Book review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

Published June 11th 2019 by Crown Publishing Group


Memory makes reality.

That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. 

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

My rating:

Date: 07/19/19
Time: 11 PM

Session #1

Dr Smith: Why don’t we start from the beginning.

Patient Nastassja: Two weeks ago, on Wednesday, it was raining all day long. I was in low spirits and needed a book to cheer me up. I came across Recursion

Dr Smith: How did you find the book?

Patient Nastassja: It was on my bookshelf. I’ve noticed bright yellow cover with an infinity sign on the front. It drew my attention.

Dr Smith: What happened after you started the book?

Patient Nastassja: At first nothing happened. I was reading the book, intrigued by its premise of FMS – False Memory Syndrome, when people start having memories from a life they never lived.

Dr Smith: Let’s rephrase the question: when did you start feeling strange?

Patient Nastassja: Oh, it happened in the evening, before I was going to sleep. I had a flash of peculiar grey images in my head.

Dr Smith: What kind of images?

Patient Nastassja: That I’ve been there before.

Dr Smith: Where?

Patient Nastassja: In that same room, on that same date, reading the same book.

Dr Smith: So you had a kind of deja vu?

Patient Nastassja: Not exactly. Deja vu is more feeling than real memory… I don’t know how to explain what I felt… It was as if I saw myself sitting on the sofa, raindrops softly falling on the widow, the book in my hands… I was thinking about the concept of time and space, and how they are maybe one and the same thing. But the quality of that memory was thick and slow as if I was watching at it through some kind of substance. And it had grey quality to it as in black and white movies.

Dr Smith: Maybe you just fell asleep?

Patient Nastassja: I thought so at first, but the next day, at the same time, I had the same vision. And the day after.

Dr Smith: What happened next?

Patient Nastassja: I started to panic, of course. I thought I was going crazy. I shared my fears with my brother.

Dr Smith: And?

Patient Nastassja: The next day he called me and said he started having the same visions.

Dr Smith: Indentical?

Patient Nastassja: Not exactly. In his visions, he was picking up the book and reading it. But the process was the same: he saw a book, it draw his attention and so on.

Dr Smith: When precisely was the moment when you started seriously thinking about that FMS thing?

Patient Nastassja: It was a few days after my brother had repeatedly occurring visions of the same event.

Dr Smith: What made you think it was FMS?

Patient Nastassja: Well, first of all, it was in the book, and as you’ve noticed: everything started from the book. Secondly, FMS is contagious: you could talk to a person having FMS, and then you’d have it too. It’s like flu, only you don’t need to be in the same vicinity to get the bacteria.

Dr Smith: Okay, what happened after you came to that conclusion?

Patient Nastassja: Next I wanted to get to the bottom of things, and as we have established that the book triggered everything – we needed to get to the end of the story.

Dr Smith: Have you finished the book?

Patient Nastassja: I have. But every day with more pages read, I was having new visions of the same quality: I am reading the book outdoors or before going to sleep or in a bus – anywhere I went I saw myself reading the book over and over again. It was pure madness, but I felt like the book wanted me to finish it and get to the bottom of its essence.

Dr Smith: Which is?

Patient Nastassja: *quoting* Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Dr Smith: What does it mean?

Patient Nastassja: It means what it says.

Dr Smith: I am not following you…

Patient Nastassja: To understand my visions I must get to the end of them and then I’ll be able to get to the beginning – the reason behind them.

Dr Smith: It is all so very confusing…

Patient Nastassja: It’s like those visions were my cynosure. The cause and effect of my FMS were buried inside my visions.

Dr Smith: You are saying that you were in some kind of a loop and the only way to get out was to understand the cause?

Patient Nastassja: The cause didn’t matter; the beginning did.

Dr Smith: ???

Patient Nastassja: *sighs* I am sure you’ve caught FMS from me by now. You think I am crazy and everything is just in my head. But tonight, before you go to sleep, you’ll catch a glimpse of a vision. And then another one. And then they will happen again and again – every day until you finish Recursion and get yourself out of this loop.

Dr Smith: It sounds insane–

Patient Nastassja: Your lack of alacrity is disparaging, Doctor. Just wait for tonight and call me if you see something. Until then let us leave the secrets of Recursion kept inside its pages *stands up to walk away*


Dr Smith: Wait! I… I saw something… It’s… It’s me… oh shit…

Patient Nastassja: What is it, Doctor?

Dr Smith: It’s me picking up Recursion

— end of session #1 —

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