Blake Crouch | Fiction 2019
I learned a new phrase in reading about Recursion, “speculative fiction”.
The book opens on November 2, 2018, when Detective Barry Sutton arrives to the 41st floor of a New York City skyscraper and attempts to stop the suicide of a woman whose legs are dangling over the edge. Ann Voss Peters has FMS, False Memory Syndrome, and she can no long cope with the life in her false memory.
And then we meet Dr. Helena Smith, in October of 2007. She is a brilliant scientist whose mom has Alzheimer’s, and Helena is trying to build a machine that will allow Alzheimer’s patients to revisit and retain memories. Eventually, she builds such a machine, but it does more than expected. It allows patients to visit the memories and change them, with, of course, disastrous unintended consequences. And so we enter the world of speculative fiction. To enjoy this tale, you’ll need to be able to suspend your current reality and believe this alternative reality.
Over time, as we vacillate between current days and ten years ago, we discover that someone can change the past, but then, on the day they do so, they suddenly recall all the various paths they have created in their memories. Very disorienting.
So, though it was hard work sometimes to keep track of what year, and what memory path, we were in of our primary characters, Barry and Helena, I liked this book. It is smartly written, and it made me think, both because of the structure of the novel, but also because of the issues it raises about technology, values, consequences. It has suspense, terror, fear, love, and triumph amidst its fast-turning pages.
Recursion will soon be a Netflix movie and tv series but read the book first. If you can be intrigued by speculative fiction, pick this one up. It is a winner.
A "Top Pick of 2019" by AARP Magazine.