Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

Title: Recursion

Author: Blake Crouch

Blurb: Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. 

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them? 

My Thoughts

Having read Dark Matter, I knew what to expect going into Recursion in terms of pacing and writing. But as a fan of time travel stories, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to like Crouch’s take on the sub-genre, largely because I had some issues with the way he structured Dark Matter, which dealt very heavily with the concept of alternate universes.

Unfortunately, my fears were founded, and I ended up feeling the same way about this book that I felt about Dark Matter—that is, I thought it was a so-so story.

Now, I did like the concept of how time travel works in relation to memory, as it was something I hadn’t seen before that differentiated this book from other time travel stories. But at the same time, the second half of this book fell victim to a problem that was very similar to the problem that kept me from truly enjoying the climax and conclusion of Dark Matter.

To put it simply, the latter half of the book got really repetitive. That might sound like a strange criticism to make of a book titled Recursion, but quite frankly, I don’t think that the underlying premise of a book should dictate whether or not it has a strong structure from beginning to end. And twice now, I’ve felt that Crouch’s books flounder in the second half because they get too bogged down by over-reliance on the sci-fi concept the story revolves around.

A cool premise really shouldn’t involve the sacrifice of strong story-telling, in my opinion.

That’s not to say there was nothing to like in Recursion, of course. The first half of the book was quite strong in places, and had an air of mystery and mild sci-fi horror that I quite liked. Also, the way some of the time travel shenanigans played out across the story were fairly interesting, especially the ones that happened in “real time” to the POV characters. There were very stark and startling displays of how messing with the timeline could result in utter chaos, and I felt those were well done for the most part.

At the end of the day—or rather, the end of the book—I think that Recursion has the same general weaknesses as Dark Matter, and so my enjoyment of the book flagged considerably toward the end. But the book is not without merit, or lacking an abundance of cool ideas. So, to me, the book was just okay.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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