A few months ago, I wrote about all the time travel books I had been reading and how 2019 is shaping up to be the Year of Time Travelling. Well, I’ve read one more, a book I didn’t even know had time travel at all until it happened in the story.
Recursion by Blake Crouch took me completely by surprise. It opens with New York cop Barry Sutton still deeply grieving the loss of his daughter many years before. He is also investigating a case and dipping his toes into learning about a new mysterious phenomenon, False Memory Syndrome. Those afflicted by it wake up one day with memories of a life they apparently never lived. But the memories always seem very, very real. And then it happens to Barry.
As you can probably guess there is a cause to this disease, and it’s not natural. It’s human made and it can potentially destroy the world.
On the other side of the coin, we have neuroscientist Helena Smith and her research about memory. She has dedicated her entire life to create a machine that allows for its user to re-experience the past. Memories will no longer fade away. Helena’s mother has Alzheimer’s, so her research is deeply personal. Her ideas are so impressive, she is given ample resources to achieve the unimaginable.
But there are nefarious forces at play. There is one man who truly understands the power behind what Helena created, because he understands that memory can shape reality. What if you could use the machine differently? What if by using it and matching it with a powerful memory you could send the person back to live it again, from the start? Could you reset reality in the process?
I came to this book for one of my major catnips, the promised exploration of memory, and stayed for an even bigger catnip, time travel. It’s really cool the way the author intertwined the two strands of memory and time to create a whirlwind of a novel. I never knew what would happen next and I was very intrigued by how the author explored the conceit of time travel in a way I have not seen used before.
There are many facets to Recursion: It starts with a long, careful exploration of memory and of loss, with both Helena and Barry experiencing them and sharing alternating narratives. But once the setting and the emotional background of the novel are firmly set, it suddenly turns into a high-stakes thriller with time travel, then dives into a lovely, complicated romance, then into a mind-bending doomsday book where our heroes need to save the world or die trying (multiple times).
In many ways it really reminded me of the movie The Edge of Tomorrow, only the female character is the one having the do overs with her memory intact.
I really enjoyed this one—although I fear Helena’s narrative took a back seat to Barry’s more often than it should have given her importance.
Given how the year is going with these delightful reads, I will be back with more time travel news soon, no doubt.
In Booksmugglerish, 7 out of 10.