I said in my last post that I was finding this a quick read and it was. I slowed down once I got past the standard preliminary stuff, much of which left me worried that it presaged a predictable novel. Thank goodness I was wrong.
Blake Crouch's novel is centered around Jason Dessen, a brilliant physicist who is living a happy yet mundane life as a college professor in Chicago with a loving wife and son. Then someone in a mask shows up, drugs him, shoves him in a metal box in an abandoned factory . . . and Dessen wakes up in a lab where he is greeted expectantly after an absence of over a year. It quickly becomes clear that this is isn't his life but the life of another Dessen, one whose professional success has led to a breakthrough of frightening possibilities, all of which Dessen would trade in a heartbeat for a chance to return to his old life.
That's the premise in a nutshell, anyhow. It's not terribly original, but it gets better thanks to some turns Crouch takes that keep raising the stakes. And at the end there's a line that may by a little spoiler-y (though more likely incomprehensible without some context) that earned Crouch's book another half-star from me:
"Look," I say, "I've tried to explain to you how the box works, but forget all that for a minute. Here's the thing. The box isn't all that different from life, If you go in with fear, fear is what you'll find."
I love encountering obvious-yet-profound points when I read novels like this, because they're little gifts in that they're unexpected reminders of important truths. And this is an especially good one that I need to keep in mind when I'm facing some of the oppressive stuff in my own life, no matter how bad it can get.