Genre: speculative fiction
Setting: All over the fucking place
I read it as a: hardback
Source: BOTM Club purchase
Length: 329 pp
Published by: Crown Books (11 June 2019)
Her Grace’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Set in contemporary times, Recursion is the story of scientist Helena Smith and Detective Barry Sutton. Helena’s mother has Alzheimer’s, which is the motivation for Helena to create a chair which can map and store a person’s core memories. However, an unscrupulous coworker realises that what she has actually created is a device which can transfer the consciousness of a person into a memory from their own past, thus rewriting history and creating false memories in the global population. Helena and Barry manage to team up across several timelines and lifetimes to try to prevent the chair from ever being created, saving the entire planet in the process.
The theory behind this book is based on a real experiment from late 2012 in which two scientists from MIT implanted a false memory into a mouse. How the fuck they can tell what a mouse thinks or remembers is absolutely beyond me, but science is cool. Crouch took that experiment and ran with it for this novel.
It explores the risks inherent to meddling with time and history as we know it. Trying to go back and correct mistakes in one’s own life can cause significant changes to the world all on its own. When the government gets involved, trying to prevent major events like horrific school shootings or WWI and WWII or anything else of global importance, everything gets completely screwed up and people are suddenly confronted with memories of different lives, different families they have, different children, etc. This leads to mass suicides and eventually mutually assured destruction.
I loved this book, even though it stressed me out. Especially once we got to the “let’s launch all the nukes at once!” part. But I also understand the desire to go back and change tragic events. If anything ever happened to my daughter and such technology existed for me to save her, I would absolutely burn everything down to save her.
The characters in this were multi-dimensional, in part because they had to be across several lifetimes and different timelines. It was fun to see how each manifestation varied slightly from the one previous. I do wish we had gotten some closure on a couple minor characters, got to know what happened to them in the end. I have my assumptions, but perhaps others will come to different conclusions.
Highly recommended for folks who enjoy a good, thought-provoking work of spec fic.