Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Fiction Review: Recursion

I absolutely loved the novel Dark Matter by Blake Crouch when I read it in 2017, so I was excited to hear about his latest novel, Recursion. Crouch is also the author of novels that formed the basis for two of our favorite TV shows, Wayward Pines and Good Behavior, so he has become a favorite author for both my husband and I. Recursion continues Crouch's trend of super twisty, mind-bending sci fi novels with great characters.

At the start of the novel, the narrative moves back and forth between two different characters in two different times. In 2018, Barry, an NYPD detective, is called to the scene of a potential suicide. A woman is standing on the edge of a tall building, ready to jump, when Barry arrives. She tells him that she has FMS or False Memory Syndrome, a recently discovered medical condition where a person has memories of a completely different life, in addition to their memories of their current life. She describes the agony of remembering a husband who no longer knows who she is and a son who is no longer there, while Barry tries to talk her off the ledge.

Back in 2007, Helena, a neuroscientist, has devoted her life's work to the study of memories, specifically how to preserve memories for dementia patients so they can "replay" them after their disease progresses. Her inspiration is her mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Struggling to continuously find research funding in her position at Stanford, Helena is shocked one day by a proposal she simply can't refuse. A super-wealthy high-tech entrepreneur (kind of an Elon Musk type guy) offers her unlimited funds to bring her dreams of building a "memory chair" to fruition. Of course, she agrees. The narrative moves back and forth between Barry's story and Helena's, until the two people (and timelines) meet, with scientific advances creating unforeseen changes in the very fabric of reality. Can Barry and Helena actually stop the destructive forces that have been set in motion?

I love sci fi plots that have to do with time travel, alternate timelines, or any sort of manipulation of time, and this novel has that and much more. It's a rich, twisty exploration of memory, time, and reality that just twisted my brain up in knots (in a good way). Recursion is also a fast-paced thriller, with the main characters racing against time to try to literally save the world, so it is filled with tension and suspense, all wrapped around a completely original and thought-provoking story with in-depth characters I came to care about. My husband and I both thoroughly enjoyed the wild ride this unique novel took us on, and we can't wait to see what Crouch comes up with next!

326 pages, Crown

Listen to a sampleof the audio book, with two narrators voicing Barry and Helena, here and/or download it from Audible.

You can purchase Recursion from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or you can order Recursion from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. A great review, thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. You're welcome! It's a good one!

  2. I am not a huge sci fi reader, but this one sounds intriguing

    1. That's a good word for it, Helen - intriguing!