Recursion is a fascinating and intense page-turner that combines my favourite topics in science and science-fiction–memories and time travel. Funnily enough, I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up this book. I recall hearing the title somewhere and when I found it at a library, I just picked it up. Until I read it, I thought this was a non-fiction book like other books on my reading list (mostly management/leadership related books).
It was not until a few pages in the book that I realized this was a work of fiction (I kept thinking it was a novelization of some sort like The Phoenix Project). But after a few pages, I fell in love with the story. It started off as a crime story and I am not terribly fond of those. But then it became clear that this was turning into a psychological thriller style story.
Very soon, the story turned to the realm of science fiction, and not just any sci-fi theme, but my favourite kind–time travel. The premise for the mechanics of time travel are admittedly weird but it’s sci-fi and anything goes as long as it is consistent (and it is, to a good degree). In fact, the revelation of symptoms of time travel on the rest of the world population was fascinating to say the least (not saying more so as to not spoil). We see the effects early on in the story but we don’t realize what it is at the time. Of course, as time goes on (see what I did there?) we realize what had been happening until then.
The story starts in 2018 with Barry Sutton but then we are also introduced to Helena Smith’s story in 2007. We quickly realize that we are looking at two different scenes set at slightly different times. But it only gets more confusing after this as their stories seem to intertwine even set a decade apart. Their stories meet, of course, and we now understand everything that’s happening. We are now treated to a complicated web of timelines which ends up recursively repeating (hence the name).
Funnily enough, it is the recursive timeline when the story starts getting a little bit frustrating. In fact, by this point you realize that the conclusion of the story would leave much to be desired and you wouldn’t be wrong. You could say that the resolution of such a complicated problem should not be that easy in a story, even if such things do happen in the real life.
In any case, the ending did not really give me the satisfaction of having completed a brilliant story. If you’re willing to forgive that, this book is an amazing read, especially if you enjoy time-travel stories. I highly recommend this book if you want to pick up a story that makes you work to understand it and don’t mind a less-than-spectacular ending.