In 2007, neuroscientist Helena Smith invents a 'memory chair,' a device that can capture the memory of a specific event—and then reintroduce that memory into a person’s brain on command. Her aim is to help Alzheimer’s patients, including her beloved mother. But the wealthy tech magnate who has the funds to make the chair a reality has more sinister motives.
...you think you know where this is going ... Only you don't. Not even a little. Because what Crouch has made here is a puzzle box time-travel story, all based on memory and death ... But there's a catch. A big one and a clever one with some weird modern resonance ... Crouch handles the build-up well ... he juggles the multiple narrators and timelines with a confident economy. He couches the occasional (necessary, sometimes fascinating) infodump in character and tension most of the time, only rarely resorting to flashbackery or moody staring-off-into-the-rain soliloquy. And even though some of his relationships come with a whiff of plot contrivance, he has always been rare among that cadre of speculative fiction writers who traffic in big, near-future ideas in that his characters, on an individual basis, come off as actual humans rather than robots programmed to spout off dialogue ... Recursion ... is fuller than you'd expect. More fleshed. More human. It has a thrumming pulse that moves beyond big ideas and into their effects on a larger, more complex world.
...a heady campfire tale of a novel built for summer reading ... the journey is a gloriously twisting line that regularly confounded my expectations ... There’s a faint political undercurrent to the novel ... The sense that our country’s center is not holding pulses through the novel. The fear that we are losing our collective memory, of a stable nation for instance, doesn’t read to me like fantasy.
In the end, Crouch achieves a tale that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, and Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays. It might be somewhat slick, it might be eminently filmable, but it has heft and gravitas beyond the unambitious technothriller category ... you will not predict anything. In short, the fusion of human verities — albeit contorted into unprecedented shapes — and a fruitful novum sternly parsed leads to quintessential SF. Crouch’s skills in laying down tense and vivid action scenes is essential here as well.