Helena Smith and Barry Sutton are inextricably entwined and yet at the same time, haven’t even met yet. And the way it happens at the same moment is thanks to the astonishing memory technology that groundbreaking neuroscientist Helena develops, inspired by the desire to heal her mother’s Alzheimer’s, to preserve memories and relive them.
The very dangerous ability to alter memories and create new timelines leads countless people to suffer from False Memory Syndrome, and what was intended to be a gift for humanity ends up becoming a nightmare and perhaps spells the end of the world as everyone knows it.
‘Recursion’ is like reading ‘Back To The Future’ crossed with ‘Memento’ and ‘Minority Report’, with a splash of ‘Groundhog Day’ mixed in (except with none of the funny stuff). And it’s certainly not because Blake Crouch is rehashing old territory or that he’s written a book we’ve all read (or that it’s something we’ve seen) before. It’s because ‘Recursion’ recalls the essence of what made all those movies great, and it’s a gripping genre-bending cross of science-fiction and thriller. And he does it in a way that feels like nothing that’s been done before.
Just as he did with the mind-bending science-fiction (and the actual science) behind ‘Dark Matter,’ here in ‘Recursion’ he has tapped into our curiosity about the unknown, the basic human question we all have about our pasts, of how our lives could be different if we could ‘change just that one thing and do things over.’
How everything could be different if someone we loved hadn’t died so soon, or we could’ve stopped that death from happening.
That very scenario comes up for Barry in the book, and just as with the catastrophic repercussions of messing with nature, and the ethical questions behind genetic engineering (thank you, Michael Crichton), most of our instincts probably say we shouldn’t mess with time-travel, our memories, and therefore, our very existence. But science-fiction says we must.
Crouch has written yet another tightly-paced read; the book flits between different timelines and at the beginning of the book, it’s unclear as to the connection between our two main characters. But as the stories entwine, and the science starts to make more sense, the pace and the intensity pick up, the lines blur, and time and memory collide. The consequences of the decisions made by some of the characters, and by humanity as a whole, are emblematic of a whole host of problems and it becomes seriously frightening.
It’s a clear reminder of how our lives are merely made up of a series of memories, and when we stop living in the present, what else do we have? My own greatest fear is losing my memory, my ability to remember my past. But I definitely wouldn’t want to live moments over and over again either.
Ultimately ‘Recursion’ is another breakout novel by the amazing Blake Crouch. Thank you for making me question my whole existence (yet again).
*Thank you Crown Publishing for my early copy, received at ALA Midwinter, where I also got to MEET Blake Crouch, and have him sign my books!!