Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

42046112Recursion by Blake Crouch

Published on June 11, 2019 by Crown Publishing

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Memory makes reality.

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?

Rating: 3 star

Review:

WARNING: This review will contain spoilers. Mild ones, epic ones, tiny ones, big ones, and even gigantic ones. This is your one warning. Okay, I might give you another warning before the biggest one, maybe.

This book was quite an endeavor for an author to take on, the concept of it is intimidating. So I have to give the author a lot of credit in trying to tackle such an immense idea. A lot of it worked. The last 150 pages didn’t.

I have never read Blake Crouch before and didn’t make the connection between this and the Wayward Pines books/show until after I got the book. This was an impulse buy. I was drawn in by the interesting cover, read the blurb and thought “Hmm, this is an intriguing idea.” I really enjoyed the way Crouch writes. It is engaging and informative without dragging the story down in extraneous details. This is a difficult balance to maintain. Especially if you are trying to explain (and probably failing to explain, because who actually could understand this stuff except a super genius) complex things in a way that makes sense to the masses, while knowing that you will have to alter any basis in science that it has in order to keep your narrative intact.

I recognize that the “science” in the book is overly simplistic, but for a novel it needs to be. I was not looking for a scholarly paper on the theory of reactivating memories in Alzheimer’s patients. So yes, I totally understand the complaints that “curing” Alzheimer’s isn’t as simple as just memory. The brain degradation goes much beyond just memory. But for the purpose of the story, this is what Helena was trying to do. Trying to find a way to recover the memories that these patients lost and then reactivating them to fight the disease. Simplistic notion? Of course. But it’s enough to get our story going.

I really enjoyed the cat and mouse game between Helena and Slade, and then later between Barry and Slade. Basically, Slade discovers that’s Helena’s memory reactivation program actually sends the consciousness of the person back to the memory they were re-living. It was interesting because it takes place over several timelines. And the idea is that if you get shuffled back into a memory of the past anything that you’ve already lived becomes a “dead” memory and on the date you originally made the jump all those dead memories come flooding back. Not just for you, but everyone involved in those other memories. Naturally this leads to chaos as people suddenly find their brain filled with memories of a life they didn’t live. I was rooting for Helena and Barry to succeed and I was excited to see how they might accomplish this monumental task. How do you stop a man who can jump back into time to get another chance at stopping you?

Things took a turn for the worse when it becomes like something out of the movie Inception. Multiple people making multiple jumps back in time, over and over and over. And expansive descriptions of memories that no longer exist and new ones that do, until the next page when those “new” ones are now dead and overwritten. I had a really hard time following any of it. Then we come to the end game. Helena and Barry hide out, working on solving the problem of the returning “dead” memories so that world doesn’t end, and then Helena going back to her teen years to try again when they fail. This portion got incredibly repetitive. The two of them having the same conversations, doing the same things, as they realized they failed and had to try again.

Here’s where my biggest problem came in. and here’s your SECOND WARNING:  This is the big spoiler. It literally spoils the entire ending.

The logical way to end this is to go back to the event that precipitated the first timeline shift and change it, right? Apparently, no one in the book has figured out how to do that. Because that timeline is now a dead memory and they can’t figure out how to send people back to dead memories. Barry confronts Slade about it, because he heard that Slade might have a solution, and Slade basically says “Go back to the original memory. The day I killed Helena to steal her invention.” Barry says he can’t, that’s a dead memory. And all Slade says is “I did.” Barry runs to tell Helena and finds she’s already made the jump and he’ll have to wait until this memory returns to his mind the next time to tell her so they can try. Problem if, the next time Helena has died. So by the time Barry remembers, she is already gone and he’s on his own. Then he just figures it out apparently. No seriously, that’s what happens.

Barry is lying next to Helena’s grave, taken a bunch of pills to end his life, and then decides that he has to try to reactivate a dead memory and fix things once and for all. So, with dwindling time until those pills kick in, he runs to the lab and tries to map a dead memory. It succeeds, he goes back in time and stops the original event and everything is set right again. All in about 5 pages. And it made me mad.

We just spent an entire book with you telling me it’s impossible to go back to a dead memory. Then you find out that, maybe, it’s not impossible after all but you have no idea how to do it. And then figure it out in five minutes? But Helena who had literally been working out a solution to this for over a hundred years couldn’t figure that out? It reminded me a Stephen King ending. Blake Crouch got tired of this book, wanted it to be over and was just like “And so, there was a giant spider, the end.” I felt pretty ripped off and it lowered the rating of the entire book for me. It didn’t pay off. So even though I largely enjoyed the book, the ending tainted it for me.

I will probably read other books by Blake Crouch, I find his ideas and execution interesting. Hopefully his other books have a decent ending.

 

Progress Updates: Day Zero and Recursion

42046112

On page 230 of 329.

All of a sudden I feel like someone whacked me over the head and dropped me into the movie Inception. There are 10,000 things happening at once. And they are also un-happening all at once. And then different things are happening but also un-happening. My head hurts. I am hoping he can bring this tugboat to port but I am completely lost right now.

 

9781335008480.indd

On page 201 of 302 pages.

This one has been an interesting ride. It’s been full of action but I don’t particularly like the main character. One of the big reveals was not that surprising to me, I called it early on. Jinx makes some really awful decisions. The entire book seems to be along the premise of “always have a plan so that when disaster strikes you are prepared” and then Jinx acknowledges that she should follow the plan, but then decides not to.

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

the here and now The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Published April 8th, 2014 by Delacorte Press

Buy this book at: B&N / Amazon / Book Depository / Books a Million

 

Synopsis:

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Delacorte!

 

This book was a bit boring and not exactly that I expected. Overall, I enjoyed parts of it but a large portion of it made me scratch my head with the WTF. Warning, from here on there will be spoilers.

Characters: I did not like Prenna. She was so boring! She did not do anything really. She acknowledged over and over again “I really shouldn’t do this” only to do it a paragraph later. She was incapable of doing anything for herself and had to be bailed out by people through the entire book. Ethan was okay but he was really just a plot device to save Prenna from her TSTL. The other characters really made no impression on me because they were so pointless.

Plot: This thing had plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon. The premise of it was not bad. Horrible things happen to the world in the future and a plague wipes out most of the world and the survivors go back in time to prevent the bad things from happening….except what they are really doing is just hiding out and doing not much of anything. Boring. Prenna and Ethan also spend most of the book doing nothing. They are on a mission to save the future but then they sit around on the beach and play cards for the majority of the book. Also boring. Now for the plot holes:

– Prenna says that in the future they have no technology to speak of. They don’t use computers, they use paper and pencils. But then…how exactly did they figure out time travel?

– Prenna says that there is no new manufacturing so things like clothes are scavenged from the current time period. Except she says that the downfall of society didn’t happen until twenty years or so before they traveled back in time, which was like 90 years before the current time. So what happened in that 50 years exactly? Were there no new clothes for 90 years even though sciety only fell apart for the last 20 of it?

– This plague is described as dengue fever. The mortality rate for dengue fever is actually pretty low, by catching it early enough and getting proper treatment then you will most likely pull through just fine. It still isn’t pleasant but it is uncommon for it to be deadly. Now, Prenna explains this as the virus mutating into something more deadly. Okay, fine, but isn’t 100 years a bit to quick for that drastic of a mutation. I almost feel like the author spent most of their research time reading stuff like this: http://greenbugallnatural.com/wordpress/infected-mosquitoes-become-more-effective-carriers-of-disease/ Which has a definite “OMG MOSQUITOES ARE COMING!” feel to it.

– Prenna goes on loooooooong rants about how this was all caused by global warming. And I do mean long and boring rants. But then when they actually figure out the answer, it had nothing to do with global warming at all, it was someone from a third alternate future that carried a virus back with him and infected humans…who then infected the mosquitoes, who in turn started the plague. So what the hell did all that global warming garbage have to do with anything at all? Answer, I have no fucking clue and I don’t think the author does either.

This story was not well thought out. For an author as acclaimed as this one, I expected a lot better.

Review: The Forever Engine by Frank Chadwick

forever engine The Forever Engine by Frank Chadwick

Published January 7th, 2014 by Baen

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Books a Million / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

London 1888. His Majesty’s airships troll the sky powered by antigrav liftwood. Iron Lords tighten their hold on Britain choked by the fumes of industry. Mars has been colonized. Clockwork assassins stalk European corridors of power. Far to the east, the Old Man of the Mountains plots the end of the world with his Forever Engine.

2018 Jack Fargo, scholar, former American special forces agent in Afghanistan. Aided only by an elderly Scottish physicist, a young British officer of questionable courage, and a beautiful but mysterious spy for the French Commune, Fargo must save the future, the universe, from destruction.

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Baen!

I wanted to like this book, really I did. I am far more often reading and liking steampunk, so when I hear the words time travel, steampunk, and Nikola Tesla I was all over this book. But in the end it was just boring.

Time travel is a tricky issue in any book. It can be done well and in certain aspects this was done well. It plays with the idea of infinite universes, that somewhere out there is a universe where the exact opposite of every decision and outcome in this world has taken place. However, time travel can also be used as a crutch to aid lazy writing and suspense building. To a larger extent this book did that too. Toward the end I felt like the time travel aspect was the go-to answer to creating drama and tension. That was annoying.

The characters were very thin and had no real life to them. I had a hard time keeping track of who everybody was because they were largely so interchangeable. Even when we started learning more about Fargo’s past I just felt……confused I guess because it was so out of the blue.And I HATED that the author kept trying to give everyone an Asperger’s diagnosis. First off, you’re a history professor and a former soldier, not a psychologist or psychiatrist so shut up. And second, I don’t get it. These two characters seemed more Obsessive Compulsive to me. And believe me, I am speaking from personal knowledge here. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and my brother is an Aspie. Yes, there are areas where the two things overlap but I didn’t see the Aspie in these two characters at all. I think the author just wanted to use it to force us to see the similarities between the two characters, which didn’t make the ultimate connection he gave them any more realistic.

If the blurb didn’t tell me this was steampunk, I probably wouldn’t have known. There was a few pages in London where we saw steam powered airships, and coal engines, and everyone having to wear goggles out in public. But after that the entire cast of characters were in the middle of the desert with weapons that actually existed in that time and so…..that’s it? That’s my steampunk? Cause that’s a pretty poor effort if it is.

The ending was stupid. I felt like the final climactic finale was very contrived. The most obvious and logical course was discarded as a trick and the most complicated and unlikely to succeed course was taken, more than once. And the ending didn’t seem realistic to me. After 300 pages of Fargo going on and on at length about missing his daughter and being willing to do anything to get back to her, he totally screws over any chance he has of seeing her again and just happily moves on in the other universe without even mentioning her again. Wait, what? And what about his theory that him and Thomson could recreate the device and get him back to his own time anyway? What happened to that? I didn’t like or understand this ending at all.

Overall it wasn’t terrible, there were some enjoyable moments. But I felt the book was much too flawed for me to enjoy it enough that I overlooked the problems.