Recursion By Blake Crouch: A Mind-Bending Thriller Like No Other
February 9, 2022
There comes a time in every avid reader’s life when they finish a book only to be left confused but in a good way that they can’t explain. Certain books have that effect where the story will conclude only to leave you pondering yourself, your world, and your place in it. There are only a few books I know of that can do this to a reader and none that I’ve read, until now, because when I finished Recursion, by Blake Crouch, I sat there with confusion on not what I just read, but what the book means and how my frame of what my life was and what I knew was completely changed.
So what is Recursion? Well, Recursion is the second book written by Blake Crouch, a science fiction novelist that focuses on small science-based thrillers similar to Michael Crichton. The novel focuses on two characters, Barry and Helena, as they unravel a mystery behind a phenomenon known as false memory syndrome, a sort of disease that implants false memories into the minds of normal people. In any other review, I would go into more detail about the plot, however, this book requires you to be as blind as possible when going into it for the first time. Knowing where this plot goes, I can say that this story takes such a drastic turn that I was not expecting from a novel like this, and reading it with an open mind can help the process of this shift. However, I will say that the shift is so drastic and so unexpected that it could be a turn-off for many readers with the plot going so fast, the reader is not given that much time to really think about what they read until the very end.
The themes of this novel cannot be understated as they take up the most focus throughout the novel. Crouch explores ideas about reality and what we, as humans, conceive of as reality. Through this lens, Crouch dives deep into philosophical arguments on the nature of our memory and how it creates our understanding of reality, and how if we can’t trust a memory that what is reality? These are just a few of the deeper messages found within the novel along with the basic science fiction trope of humans not truly understanding science and pushing something too far for the sake of science. All these themes are presented thoroughly and, as stated before, the main focus of this novel and the amazing work Crouch does with his themes results in an ending that makes the reader think about their own existence which is something few books can accomplish.
However, the biggest flaw of Recursion is that themes are given more time than actual characters. The actual plot of Recursion, though clean and intriguing, is muddled by some characters that do not get nearly enough development as they should. Certain characters are presented and then not used again until later on in the novel while other characters could use way more time being developed before their story abruptly ends. Even the main characters are affected by this as even though Barry and Helena are a great duo to follow, they become nothing more than a connection between the audience and the deeper themes and science going on behind them that is far more interesting than either of them. This is the biggest flaw of the book, as even though I was truly amazed by the themes and ideas presented in the text, I could not form a connection to the characters that made me care about the world they live in. In this sense, Recursion becomes a beautiful painting covered by a see-through tarp. Though you can see the beauty of what Crouch is trying to convey, you cannot properly connect to it as it is blocked by a horrible tarp the author has insisted you see it through.
Overall, Recursion is one of the most thoughtful and introspective books I have ever made, with some of the best themes and ideas I have ever seen in the novel. Unfortunately, these themes are blocked by undercooked character work and a fast story that never truly lets you breathe. In this way, I am mixed about Recursion. Blake Crouch clearly put in a lot of work when writing this story and it shows, however, I don’t think I can recommend this to any normal reader who wants a good, fun story they can connect with. I still think Recursion is a great book with amazing potential that could have been amazing if it was just a bit longer or focused more on characters. So in the end, I recommend this book to anyone looking for a deep dive into memory and reality who do not care so much about character development but on the opposite end I would not recommend this book to anyone just wanting to read a straightforward thriller.