“When every memory contains a universe, what does simple even mean?”
“He has wondered lately if that’s all living really is – one long goodbye to those we love.”
“…is deja vu actually the specter of false timelines that never happened but did, casting their shadows upon reality?”
I was so excited to get an advanced reviewer copy Blake Crouch’s newest book, Recursion. I loved Dark Matter, and am happy to report that Recursion is even better than Dark Matter! I read this book in less than 24 hours – it is impossible to put down.
The book begins with Barry, a seasoned detective who is called to a disturbing scene on the rooftop of a skyscraper. He finds a woman who claims she is suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a recent virus that has infected a good deal of people across the world. She recalls vivid memories of a life she never lived, of a child she never ever cared for, and of a husband who loved her deeply. She cannot live with the pain of not being able to live that life again even though she knows it never happened. She jumps off of the roof to her death, and Barry feels compelled to investigate FMS cases.
Helena Smith is a researcher who has devoted her life’s work to the study of memory. She has chosen this path because her mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s and is losing her memories day after day. I sympathized with her plight as someone who loves and cherishes their research, so much so that sometimes everything else in life can become background noise:
“Her life as of late has unspooled under the fluorescent lights of laboratories and revolved around the processing of raw data. She has never managed to achieve escape velocity from the irresistible gravity of her work – for her mom, but if she’s honest, also for herself. Work is the only thing that makes her feel alive, and she’s wondered, on more than one occasion, if that means she’s broken.”
“In her experience, few people ever found that raison d’etre. What teachers and professors never told her was about the dark side of finding your purpose. The part where it consumes you. Where it becomes a destroyer of relationships and happiness. And still, she wouldn’t trade it. This is the only person she can be.”
Helena and Barry’s lives become entwined in complex, complicated ways that I don’t want to reveal here in my blog for fear of ruining this story. Let’s just say that this book is about a technology so powerful that it reinvents how humans experience the world and their memories. It holds the power to change human history – for better or, perhaps, for worse.
This isn’t just about science, technology, and memory, however. Like Dark Matter, Crouch explores what it means to be human despite the power of technology. What would it be like if we could back in the past and alter the course of events? Should we even do so? How might science and human history improve if we had the chance to stop the Holocaust, stop high school shootings, or prevent the death or loss of a loved one taken much too young? What are the consequences of this for time and space? And what if we could live multiple lives, redoing the things we failed at, learning from our experiences, and, perhaps, advancing science in a way one lifetime does not permit?
There is SO much good thinking material in this book. It’s beautifully written and there are several parts that made me cry. It is a haunting tale of love, of revenge, and of science. This is definitely the book to read of 2019! I’ll leave you with some additional lovely quotes that make this book so much more than a fun sci-fi thriller through time and space. Thank you to Blake Crouch, Crown Publishing Group, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book!
“There are so few things in our existence we can count on to give us the sense of permanence, of the ground beneath our feet. People fail us. Our bodies fail us. We fail ourselves. He’s experienced all of that. But what do you cling to, moment to moment, if memories simply change. What, then, is real? And if the answer is nothing, where does that leave us?”
“He takes another sip of coffee and watches the sunlight stream through the branches of the oak tree, striking the frosted grass, which begins to steam.”
“Your perspective changes when you’ve lived countless lives.”
“Could the fate of reality itself really depend upon one person not getting randomly hit by a bus?”