Dark Matter is a successful cross between The Riddle of the Sands and The Call of the Wild, set in Svalbard. Michelle Paver’s first adult novel was published last week, just in time for anyone wanting to frighten themselves a little for Halloween week. No, I lie, it’s for those who want to be thoroughly and properly scared witless.
Mentioning the books by Jack London and Erskine Childers is somewhat misleading, because they are more traditional adventure stories. Dark Matter takes the adventure story and moves it to Svalbard and adds ghosts.
Set in 1937 it has a great period feel to it. Jack gets the job as wireless operator on an expedition to the Arctic region, as the only working class man of the group of five who set out. To mention class may seem snobbish, but it forms an important backdrop to what happens.
The group begins losing members before they even leave. It’s very much a Ten Little N***ers kind of set-up. They are aiming for the remote Gruhuken, a long way from Longyearbyen.
It goes without saying that Gruhuken is haunted. The locals avoid it all costs. Or at least, they did until the Englishmen arrive.
Arriving in the short but light Arctic summer, it soon becomes very dark indeed. And the dark does things to you.