Recursion

Rating:
Author: Blake Crouch
Genres: Science fiction, Thriller
Pub. date: Jun. 2019 (read Oct. 2019)

Okay, I need to get my thoughts down about this book before I start to forget them! Recursion was my book club’s pick for October and I was pretty excited to read it because we also read Dark Matter together a few years ago and all really liked it. I really hadn’t wanted to read Dark Matter, but I ended up loving it, so I was cautiously optimistic about Recursion.

I am going to have to give the edge to Dark Matter, but Recursion takes you along the same wild ride as Dark Matter does. Crouch writes this really interesting blend of sci-fi and thriller, which I think works really well. His plotlines are totally f-ed up, but embody everything that makes for a great I-cant-put-this-book-down read. They have lots of mind-bending science and crazy plot twists, but also maintain a nice balance of emotional depth and characterization. It’s easy to get caught up in the science, but Crouch always grounds his characters through their relationships and it makes for a much more compelling read.

I think it’s best to go into Dark Matter and Recursion blind, but if you want a small synopsis, Recursion basically looks at memory functions – how we remember (or don’t remember) things and how those memories impact our personal well being and understanding of time. What would happen if we could record and map our memories? Would it help people who suffer from diseases like Alzheimer’s, or does it have the potential to completely warp our sense of time and space.

I did really like this book – it has a strong start, it’s very engaging, and it’s definitely hard to put down. But I ultimately decided to give it 3 stars instead of 4 because I struggled with the last third of the plot, which I found numbingly repetitive, and I thought the ending had some major plot holes.

But that’s all I’ll say about that for now. For the rest of this review, I’m going to have to get into some spoilers. I have a lot of thoughts about the ending and I’m hoping that other readers (or my book club) might be able to clear up some of my questions, but if you haven’t read the book and are planning to, definitely tap out of this review now. Major spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned!

.

.

.

So here’s where I struggled with this book. I thought it had great pacing during the first half, but the more messed up everything got with the chair, the less interested I got. The world ending time loop at the end was a nightmare and it just went on forever. It gave me anxiety while also being super long and boring. You could tell Helena was taking the total wrong approach to ending the time loop and with every reset I was counting how much older she was getting and just kept finding it less and less believable that she would be able to live the same life over so many times without losing her mind. By my count she was like 282 years old when she finally died!! As someone who has not even yet reached the age of 33 (the length of the time loop), I found it hard to fathom reliving your life for that long. I thought it was realistic that she finally just passed away from sheer mental exhaustion, but it was a little annoying to have Barry then come in less than a year later and solve everything. Helena was the hero of this story for me and it was really annoying to watch stupid Barry take all her glory.

Fellow readers, I need your help in understanding the ending, because to my mind it has some serious flaws. Here’s all my issues:

1. How did Barry just go back to a dead memory? Going to a dead memory killed the original test subject (forget his name), so why was Barry able to do it? I feel like this should have been explained.

2. On that note, when the first guy died from going to a dead memory he had this wonderful experience where he went to heaven (or whatever you want to call it), which was enough to make him kill himself later, how come no one else had this experience in their many deaths?

3. Barry basically solved the time loop by going back to the original timeline and stopping Helena from dying, which is what started Slade’s obsession with the chair, but I don’t see how this was any different than Helena going back to the age of 16? She was always returning to that time because it was still part of her original timeline, but the fake memories would always still catch up with everyone later. Wouldn’t the fake memories still catch up with everyone in Barry’s original timeline?

4. Or does the memories not catching up have to do with the fact that Barry is springing off of a dead timeline? I don’t really get why that would matter though, I guess the fake memories from the other timelines haven’t been created when you launch off a dead timeline, but it still begs the question, how did Barry return to a dead timeline?

5. What happened to Helena’s memories from her original timeline – the one where she worked for the R&D company? Slade apparently kills her for the first time in 2018, but I don’t remember her ever gaining those memories?

I think that mostly sums it up. But like I said, it was kind of disappointing to see Barry solve the problem, especially when Slade tells us that Helena originally figured it out and then he reset her memories (which also doesn’t make sense, she would have got those memories back n’est pas?) Or did she not get the memories back because Slade went back to a dead timeline? That would make sense actually, maybe that is the answer to why she never remembers Slade killing her either? I guess I will go with the answer that previous memories don’t catch up with you in a dead timeline, which would explain a lot of my confusion and questions 3-5, but still raises the question of how you travel to a dead timeline?

Anyways, this helped me sort through my thoughts, but still doesn’t change my rating. Crazy action doesn’t always make your story compelling and I just didn’t find the last third of this book compelling. But I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the ending and all the plot twists! Am I right about the dead memories thing? Do you have the answer to any of my other questions? Would love to know what everyone else thought!

Top 5 Reads in 2017

This is the sister-post to my Top 10 Books of 2017 post. I read way too many books this year to pick only 10, so I split them into my 10 favourite new releases and my top 5 favourites that weren’t published this year (but that I read this year). Here’s the other 5:

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Fantasy)

I talked up the Shades of Magic trilogy in my other post, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone was definitely my favourite fantasy series that I read this year. This is the first book in a trilogy about a world of angels and demons that have been at war for decades, but the war is slowly starting to bleed into the human world. Karou is a art student in Prague; she was raised in the human world by two beings, Brimstone and Issa, that could only be described as monsters. Brimstone and Issa never enter the human world, but through their shop, Karou can open doors to anywhere she wants in the world and begrudgingly runs errands for Brimstone all over the globe. Until one day when an angel, Akiva, shows up a destroys all of Brimstone’s portals, disconnecting Karou from those who raised her and leaving her stranded alone in Prague.

It’s a pretty epic story and it had some really amazing characters. There were so many interesting concepts and fantasy elements introduced into the story and Taylor’s writing in this series is fantastic! But setting was key for me. I loved Taylor’s depiction of Prague and later Morocco. She created a really good atmosphere and I loved learning all about Karou’s Prague and Akiva’s world.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand (Young Adult)

If any book bridges the gap between genres, it’s this one. I’ve listed it as Young Adult, but it’s also part Historical Fiction, part Fantasy, part HILARITY. I picked it up because I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and pretty much every review I read compared it to My Lady Jane. Together they were definitely the two funniest books I read this year.

My Lady Jane is essentially the re-imagined history of Lady Jane Grey, the 9-days queen from the 1500’s who reigned for 9 days and then literally lost her head. It’s told from 3 different points of view – Jane, King Edward (who dies and leaves Jane as Queen), and G (her betrothed) – and it’s actually written by 3 different YA authors. The premise of the story is based in fact, but the authors take a lot of liberty after that and infuse some fun fantasy elements into the story. I loved it! Plus I discovered they’re writing two more novels about historical Janes, so watch for My Plain Jane next year!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Mystery)

Why have I never picked up an Agatha Christie novel before this year? They are so much fun!! I read 3 of her books this year, but And Then There Were None was definitely my favourite. From what I understand this is the quintessential Christie novel. 10 strangers are invited to attend a party in a mansion on an island owned by a wealthy mystery host, but when they arrive they find the host missing. One by one the guests start dropping dead and with no way off the island everyone starts to descend into a state of panic. After a thorough search of the (small) island reveals no one else is present, the remaining guests must face the dark realization that the killer is hiding in plain sight. So deliciously fun!!

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Memoir)

Confession, I didn’t even know who Trevor Noah was until my book club picked Born a Crime as one of our monthly reads. I always say I dislike memoirs, but I may need to change that opinion because I’ve read several this year and I loved all of them! I wasn’t expecting much out of this book, but Noah delivered a hilarious, yet sobering, story about his experience growing up ‘coloured’ (mixed-race) in South Africa both during and after Apartheid. If you’re interested in learning about how he ended up on The Daily Show in this book, you’ll be disappointed because he doesn’t talk about it, but if you’re looking to learn a bit more about what it might have been like growing up in post-apartheid South Africa while simultaneously having a good laugh, then this is the book for you! I loved Trevor’s writing and I’m now a fan of both his stand-up comedy and The Daily Show!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction)

This was another book club selection that I was not interested in reading, but then loved once I started it! Dark Matter is one of those fast-paced, un-put-downable novels. I don’t even know how to describe this novel. Jason Dessen is abducted one day by a masked assailant and wakes up in a life that is not his own. In this new life he is a renown Scientist, but his wife is unknown to him and his son has never been born. Jason is pulled into a world he never knew existed, but more than anything, he just wants to return to the wife and son he’s left behind. In order to do so, he must go on an epic journey through both space and time. I thought the plot sounded so bizarre, but it was so enthralling! You don’t need to be a big sci-fi fan to enjoy this!