Review: Recursion, by Blake Crouch

recursion blake crouch

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller


That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

That’s what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. 

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

I can’t believe it’s been two years I’ve read Blake Crouch’s other book Dark Matter and loved it! So when I saw Recursion coming out, I just knew I was going to pick it up, especially because it was about time travel. In the end, it was a rather lukewarm read for me, though.

The women in this book have the same issue that his other book had, and that so many thrillers written by men have: they’re mostly there for plot-driving reasons like giving the main character emotional depth and righteousness. A reason to keep him driven to do what he must do. On this book at least we had Helena as a main character who was very interesting, but she too suffers from male-author-writing-women syndrome and a lot of her motivation seems to be “falling in love with Barry and sacrificing herself for him while letting him be the true hero”. At this point I roll my eyes at these clichés and it affects a bit how much I enjoy the book.

This didn’t really work on audiobook for me. I was bored, which was curious considering that I was super invested in the story in the beginning and time travel is one of my favorite things to read about. But the telling and re-telling what happens every time they travel back in time gets old. By the time I expected the book to be almost over, there were over 2h more to go.

I am quite sure I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more in physical format, but I stand by my rating here – the plot itself was interesting but felt too long and repetitive, I did not like the ending very much and the things I did enjoy about this book were the same things I enjoyed in Dark Matter, so they were nothing new. At some point I was not even looking forward to going back to the story anymore and have been on an audiobook slump ever since.

Do I recommend it? Yes, absolutely, if you like time travel stories, this was quite interesting! (just maybe don’t pick it up on audio) There was nothing really new there, though, so if you’ve read a few of those, then maybe this is not very exciting for you, either.

If you want a time travel book, I recommend Timeline by Michael Crichton for something full of adventure and very gritty, and The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas for a murder mystery set in different timelines with lots of twists.

5 thoughts on “Review: Recursion, by Blake Crouch

  1. Nice review! I completely agree with your points, even though I rated slightly higher. The doubling back and re-narrating everything slightly differently got on my nerves as well. Interestingly, I actually saw Helena as the main character and Barry as the supporting character. (Not that your assessment is wrong, of course! Just interesting that we had different impressions!) I did find it annoying that he got to be the “true hero” and that there was an unnecessary romance between them, but I thought Helena was central to the story, and a step up from the wife in Dark Matter. Still a poorly written character, but a small step up. Hopefully there will be a bigger step up in the future.

    I’m definitely going to look into those time travel books you recommended!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really, really wanted to see Helena as the main character, but the beginning of the book focused a lot on Barry’s story and having him be the hero in the end although Helena was the one who really sacrificed herself over and over… it left me a bit unimpressed. I’m still definitely going to read more from him, if I feel that the next books are a bit different from these two! If I hadn’t read Dark Matter I’d definitely have enjoyed this more. And I completely agree that Helena is such a step up from the wife in Dark Matter!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I definitely think Crouch made a mistake putting so much focus on Barry when Helena was the genius scientist that the whole story should have rested on. I suppose even though I saw her as the more vital character, I do fully agree that Crouch’s attention was on Barry. And I feel the same about reading more from Crouch in the future- I’d love to try again, but will probably pass on anything that sounds too similar!


  2. Pingback: Top of the TBR 8.12.19 | literaryelephant

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