by Blake Crouch
Memory is the ability to encode, store, retain, and subsequently recall information and past experiences in the human brain. We can almost feel the sand between our toes and smell the salty breeze when we think back to our beach vacation. We remember our grandmother’s kitchen and can almost taste those chicken and dumplings. Memory is fascinating and mysterious. What if we no longer had to worry about forgetting those memories because we had a machine that could store and retrieve them? What if we could actually relive them instead of just remembering them? What if we could change those events?
Barry Sutton, a police officer, responds to the scene of a suicidal woman with a condition known as False Memory Syndrome (FMS). She vividly remembers a life where she was married, had a child, and was as happy as can be. Those memories and that life did not exist. Life is no longer worth living. As Barry delves into the woman’s alternate memories, one detail from her recollection doesn’t add up. Little does he know that his quest for the truth will alter his life forever and put his life on a collision course with a brilliant inventor named Helena Smith.
Helena Smith works in the neuroscience building in Palo Alto and is trying to figure out a way to map and retrieve memories from the human brain. A mysterious man shows up with an offer of employment and unlimited funding for her to invent such a machine. With this offer, the $50 million chair she has dreamed of building since her mom started to forget life seems within her grasp.
When Helena and a team of scientists complete the chair, it functions, but not in the way it was intended. Instead of being able to store and retrieve memories from the brain, someone can actually relive and alter those memories. Reality can be changed, but it comes at a great price. What happens when this technology falls into the wrong hands? What happens when an inventor’s invention becomes her worst nightmare? Changing the past is not all fun and games.
My thoughts: Recursion takes you on a mind-bending, fast-paced roller coaster ride. The concept is intriguing. We all have that moment in time we wish we could go back and change, but what price would we be willing to pay to do so? Would it be worth it or would we be better off living in the here and now? Blake Crouch does a great job exploring what might happen if we could use our memories to change the past. The only negative I have with this novel is that it was hard to follow at times because it swapped back and forth between characters and realities.
Ricky Statham is director at Oneonta Public Library. Visit the library Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to check out this or another great book.