Book Review

Recursion by Blake Crouch


I loved Blake Crouch’s previous novel, Dark Matter, and I’ve been wanting to read Recursion since I first heard about it.

What if someone could rewrite your entire life?

My son has been erased.

Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop.

Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

Miles away, neuroscientist Helena Smith is developing a technology that allows us to preserve our most intense memories and relive them. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss or the birth of a child.

Barry’s search for the truth leads him on an impossible, astonishing journey as he discovers that Helena’s work has yielded a terrifying gift…

The novel opens with Barry Sutton, a detective in the New York Police Department, trying to talk a woman down from 41st floor of a building.  She is experiencing memories of another life – one completely at odds with her own – and the pain is too much to bear.  This leads Barry Sutton down a veritable rabbit hole as he begins to investigate the mysterious “False Memory Syndrome” that causes people to experience vivid memories of lives they’ve never lived.  It’s a complex plot, and one that I don’t want to go into in any more detail, but whatever your level of comfort with high-concept thrillers such as this, I highly recommend it.  I found it a little confusing initially, but I do recommend sticking with it – the how and why soon become apparent, and Crouch delivers the technical details in such a way that they don’t overwhelm the narrative.

The novel focusses predominantly on two main characters – the aforementioned Barry Sutton and Helena Smith.  Helena is a scientist who is working on mapping memories in order to help those with Alzheimer’s – people such as her mother, who is showing early signs of the disease.  But what she develops, with the encouragement of her mysterious benefactor, Marcus Slade, proves to have much greater potential, so much so that Helena becomes terrified of what she has created.  Helena and Barry don’t meet until much later in the novel, and I enjoyed the dual narrative as the reader gets to see both the science as it develops as well as the very real dangers presented by False Memory Syndrome.

Like most science fiction, Recursion touches upon some very human and relevant concepts such as memory, and it raises a very interesting moral question that will make your head spin.  As a thriller, this is a fast-paced novel with plenty of action and some genuinely nail-biting moments.  I was completely swept up in the narrative, and was desperately hoping that Helena and Barry would succeed in their mission.

Like Dark Matter, Recursion is another brilliant genre-defying novel that successfully blends thriller and science fiction to create one mind-blowing story.  It’s completely gripping and, while it introduces some unusual ideas, it’s a surprisingly easy read.


  1. I have wondered about this author and now it seems to be intriguing. Got to check this book out. False memory scares me

    1. Definitely worth a go, and everything does become clearer as to why those false memories are happening!

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