What’s new, readers? I hope you’re all following the sacred rules of social distancing, unlike some people who see fit to romp and cavort in the outdoors because it’s their birthright or other such poppycock. But hey, I’m perfectly okay staying at home. It gives me time to ruminate about things that require serious consideration. For example, I recently watched Smallfoot and Abominable, and it seems very coincidental that two movies about yetis came out in 2018 and 2019, respectively (between the two, I’d recommend Abominable). I was also quite excited to hear the news about the Disney Plus five-season series adaptation of the Percy Jacksonbooks. Rick Riordan says he’ll be involved throughout the production, so hopefully the onscreen adaptation won’t be a complete disaster this time around. The lockdown gives me time to catch up on podcasts too, three of which I’m going to plug: Black Box Down, a Rooster Teeth true-crime podcast that discusses aviation disasters; New Game Plus, which gives thoughtful and amusing reviews for retro games fifteen years old or older; and Mad About Movies, which, since theaters closed down, has been doing a Bad Movie Marathon that has covered treasures like Jack & Jill, Batman & Robin, and After Earth.
Now, if you’re in the mood for a good book that will take your mind off the insanity of this world, then I’d recommend Recursion, a vigorously delightful rollercoaster from science-fiction author Blake Crouch (Dark Matter). It opens in the year 2018 with Barry Sutton, an NYPD detective and divorcee whose teenage daughter died in a hit-and-run eleven years ago, making a fruitless attempt to persuade Ann Voss Peters into not jumping forty stories down from the Poe Building. Before taking the plummet, she explains she has False Memory Syndrome, a sickness that burdens those affected with unnervingly vivid memories of parallel lives, of “a fully imagined alternate history covering large swaths of their life up until that moment.” These psychological apparitions are described as being “gray” but feel as substantial as the “real” memories, and can be so devastating that they press some, like Ann, to commit suicide.
Then there’s Helena Smith, a workaholic neuroscientist who, in 2007, is devoted to inventing a “memory chair” in order to preserve the memories of people suffering from dementia, including her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother. Just as it looks like her funding is about to get cut off, philanthropist and business magnate Marcus Slade offers to bankroll her work and fly her to his decommissioned oil rig-turned-research lab. Once Slade takes Helena’s invention in an alarming direction, though, she and Barry will have to work together to thwart the project before it sends our world spiraling to catastrophe.
Crouch’s novel hits all the prerequisites for a top-notch sci-fi thriller—mind-bending, smart, believable, and full-tilt pacing. Both protagonists are real and sympathetic because of the burdens with which they have to cope. Helena is driven by a profound desire to help her mother and has to weigh that with her goal of stopping Slade and destroying her creation. Barry is dealing with his grief and feels vulnerable as he copes with the life-changing effects of Helena’s invention. Even when the quasi-time-travel physics of Crouch’s world get as wonderfully chaotic as it does, the plot remains easy to follow and handles the exposition efficiently. The reflections on consciousness, memory, and our perception of reality are perfect for fans of Anyone by Charles Soule, The Matrix, and Inception. The bittersweet romance adds stakes to the narrative, rather than drag it down, especially as it speeds toward the all-hell-breaks-loose climax. Once you’ve finished that last page, you’ll come away pondering about all the mistakes in your own past and, if possible, whether you would take the chance to fix them, knowing the ruinous ripple effect it may cause.
All my love and prayers go to you, readers. Stay healthy, stay strong, and please, wear a mask when you go out.
Windup score: 94/100