Probably because it’s the heart-palpitating summer read you’ve (or at least I’ve) been waiting for.
I wrote an article earlier this year about how Netflix was adapting Blake Crouch’s yet-to-be-released novel Recursion; my only familiarity with Blake Crouch at that time was his Wayward Pines Trilogy and his novel, Dark Matter—the cake-hole blowing, mind-bender about a man desperately navigating the multiverse in order to return home to his family. If that article was to have matured, wrinkled and become the middle-aged version of its relatively naïve self, it would be this article. A not-so-book-review book review aimed to inform the world of the glorious ride that is Recursion (and its future with *our Lord and savior* Netflix).
*Cue angels singing*
Strap in and get comfortable—it’s going to be a bumpy ride. That’s the advice I would give to anyone about to read Blake Crouch’s newest novel, Recursion. Scratch that; the ride contains fewer bumps and more of the type of sudden drops experienced on a roller-coaster that has no business allowing four-foot-tall children to experience it. Exhilarating, panic-inducing, “OMG did I tell my mom I loved her this morning” madness.
Allow me to backpedal. Like the climb to the top of a track, Recursion is a story of building momentum. The book begins on November 2, 2018, and follows protagonist Barry. Barry is a detective with the NYPD, attempting to talk a woman out of jumping from the top of the Poe Building and to her death (obviously). The woman, Ann is suffering from a worldwide pandemic known as False Memory Syndrome (FMS)—a condition where the infected remember whole other lives that they supposedly never had. Ann remembers a husband and a son. Barry tries to relate to Ann’s emptiness, confiding in her the fact that he lost a daughter years earlier.
“At least she once existed.”
…I’m sure you can guess what happens next.
The beginning of Blake Crouch’s novel is undeniably cinematic, as is the whole story. At the center of the plot is the aforementioned NYPD detective and Helena, a scientist who, motivated by her mother’s Alzheimer’s, devotes herself to research which involves mapping the human brain—memory. Although a lot of what revolves around these characters could (by snobby losers) be dismissed as overtly cinematic and arguably mainstream; this thriller is one of the most gripping, moving, and coherent epics you will read this year. The stakes continue to rise as the characters’ reality literally crumbles… over and over.
The science seems to make sense (from the perspective of someone who got a D + in Physics); it never feels like Crouch is reaching with his theories or explanations. I might go as far as call him the Christopher Nolan of literature. A contemporary mastermind of thought-provoking and emotional storytelling.
Entertainment Weekly caught up with Crouch to talk about all things Recursion—they called it his “his most personal (and trippy) novel yet.” He divulges his inspiration for the novel as well as talks about the Netflix deal made nine months before the books’ publication last week. A film and series are in the works. Here’s a long and shamelessly exploited excerpt from that interview:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You mentioned this was project was really close to your heart. Why was it so personal? Did you find it challenging to execute? Was there any significant inspiration?
BC: This was a really, really hard book. This is definitely the hardest book I’ve ever done. I wanted it to do things that no other book I’d read had managed to do — without getting into spoiler territory, in the back half of the book, reality actually begins to disintegrate for our characters. I wanted to dramatize what that looks like. Michael Crichton [is an influence] for sure. I feel like he’s always looking over my shoulder and I’m looking over his. The way he would pick a scientific topic, whether it’s Chaos Theory or DNA manipulation, in each book he did he was tackling a piece of science. I feel a lot of inspiration from his body of work.
EW: Talk a little bit more about the idea behind the book.
BC: Coming off of Dark Matter, which was probably my breakout book, there was a bit of pressure: “How do you top that? What do you say that you haven’t already said before?” I kept thinking about, what is the thing that’s fundamental to the human experience? The more research and the more time I spent studying, I kept coming back to memory, and the way that memory is even more than incredible than we think it is. It sounds very obvious to say that our memories make us who we are. It’s even more than that. It’s fundamental to the way that we experience reality.
EW: So how did you want to play with that?
BC: Here’s a thought experiment, if you’ll indulge me: Imagine we’re sitting across from each other. Wherever you are, you’d see my image coming to you at the speed of light, and you’d hear my words coming a lot slower — still very fast, 600 miles per hour. What our brain does it holds the image that you see of me until the words arrive, and then it would sync the visual and the audio at the same time. The upshot of this is it’s about a half-second delay — which means that we are living in memory. We never experience what we think of as the present moment. Even the present moment is just this tape-delay, half-second reconstruction of what the present was a half-second ago. We live in memory. We live in our working memory.
EW: And of course, this is on the way to Netflix. It was announced as a major deal with Shonda Rhimes and Matt Reeves adapting the book into a movie and a series. What does that look like to you? What can you share about the development process so far?
BC: When it did come time to think about selling it to Hollywood, I was like, “I don’t know how this is going to work. This is definitely not a two-hour movie, but it feels bigger than the small screen, too.” I went into the process a little bit on edge — I was concerned that people wouldn’t see it the way I was seeing it. Remarkably, Shonda, Matt, and Netflix just stepped up like, “Hey, we know how to do this.” It’s very early days, in development, but I believe the plan is to launch it as a movie on Netflix, which can then spin off into multiple TV series. There are single sentences in the book that could be an entire season of television, that we just blow right past. The cool thing about a streamer like Netflix, which is breaking down the boundaries between film and television and what we can and can’t do, is it was sort of made for a book like this. Netflix was made for, “Let’s let the book be what it wants to be when it becomes a visual medium.” When they pitched it to me, they were like, “We’re envisioning this as a universe.” It’s exciting.
Recursion is one of those books you can’t stop reading because you have so many questions that NEED answers. How do you just go about your day not knowing? The last time I neglected all responsibilities and read until my vision blurred was with Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. With Recursion, I read it in one sitting. A solid seven hours. I’m not sure if I’m proud of that or vaguely embarrassed. Other people were out in the world working over the course of those seven hours—diligently contributing to the machine that is society. Laughing, loving and experiencing. I allowed Blake Crouch to do all the living for me. AND THERE ARE LIFETIMES IN HIS NEWEST NOVEL.
Crouch’s novel admirably tackles humanity and what it means to exist. I walked away from that reading experience feeling a little bit better about my own circumstances. As the characters develop and make peace with their subsequent reality, so does the reader. I will watch the heck out of this, Netflix.
You win again…
Featured Image Via Entertainment Weekly.