I’m so amazed by Blake Crouch. With Dark Matter, he enthralled the reading world with a wild plot and breakneck action. With Recursion, he proves that Dark Matter wasn’t a fluke. Crouch delivered a level of intensity that I’ve rarely encountered in the written word via a fascinating, disturbing premise. More surprisingly, he crafted a romance unlike any I’ve ever read. After reading Recursion, Crouch has become an insta-buy sci-fi author for me.
“Nothing can be controlled. Only endured.”
Imagine waking up one morning with an entire lifetime’s worth of memories, at odds with the life you’re leading. These aren’t just daydreams of big moments; they are intricate memories of the minutia that makes life feel real. How do you deal with having two lifetimes at war within your mind? This is a question plaguing more and more individuals in Crouch’s world as a new and unexplained epidemic called False Memory Syndrome, or FMS for short, smears itself across New York. The suicide rates among those who suffer from FMS are on the rise. Detective Barry Sutton finds himself embroiled in one of these suicides and the mystery that is False Memory Syndrome, and his life is forever changed by what he finds.
“If memory is unreliable, if the past and the present can simply change without warning, then fact and truth will cease to exist. How do we live in a world like that?”
Helena Smith is a scientist on a mission to map memories. Her mother is suffering from dementia, and Helena would do anything to slow or stop the disease from further feasting on her mother’s mind. But others don’t see her vision, and she finds herself in desperate need of funding. Just when her search is reaching its unsatisfactory end, funding finds her in the form of Marcus Slade, a billionaire who shares her dream and will give her anything she needs to make that dream come true. But as she makes great strides toward perfecting her invention, other uses and motivations come into focus. And not all knowledge is good.
“I’d rather take the chance at passing up something glorious than risk everything on one roll of the dice.”
I was completely taken by both Barry’s and Helena’s stories. Each perspective character brought something fascinating and sympathetic and moving to the story. The character development both Barry and Helena experienced was massive. They had clear motivations at the beginning of the novel, but those changed dramatically as their stories progressed. There was such selflessness and determination exhibited by these characters, and it was beautiful and humbling to behold. Also, I was completely surprised by the romance in Recursion, and how deeply I came to care for the couple as they lived lives beyond my comprehension. It was an exquisite love story.
“Everything will look better in the morning.
There will be hope again when the light returns.
The despair is only an illusion, a trick the darkness plays.”
While I loved the romance and was kept on the edge of my seat by nearly nonstop action and radical shifts in the narrative, my favorite element of this book was philosophical. Dark Matter raised all kinds of deep questions and made for great discussion as I compelled members of my family to read it. Recursion is destined to do the same. What makes life worth living? What is time, exactly, and why are we governed by it? Is a memory of something that never happened enough to make a thing real? How much of our lives are dictated by tiny choices we make, and how wide would the ripples spread if we undid or remade such a choice? What is it exactly that makes us human, or joyful, or fulfilled, and how can we claim those attributes if we find ourselves lacking them? How do our smallest decisions impact the lives of others?
“Life with a cheat code isn’t life. Our existence isn’t something to be engineered or optimized for the avoidance of pain.
That’s what it is to be human—the beauty and the pain, each meaningless without the other.”
This is a book that I can tell is going to stay with me for a long time. (Side note: the book employs the best use of epigraphs I’ve ever seen, and they added tremendously to the story.) While it reminded me a bit of movies like Minority Report and The Butterfly Effect due to the moral and philosophical questions it raised, Recursion is completely, uniquely itself, and I don’t think there’s another story like it. It’s mysterious, speculative, suspenseful, thrilling, romantic, and unfathomably deep. I strongly recommend that every reader, no matter your taste in genres, pick up a copy of Recursion. You won’t regret it.