Recursion is my second Blake Crouch book (Dark Matter was the first), and I am thankful to KoolSkool bookstore for introducing me to Crouch in the first place. Recursion is science fiction at heart but is written as an out and out thriller. Unlike a lot of Sci-Fi books and films, this is not based in the future but rather set in the 2010s’, which makes it highly relatable. We are introduced to the two lead characters (Barry and Helena) and the structure of writing gives the feel of a journal, with dates marking the start of each entry. Every entry corresponds to ‘a day in the life’ of Barry or Helena, and the accounts are from the first-person point of view. This way of storytelling is engaging and as a reader, I started thinking from the point of view of the protagonists immediately.
The writing ensures that the characters and their motivations are well understood. Over the course of the book, we also get to see the evolution of the lead characters. Unfortunately, this is done in bits and pieces due to the nature/subject of the story (no spoilers, RAFO). Considering the amount of time each of them has in the story, I would have loved to see slightly more detailed character arcs for them. However, in spite of that small miss, I was totally invested into Barry and Helena, their lives, choices, heartbreaks, the looming despair, the trickle of hope that each of them was clinging onto.
The plot is riveting and you are constantly devoted to finding out what happens next. The actual science is way out there, as you would expect in sci-fi, and Crouch never dumbs it down in order to make it easy. Nevertheless, all of it is engaging because the focus is on how the technology in question affects the characters and their lives. I was scared out of my wits imagining what it would be like to have a whole set of false memories. The lingering feeling of Deja Vu coupled with false reality (had me recalling The Matrix from my early years of growing up) would make it impossible for anyone to have a normal life. A couple of depictions are hair-raising and go on to highlight the ill-effects of technology, much like an episode of Black Mirror. But the strength of the book is also in the fact that all of these alarming things seem completely natural in the world created by Crouch.
The pace of Recursion is such that fast seems like an understatement. The first half is more balanced as Crouch sets the context and establishes the characters. In contrast, the entire second half moves at full tilt constantly. My eyes were dancing across the pages as if I was looking for a critical piece of evidence by breaking into a secure location, and, I was going to get caught if I delayed any further. I actually imagined how cool it would be to have the power to read by just flipping through the pages, like some sort of android in Sci-Fi films. That is what Blake Crouch does to you. I simply loved the rush and the adrenalin as if I am constantly running for my life. This bitter-sweet symphony mixing the emotions and the adrenalin climaxes into a beautiful crescendo that is extremely deft and highly intelligent. Recursion makes for a fantastic follow-up to Dark Matter (both are standalone books) which in itself is a great read. I highly recommend this for anyone who is looking for an atypical thriller or a good science fiction.