bizarre visions—oh, goody! The near future.

Title: Dark Matters

Author: Michael Dow

Genre: Science-fiction

Pages: 400

Days to read it: 2

This was an uncorrected advance proof from netgalley!

Synopsis:

When Rudy’s boss dies in a car accident, he finds himself being voted in as the new CEO of General Resources, Inc. (GRI), a multi-trillion dollar conglomerate with its fingers and toes in industries and sectors all over the world—emerging technologies, media, manufacturing, space-based operations, consumer products, finance, security solutions—the whole kit and caboodle. Being a C-level executive comes with it’s perks—new home-bots, a private island, a hefty raise—and an invitation to join a clandestine group of powerful, wealthy individuals called the Consortium that control most of the world’s wealth and resources and have the means to orchestrate any result or solution they deem fit for the good of humanity. The Consortium have chosen Rudy to be their next head decision-maker, and he isn’t entirely sure ‘No, thanks’ is an option. With enough on his plate as CEO of GRI, Rudy must now also make critical decisions on behalf of the Consortium—decisions that are slowly forcing him into grayer shades of morality than he’s comfortable with. Set in a near-future earth where the gap between the wealthy and poor has reached critical mass, depleted resources have forced scientists to hunt for mining asteroids in the far reaches of the solar system, and complex technologies have invaded every aspect of daily life, Michael Dow’s Dark Matters gives us a glimpse into a disturbing world run by the elite few, where the rich rule and the individual has little say in his own fate.

Impressions:

I picked up Dark Matters from netgalley because…look at that cover! I was mesmerized by the twinings of color and gold lettering, alone. Also: its a book about near future technologies. Which I respect because I think you have to be half a genius at least in order to figure out how to write believably achievable technology. ALSO, it was a kickstarter book, which is always cool.

Guys, in some ways the future is totally going to be awesome (no, duh!). We’ll get communication devices built into our contact lenses. We’ll have self-driving cars that can be programmed to pick us up, drop us off, find the route of least congestion, and avoid parking fees (which is ALWAYS a bonus). Caretaker bots will become part of our families, making sure our fridge is always stocked and our kids do their homework without us having to expend energy nagging them. If we don’t feel up to tackling that bedhead or getting out of our grunge wear to talk to someone face-to-face we can set up a perfect holographic avatar of ourselves and avoid the hassle of being presentable. HYPERSONIC flight exists, guys! We can have pancakes and maple syrup in Vancouver and a Barramundi lunch in Australia. Everything is so damn convenient. Well, then, why are people so unhappy in Dark Matters? Because the future is also kinda sucky for those who aren’t part of the upper classes—and that would consist of like…99% of the population or something. So yeah, most us probably will never get to experience how it feels to wear instantly-customized, perfect-fit nanotech clothes. Boo 😦

This inequality is of particular interest to Monique, one of the protagonists of Dark Matters. An heiress to a sizable fortune, she tries to do her part to spread the wealth and goodwill around. In fact, one of her pet projects is bizarrely linked to the strange visions she has when she gets into weird meditative states while doing yoga. Without any understanding of its purpose, she follows her visions around the world, meeting people in the average rungs of society and taking them under her wing.

Our  second protagonist, Rudy, is also a member of the elite rich, though he’s actually somewhat of an imposter—a nouveau-riche that married into wealth. In stark contrast, to Monique and Rudy, Jonas, a physics professor and our third protagonist, is just barely eking out a living. Apparently the guy lives in a shoebox and thinks a holophone is the epitome of luxury. And the guy HUNTS FOR ASTEROIDS for pete’s sake. I feel like a holophone is not enough compensation for such necessary and AWESOME work…The future’s looking pretty darn unfair, guys.

Bemoaning of disparities in wealth aside, there are other more sinister things afoot in this story. Cynical me is not surprised to learn that the wealthiest and most influential are not only working behind-the-scenes and under-the-radar, they are pulling them puppet strings and literally getting the world to dance for them.

And they’re so clever about it, too. “Oh, that volcano erupting? Yeah, totally a natural disaster, right? Just a coincidence that it also destroyed the factories of a major competitor…totally a coincidence.” Beware the business mogul! Hey, Michael Dow himself rode the gravy train as a C-level exec…is he trying to tell us something about the current state of affairs up among corporate royalty?

So, the plot. Pacing of most of the book was a bit slow for my taste (yeah, I still finished it in two days, but because of disciplined eye exercising, guys, not because the plot held me hostage). I suppose this has to do with characterization because if I don’t connect well with the characters, I find what they care about just sort of…boring (like, who cares about the kids, who cares about the girlfriend, who cares about the co-workers, *grumble grumble*). The premise for the story, the essence of the plot (the visions, the hunt for asteroids, the manipulation of world events)—all that stuff was juicy! But, the characters themselves were a bit hollow. Jonas was probably the most filled out character because he was a bit rough around the edges (he broke his holophone…bad Jonas!). But, I wasn’t super eager to care about him, if you know what I mean.

So, I just complained about the pacing being slow, well, let me just say that it was too flippin’ fast at the end. I don’t even think the characters were given enough chance to react properly (Srsly, shit just happened. If you want to freak out, please do so. You’re not a robot!! Are you?!). Not to mention HOLY SWEET MOTHERBOTS CLIFFHANGER! Things happen. Cliffhangers are part of the business, I get it, but please, for the love of all that’s holy about reading, give us something more to chew on! Because of the cliffhanger, I felt like the entirety of Dark Matters could have been 1/3 of a book. Not 1/3 of a series. No. One PIDDLY third of a book. Yes, it’s one of those. Almost no questions were answered at all 😦 Like the namesake of the book—dark matter. What the heck has it got to do with our plot? I suppose that will be revealed in the next installment.

*sigh* Just felt kind of cheated of a real ending, is all.

Well, that’s all I have to say about this book. I’ll probably just wait until the entirety of the story comes out before continuing to read. The 1/3rd issue could be a strategy to get more frustrated kickstarter backers, who knows. Michael Dow is no stranger to business strategics, after all.

I give this 3.5 QUADRILLION dollars which is still not enough to buy an asteroid to save earth.

Here’s an excerpt that sort of showcases the plethora of future technologies to be enjoyed in this book:

“I’ll need to see your identification card, and do a retinal scan as well, if you don’t mind.”
 
“Sure.” Monique was familiar with the procedure. It was one thing to buy groceries, or even an expensive work of art, with a single thumb scan; it was quite another to grant access to an airplane full of the uber-elite. The triple-verification process was just one of many ways that the privileged preserved their safety. And there would be another scan at the gate, of course. Monique pulled her smart-ID card from her purse.
 
The agent studied the photo, glancing again at her face. Satisfied, he reached behind the monitor to retrieve the retinal scanner. Monique held still while he placed it to her right eye. The familiar beep took just a second.
 
“Thank you, Ms. Durand. May I charge your account?”
 
“Please.”
 
“The total today will be eighty-nine thousand, six hundred eleven dollars. Would you like to book a return flight?”
 
“No, thanks. Not sure when I’ll be returning.” Monique held her thumb to the payment scanner while she silently cringed at the one-way ticket price. In all fairness, it was probably reasonable for a hypersonic flight to Singapore—especially one that took barely four hours. But with sixty seats on the airplane, she didn’t need a math degree to know that Elite Airlines would be doing just as well. Their business model was a good one, running high altitude, hypersonic-only for long-haul, point-to-point flights all over the world, catering to wealthy business and leisure travelers. She was fortunate that Washington DC to Singapore was one of those routes, and that it ran on Saturdays.
 
“You’re all set; our private security line is just around the corner. Thanks for flying with Elite.” Her Net lenses flashed a ticket confirmation across her vision, indicating that the flight documents had been transferred to her account. The agent smiled, and pointed to Monique’s left. She nodded; she had been through the line before. She grabbed her purse and headed toward security.

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