Posted in Carti in limba Engleza, science-fiction, Stiinta

RECURSION – Blake Crouch

Recursion is a sci-fi novel in which the action revolves around an astounding technology which is bound to change the course of humanity forever. Helena Smith is a neuroscientist who dedicated her entire life to creating a technology that will allow Alzheimer patients preserve their most precious memories. Meanwhile, a sort of a False Memory Syndrome pandemic spreads all around the country in a mysteriously way, driving its victims mad with memories of lives they never lived. Detective Barry Sutton starts to investigate the devastating phenomenon and while he searches for the truth, he comes face to face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease. Then his and Helena’s paths come together and they both set off on a terrifying journey in a desperate try to keep the world from falling apart.

Note: since I’m not a native English speaker, please excuse my mixed up grammar tenses. After all, we’re reviewing a book which states that the past, present and future are sort of the same thing, so… there you go!

So… I’ve just finished reading Blake Crouch’s Recursion.  Well, I told you I would! Right after Dark matter. I couldn’t have waited for it to be translated into Romanian. So I got it, I read it, and now I’m exhausted. How can this guy write so fast-paced novels..? I mean, once you open the book you’re like signing up for a marathon.

Before i get to my review, i could say that reading Recursion felt a bit like this (what an accurate visual description):

It’s not related to Dark matter so they can be read separately. I feel Recursion has a rather more complicated plot and a unique approach to space-time travel. It’s somehow backed up by some scientific theories all throughout the book, and I really appreciated the effort of the author to do research and try to give us an understanding of the world he built. That’s no little thing.

I admit it lost me few times and after I finished reading the book I still needed a more specific explanation of the timelines structure, which I found HERE, and it’s an awesome explanation, but you may check on it only AFTER you’ve finished reading the book. I also admit I wasn’t paying attention to the dates which accompanied each chapter, so maybe that’s how I got dizzy at the middle of the book. So you might want to keep that in mind: don’t skip reading the dates.

Towards the middle of the book I felt like the author could’ve ended it right there, and staring at the other half of the book I was wondering what else he came up with.  

I feel the book is a lot about identity, but also about grief and loss, and it kind of triggered me. But it also helped me somehow to cope with it, because after witnessing the struggle of these characters, the resolution at the end feels fairly earned and genuine. There’s a time when we need to fight and not give up, and there’s a time when we need to accept stuff we cannot change. Like it or not, we’re a part of this unfolding drama of our earthy existence. Only after letting go of the need to control everything, are we finally free to just be. I personally still have a hard time accepting loss and sufferance so I couldn’t say I got to this resolution, but I suppose it takes a hell of a journey to finally get to it and surrender your stubbornness.

“For so many lifetimes, he lived in a state of perpetual regret, returning obsessively and destructively to better times, to moments he wished he could change. Most of those lives he lived staring into the rearview mirror.

The thought comes almost like a prayer – I don’t want to look back anymore. I’m ready to accept that my existence will sometimes contain pain. No more trying to escape, either to nostalgia or a memory chair. They’re both the same fucking thing. Life with a cheat code isn’t life. Our existence isn’t something to be engineered or optimized for the avoidance of pain. That’s what it is to be human – the beauty and the pain, each meaningless without the other”.

What really scared the bejesus out of me was the nuclear thingie… the description felt overwhelming. The idea alone gives me nightmares! And it gives me nightmares because I realized how vulnerable this planet is to the stupidity of humans. I almost wished I kept living in my ignorant bliss, because after reading this book I added one more reason to my sleepless nights. But really now, I think that such a book was needed, I think humanity really needed this book and I can see its importance beyond its literary value. Now I can only hope that humans shall find a way to secure life on this planet, away from the corruption of some stupid bums. Dunno how we’re gonna do it, I only know we’ve got to do it before it’s too late.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. (Søren Kierkegaard)

Now, regarding the theories used in this book… they’re all food for thought. I have a hard time digesting certain theories, even the String Theory itself seems a bit stretched to me, but that doesn’t mean I decide what is true and what isn’t. I can’t help not to also mention Donald Hoffman’s evolutionary argument against reality, which I find fascinating as well. I‘ve been fascinated with time & space travel ever since I know myself, but as I grew up I kind of realized that our human nature (as we know it) will always prevent us from exploring the beyond. I thought that maybe AI could do that in the future, but also there’s this key of Consciousness that may (or may not) allow us to break our limits.  Scientists taking Consciousness seriously enough to study it so meticulously, never happened before, so that’s a good start. Now, as I often say, we might need new additions to our vocabulary in order to describe new notions, because at this point we still struggle to understand each other and define our own ideas. For example, the notion of Consciousness is still differently understood by people. Some see it as awareness, while others see it more like a state of being. However, generally science doesn’t ascribe Consciousness to a non-living being. And if it is so, then most of our hopes and dreams and plans for “the beyond” are really short-lived.

These are all trials for the future human minds, someone might figure it all out someday, who knows.

As for the false memories… I think many people have them, don’t they..? I myself struggled with a bunch of them wondering how is it possible to be present in two places at the same time, but that’s also because I have vivid dreams at night, and those realistic images definitely work their impression upon the mind. The conscious and the subconscious influence each other constantly. But the thing is… the mind is coding, all the time. It’s coding what it is, and it’s coding what it isn’t, also. In a dream, the mind codes emotions, like a fear into a monster, or turns a lack into some-thing. I often wonder how can the simplest mind create original figures of people who never existed, or of places which never existed… it creates whole worlds from scratch, with apparently no effort whatsoever. The heartache for people & places that don’t exist, the disconnection from your own body, the fear and pain of a “virtual” death… they’re all feeling real in the moment (i.e. psychological time) because the subconscious cannot tell the difference between real and imaginary. (just like you imagine a lemon and feel like drooling although there’s no lemon anywhere around). The puzzling Psychological Time vs Clock Time.

Random thoughts:

*** I liked the characters, although to me Barry felt slightly more real than Helena. Maybe because he was a bit more messed-up emotional than Helena, while she was rather more rational and collected..? Not sure, but perhaps.

*** I know cute is such an over-used word, but the relationship between the two was really cute and heartwarming. I can only imagine how it would feel like to meet someone who feels so familiar and safe. Wait, no, I’m lying. I can’t even imagine.

*** I’m glad the main characters are finally middle-aged (common) people and not 16 y.o. teenagers with perfect looks and super-powers.

*** I hated the fact that the author used the most trivial word ever to tell that two characters were having sex. I mean… there you are, trusting that narrator voice inside your head, when it suddenly slaps you in the face with “they fucked”. What the.. fuck? Dunno how the editor decided to leave those in, because it trivializes the narration. It’s like… you trust a narrator who’s talking in your mind about science and struggle and stuff, and then suddenly he turns into the drunken neighbor who’s just letting you know that X and Y fucked. Probably followed by a loud burp and a scratch of the butt.

*** The novel doesn’t have any useless sex scenes, which was highly appreciated.

*** At one point, it almost made me wonder how dying multiple times may feel.. almost like a “here-we-go-again” kind of thing. I guess no fear of death after that, huh..? Still darn painful.

*** The way it ended was the cutest cliffhanger I ever read.

*** The quotes used as dividers for the plot were cleverly used.

*** I still don’t understand what could’ve happened if two different people were using the chair at the same time. What reality would the world’s consciousness had been drawn with..?

*** I can’t help not to notice a common theme of family and loyalty in both Recursion and Dark Matter. I love how Blake Crouch uses this theme, it’s always motivating to read about it in a context full of trials. However, to me it comes hard to believe that such loyal & unconditional love really exist outside novels, or (not to be a total skunk) I’m gonna say it exists but it’s perhaps just as probable as a 90% Gucci discount.

I surely recommend this book, it’s a smart, well-thought book. I have a bit of a hard time understanding the readers who are highly critical to every single detail, as if they almost expect the theories used in the novel to actually work. It’s a fiction, there is no chair, there is no reality shifting, this is not a science paper. The purpose of a fictional novel is to entertain and to give you food for thought, and Recursion does it successfully. Writing a book of this level is no easy process and I’m sure the author did his best. I don’t believe that a collective consciousness could ever be drawn into a specific timeline by just one consciousness stream, but yet the whole book makes me think a lot about future perspectives, and most important (to me at least) it makes me think a lot about the vulnerability of life and of our duty to preserve the only habitable planet we know in this Universe.

“It isn’t just the disappointment of all the unrealized scientific and humanitarian uses to which it might be put under ideal conditions. It’s the realization that, as a deeply flawed species, we will never be ready to wield such power”.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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