I'm not in the habit of re-publishing posts, but I'm making an exception for this one on Michelle Paver's Dark Matter as the book is now out, and it deserves to be in the spotlight again and not just the subject of a quick link ~
A ghost story of terrrific menace written with consummate skill, Dark Matter takes the form of the diary of physicist Jack Miller who joins a scientific expedition to the Arctic in 1937, and it tells of what befalls the small group when they land at Gruhuken on Spitsbergen (Svalbard) and prepare to overwinter.
Jack is a loner, a man without family or friends. His academic ambitions have been sacrificed to the need to make a living, but his job as a clerk leaves him bored and dissatisfied, so when he gets the chance to be the meteorologist and wireless operator in a team which will study High Arctic biology, geology and ice dynamics, he accepts this new beginning and determines to go where it leads him.
The group make camp in August when there's almost constant daylight, and the vastness of the place, its solitude and remoteness, touch Jack and lift his spirits. He comes into his own and relishes the task ahead, despite the curious wariness and unease of the Norwegian skipper and crew who will shortly bid farewell to the men for the winter, and a strange feeling as of something sinister around the part of their camp where once stood an abandoned trappers' hut.
But it's when Autumn draws perpetual darkness down and illness forces Jack's companions to leave while he stays on alone to man the instruments and take the survey readings, that the unsettling sights and sounds he has experienced become inexplicable, truly frightening ones. Ever rational, Jack refuses to believe that Gruhuken could be haunted - such a notion defies logic, and surely if there is 'anything' there at all it is only some kind of echo, a 'place memory', which he, a man of sensitivity and acute perception has happened to pick up?
I can give you no more of the plot than that, but Michelle Paver has drawn the strands together in a tightly written story of stark contrasts: a book of dark deeds in a white wilderness, of the unthinkable becoming horribly manifest, of the strength of companionship and the desolation of being utterly alone. It is genuinely chilling, perfectly paced and fittingly resolved, and with its very fine focus it is an intensely atmospheric, concentratedly gripping novel.