Blake Crouch has several other books out, but I have only read one other by him which was Dark Matter. I really enjoyed Dark Matter, but looking back I remember being lukewarm about its ending. Without spoiling the novel, I felt that Crouch had an excellent plot idea for Dark Matter, but it was very complicated and became too big to wrap up satisfyingly. However, it was a really fun read. When I learned about Recursion‘s plot, I worried that I would feel similarly, and I did.
In Recursion, Helena Smith has committed her life to developing the technology to record and save people’s memories in an attempt to help those with degenerative brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s, regain their memories and live a fulfilled life. Another timeline follows Barry Sutton as he investigates a suicide. The suicide victim is said to have had FMS, or False Memory Syndrome. False Memory Syndrome has been popping up all over the country, and it usually involves people suddenly remembering that they have another life that is different from the reality they are currently living. This can lead to the victim having an identity crisis which often results in suicide. Helena and Barry come together to figure out the cause of FMS and to figure out what is real and what isn’t.
Like Dark Matter, Recursion‘s plot is difficult to summarize because it is complex, and I didn’t find the characters to be nearly as engaging as the plot. The main characters, Helena and Barry, are quite well written, but within the supporting cast I have already forgotten most of their names. Perhaps it is because there are multiple timelines with different events in each, but I had a little trouble being connected to most of the characters. There was also a romance in the novel that I didn’t feel strongly about. Overall, the characters were okay to good, but I think that the plot and themes are where this novel excels.
Any book that plays with time and alternate realities can become messy, but I felt like Recursion was written clearly and was easy enough to follow, especially if you pay attention to the dates provided in the book. I was excited to keep reading because there was a feeling of urgency throughout the story, and there were plenty of twists that kept me guessing. Although I could see where the plot was going at some points, other events were a complete surprise to me. I found the latter half of the novel slightly repetitive because there was a section in which the characters kept reliving a part of life over and over, but those scenes did serve a purpose. And, as I hinted to at the start of the review, the ending was a little disappointing. I felt like it made me sense and wrapped up a bit better than Dark Matter, but I definitely questioned how the author could reign in such a wild plot when I was almost finished with the book. And although I didn’t connect as much to the characters themselves, I enjoyed the book’s themes. It is quite introspective. I teared up a little at the end just because there is so much focus on time, past decisions, and reliving one’s life that it made me a bit sad and nostalgic for my own past. This book made me think a lot– both about the complex plot and to reflect on my own life.
I think I enjoyed Recursion just a bit more than Dark Matter, but they are both great reads. Crouch has a knack for writing exciting, fast-paced novels that also inspire the reader to think more deeply about certain topics. I gave Recursion almost four stars and would recommend it widely. However, if you are sensitive to the topics of suicide and death, it could be troubling to read.