When the podcast branch of the mighty Gabbing Geek empire chose the three books they would be looking at for 2019, Recursion was a no-brainer. Written by Gabbing Geek fave Blake Crouch, it looked to be in a similar vein to his last book, Dark Matter. And everyone around here who read Dark Matter loved it.
But Recursion is not Dark Matter. So, how did it go?
Recursion, at least to start, follows two different protagonists in two different time periods. First is Barry Sutton, a New York City detective. Due to the tragic death of a teenage daughter many years before, Barry’s marriage fell apart and he took up heavy drinking. After a failed attempt to prevent a suicide, Barry turns his detective skills somewhere else. He begins to look into the mysterious “False Memory Syndrome,” a mysterious ailment that causes people to remember events that never happened. That all takes place in 2019.
But back in 2008 or so, Dr. Helena Smith is looking into human memory. Her mother has Alzheimer’s Disease, so Helena believes she may be able to help victims of that disease with some way of preserving core memories. When a wealthy billionaire offers her unlimited funding to finish the project, she jumps at the chance. By why does this Elon Musk-by-way-of-Warren-Buffet guy want in on Helena’s research?
And what connection might Helena’s research have to False Memory Syndrome?
Naturally, there is a connection. Plus, given the author’s past work, it’s going to be a real head trip.
First off, something I learned as I looked a few things up to write this (mostly to make sure I spelled things right): a “recursion” can be a computer science term. Computer science uses it to mean a problem that can only be solved using smaller versions of the same problem. That makes sense here. The problems of FMS deal heavily with various smaller problems along the way.
Essentially, the novel asks what would happen if people could change their memories. Does the ability to do that alter reality? And if so, what is the end result? Does memory influence reality? Can two people experience vastly different versions of the same time period? How much can the human mind even tolerate such a situation? Alternate realities seem to be Crouch’s thing.
Of course, he also likes to toss as much theoretical science into the mix as he can. Quantum mechanics may be his bag.
In the past, my only real complaint about Crouch’s work is I didn’t always care for his writing style. I didn’t have that problem this time around though I did think the ending came across as a little abrupt at first. But the ending did work for the most part. This may be my personal favorite of Crouch’s work to date. He hasn’t really disappointed yet. In fact, he has improved with each novel. 9.5 out of 10 unheeded warnings.