Warning: This review contains SPOILERS! If you’ve already read it, or don’t care about spoilers, please proceed. Otherwise, the TL/DR is that you should for sure read it if you’re a fan of mind-bendy sci fi.

Sometimes I read so quickly that the pages blow air, alleviating the need for a fan.  But Recursion forced me to slow down, to think, and to savor each puzzle piece that Blake Crouch fit into his intelligent narrative. Given the intricacy of the plot points I knew the story had to simmer for me to appreciate it.

Admittedly, I was a Crouch fan before Recursion.  I enjoyed his Wayward Pines novels, and then came Dark Matter, which put him on the list of authors whose new work I will devour the second it drops. Recursion has moved him to the top of that list. Like Dark Matter, it is part science-fiction, part thrilling chase, and part philosophical think-piece, all with a touch of romance. But Recursion felt like Dark Matter amplified. It felt like Crouch exploring similar themes, but this time with character development to match the plot’s brilliance.

The novel follows Barry, a cynical, damaged cop and Helena, an idealistic scientist, whose paths cross when people begin to fall victim to False Memory Syndrome, a condition that leaves them with both their own memories and shadows of an alternate life. Helena recognizes too late that her invention produces the shadow memories, that she can no longer control the technology, and that perhaps she never did. Barry becomes an unwitting participant as he seeks to connect the victims of False Memory Syndrome. Together, they try to harness the technology but are resigned to watch humanity crumble over and over again.  And the shared trauma of their experiences draws them to each other, into a love that grows across lifetimes.

Recursion is about loneliness, grief, and the human experience. It is about how time is merely a function of the way memories shape our lives. The main characters are complex, their stories compelling. And they exist in a rich plot that folds over on itself like a labyrinth. For me, Recursion is fiction at its best.

What did you think?


  • Blake Crouch’s new book reads like a relative of those late night college conversations about Big Questions. Here, the question is, if you could live your life over again, but differently, would you?

    • Bpn.pt, your comment is spot on! And, that feeling is probably why I loved the book. Having been an undergrad philosophy major, these types of conversations are my jam. 🙂

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