tl;dr Holy shit! My head is spinning and my eyes are misty and my heart is thumping and I need to take breath. The author crafted a high-intensity commercial thriller full of twists and turns that left me wanting every thriller to be this smart and this exciting. Alas, there is only one Blake Crouch, and he’s at the top of his game.
The pitch tells us that reality is broken. In New York City, Detective Barry Sutton is closing in on the truth—and in a remote laboratory, neuroscientist Helena Smith is unaware that she alone holds the key to this mystery . . . and the tools for fighting back. Together, Barry and Helena will have to confront their enemy—before they, and the world, are trapped in a loop of ever-growing chaos.
What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.
Confession time: movies, books, and shows that deal with time travel totally blow my mind. Time travel tropes have this nasty habit of making me feel exceedingly dumb (like, WTF is happening!??!?) while simultaneously pushing me to the edge of my seat wanting more. More timelines, more fucked-up unrealities, more weird groundhog’s day loops, more confusion, just… more everything. Does that mean I’m broken? Am I broken?
Reading about non-linear time in this novel made me think of the move Interstellar and the book Slaughterhouse Five. Conceptually challenging but oh-so-rewarding.
This book takes the tired ol’ time travel trope and injects it with jet fuel. I couldn’t stop reading. Every chapter, every page, every freakin’ sentence left me wanting more. And look, I didn’t go too deep into the science of it all. What mattered to me was that it seemed believable. If you’re a physicist, maybe it won’t seem that way to you, The author clearly did a great deal of research on the subject matter and managed to answer the random questions that popped into my head, which I appreciated. Every time I thought I found a loophole, a character would jump in and explain why I was an idiot. I like when books are smarter than me!
As with any commercially marketed, adrenaline-fueled novel, plot is king. If you’re looking for pages of prose and introspection, head somewhere else because we just don’t have time for that here. In Recursion, we are always minutes away from death or nuclear war or government takeover or falling into another time loop… and with each chapter comes a new thread, a new puzzle to solve, or another disaster to avoid. It’s an entire novel of twists and turns.
When I imagine Blake Crouch working on this novel, I picture him working before one of those murder boards you see in every fictional police station. Maps, pictures, calendars… all connected with rivers of blood-red twine. I can’t imagine how this story came into existence, but wow, am I impressed!
Yes, it’s true that Barry and Helena are secondary to the plot, but I was shocked at how much I empathized with these characters. The author created a beautiful narrative for Barry and Helena that reminded a bit of the Netflix show, The Haunting of Bly Manor. I admit it’s a bit of an odd comparison, but Recursion and Bly Manor have something in common. They start off as one thing (Recursion a thriller; Bly Manor a horror) and somewhere along the way, to the surprise of everyone, they turn into a touching love story.
Don’t worry, the author is too smart to be heavy handed… yet I found an unexpected lump in my throat as I read the last few chapters of the book.
The primary location is NYC. Not the most original of locales, but it makes sense. We don’t stay there for too long. In fact, this book takes you to many places across the globe. The descriptions were simple and evocative.