The Chase Book Reviews: Recursion by Blake Crouch

With abundant time at home, there has not been a better time in recent years to take a chance on a good long book.

For my most recent read, I ventured into the realm of science fiction thrillers with Blake Crouch’s “Recursion”, released in 2019. Crouch has enjoyed a fruitful writing career across multiple mediums, with his best-selling “Wayward Pines” trilogy of novels being adapted in a popular television show on Fox. But does “Recursion” stand on its own as a novel?

The plot follows two seemingly unrelated characters, detective Barry Sutton and neuroscientist Helena Smith, both independently struggling to maintain a balance between their personal work life and familial grief. Barry has been unable to keep up with his detective work and maintain his personal life due to the untimely death of his daughter, while Helena works herself to no end in the search for a cure for her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, a new phenomenon infects major city centers called “False Memory Syndrome,” which causes those afflicted to invent entire lifetimes worth of memories that never occurred.

Following a tragedy spurred by False Memory Syndrome, Barry Sutton personally attempts to investigate its origins, only to find himself deep in a highly advanced criminal enterprise, exploiting neurological research developed by Helena. What follows is a complex but rich mystery, which finds the heroes’ plots converging in order to defend the world from technology too great for anyone to possess.

“Recursion” operates on many strengths, from the emotional reality of two defeated but persistent heroes, to its invocation of real world neuroscience to inform its science fiction plot. I’m a frequent reader of science fiction, and I can say in confidence that the technology at the heart of the novel’s plot is wholly unique and worth commending on that alone. To tie that in together with a suspenseful globetrotting adventure is simply generosity on top of that.

For a mind-bending journey into the nature of memory and identity, interlaced with personal drama that I found cathartic, I have to recommend “Recursion” to anyone looking for a meaty speculative novel to get lost in and think on for weeks after they pass the final page.

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