I like my book page editor a lot. She is a tireless worker, an editor who makes me a better writer and one who rarely assigns me homework. So on the rare occasions when she does assign homework, like reading Blake Crouch’s “Recursion,” I try to finish the assignment as quickly and professionally as possible. Blake Crouch made that very easy.
Imagine a moment of tragedy or loss in your life and then imagine having the ability to go back in time and change it. (Of course, many authors and even “The Simpsons” have utilized this very premise.) That moment for me is an easy choice—my younger brother had a glider accident when he was 16 that nearly took his life and crippled him for a year.
In “Recursion,” the moment is easy for Barry Sutton, too—stop his 15-year-old daughter from crossing the street in front of a speeding car. But what Barry finds and what Crouch conveys with chilling effect is that changing the past changes the future. Saving my brother from that fateful day could negate my current life. The mental calculus of “Recursion” is both compelling and horrifying.
The means to travel in time and change memories is born of virtue as so many of these things tend to be. Scientist Helena Smith is devastated watching the effect that Alzheimer’s is having on her mother. She wants to map her mother’s memories and find a way to restore those memories to her mother’s mind. It is ambitious and not an undertaking that any corporations have an appetite for, so Helena toils in relative obscurity until she is approached by a billionaire dreamer who sees the potential in her idea for a memory chair. They set up a lab on an abandoned oil rigging in the Pacific and recruit some of the ablest minds that the world has to offer. Helena’s dream becomes a reality but she comes to regret her creation when she sees the far-reaching implications of interrupting time and memory.
Crouch adds numerous wrinkles to the narrative arc laid about above and “Recursion” has the pace of a thriller. Helena and Blake are paired in the course of a memory and from there they attempt to destroy Helena’s creation but that is nearly impossible once the powers of the world learns of its existence.
Netflix has already bought the rights to “Recursion” to make it into a movie and then possibly an offshoot miniseries, but it is still in the development stages, which means you have plenty of time to read the book first. My memory already tells me that the book will be better.