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Recursion by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book had a few thematic similarities to my first Blake Crouch book, which was about alternate realities.
The overall plot was completely different, with elements that put me in mind of two Stephen King books I've read - "The Waste Lands" and "11.22.63", and I also found myself put in mind of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
The book opens in a bizarre fashion, with people suddenly getting false memories, of things that haven't happened to them, and in many cases being driven by suicide. It appears to set up a simple parallel universe story, but then introduces time travel.
The main characters are Barry, who lost his daughter several years ago, when she was killed by a hit-and-run driver, and Helena, who has developed a sort of time-chair, which is initially supposed to be a device used to cure dementia, by mapping and saving peoples' memories.
However, instead, the device can be used to send a person back in time to a memory that they have recalled, so after that they are left to live their life again from that point, and hopefully make better choices. But this is what leads to the problem...
Whenever a person is sent back, and changes history, anyone affected by what they did differently starts to experience false memories, at the moment at which the person used the time chair.
One of the early segments of the book has Barry going back to the past and saving his daughter, which ultimately proves futile when he reaches the point when he got sent back, and his daughter commits suicide after having memories of herself being killed. The narrative then ups the stakes by having characters experience sudden "reality shifts" that they even find themselves conscious of, and after Barry and Helena inevitably team up, every time they attempt to put things back as they should, their actions just result in a series of increasingly apocalyptic events.
It took me a few chapters to really get into this book, but when I did, I found it really gripping. Blake Crouch's writing feels like it is heavily influenced by Philip K. Dick with the bizarre events that he imagines, and I kept wanting to find out what happened next. The only real problem for me was the ending, which felt somewhat anti-climatic, and slightly rushed. It put me in mind of the number of times I've seen cartoon shows like Futurama or the Jetsons brings its plotline to something that seems hopeless, only to solve things by throwing in time-travel elements that often feel a bit slapdash, or just cliched.
That aside, I really enjoyed this book, and will definitely read more of Blake Crouch's novels - I keep meaning to try the Wayward Pines series.
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