Blake Crouch has a pretty solid bibliography. 2016’s Dark Matter is being adapted into a screenplay. His Wayward Pines series came to TV audiences back in 2015, and my Hulu account where I watched every available episode before I let myself sleep. And then they uploaded season two. So, I was pretty stoked to read Recursion when it came out last year and it made the perfect road trip audiobook over Christmas vacation. Recursion delivers on the promise of the name Blake Crouch provides: a fast-paced, mind-bending thriller that mashes science fiction and horror in equal parts. 

New York robbery detective Barry Sutton keeps running into people with memories of lives that they never lived. This phenomenon seems to be rippling across the world, and it’s the only thing keeping Barry suffocating in depression years after the death of his daughter in a car accident. When Barry follows a suspect to a mysterious hotel in the middle of Manhattan, he gets strapped into a chair and sent back into the memory of the night his daughter died. This fresh take on time travel comes thanks to a mysterious billionaire named Slade and a brilliant redhead scientist named Helena Smith. The only catch is that every time someone goes back in time and changes the past, everyone remembers the timeline that has been changed. Barry and Helena find themselves reliving their lives over again in desperate times to find ways to stop Slade from building his chair and rewriting history. False memories threaten to tear the world apart, as they drive individuals crazy and nations closer to war.

For obvious reasons, the plot creates more than a little sense of déjà vu. Barry and Helena frequently read little too vanilla, to the point where the everyman quality of these characters has worn beyond stale. For example, Barry likes his bourbon, and wouldn’t ya know it, bourbon’s kind of vogue right now. As they live life and life, going different directions, their skillsets and the quirks that originally set these characters apart begin to fade. A life where Barry becomes a policeman shifts abruptly to one where he becomes a particle physicist, despite a hundred pages of no interest in academia or anything related to the field. Still, anything’s possible with enough time, and Recursion wastes no time rushing towards the apocalyptic ending.

Recursion has a wonderfully serpentine time-travel plot that presents a chilling new method of time travel. Barry and Helena have to race against time before it unravels, living their own lives, deaths, and romance over and over again. I can only hope the future holds a film or television adaption this book, that will be as successful as previous Crouch books.

Page count: 336

Three out of five star

Cover art for Recursion by Blake Crouch features a maze in the shape of a figure eight.

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