Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

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Reviewed by Simon McDonald

A wildly ambitious, fast-paced, high-octane science fiction thriller about the apocalyptic consequences of one woman’s quest to build a machine that allows people to relive memories. Buckle up, put the seat back, adjust the headrest — and hang on.

In 2018, NYPD Detective Barry Sutton fails to stop Ann Voss Peters from leaping to her death from the Poe Building. Ann was suffering from a rare but proliferating condition known as False Memory Syndrome, in which detailed false memories of other lives lived flare to life —marriages, children, careers — and clash with conscious reality, often resulting in mental degradation, or complete psychotic breakdown. When Barry decides to dig deeper into the condition, he stumbles upon the Hotel Memory, and a life-changing discovery. In 2007, a stupendously wealthy philanthropist named Marcus Slade offers neuroscientist Helena Smith unlimited funding to achieve her life’s goal, inspired by her mother’s Alzheimer’s, of allowing people to relive their memories. But Slade’s objective isn’t quite to benevolent — particularly when they learn the incredible potential of Helena’s machine.

Recursion is a nerve-shredding, genre-bender of the highest calibre. It builds from shock to shock, intensifying with each turn of the page. It’s part love story, part meditation on grief and its long-lasting resonance, and how memories shape us. And it t is never anything less than electrifying. With Recursion, Blake Crouch has produced one of the must-read thrillers of 2019.

Review: Hitch by Kathryn Hind

Reviewed by Simon McDonald

Kathryn Hind’s Hitch — the winner of the inaugural Penguin Literary Prize — is a decidedly gripping, harrowing and unflinching tale of grit and perseverance, about  a young woman hitchhiking across Australia, desperately trying to outrun her traumatic past, whose courage and vulnerability are irresistible and believable. It is a stunning debut from a writer of considerable talent and promise.

Hitch begins with Amelia and her dog, Lucy, walking the Stuart Highway, counting the posts dotted along its length, ears piqued for the sound of oncoming vehicles, poised to hitch out a thumb and stretch a smile across her lips. We are immediately thrust into her fraught reality; without a ride, she won’t survive for long in the open; but whose to say the harshness of the outback isn’t preferable to whoever awaits in the driver’s seat of the first vehicle to stop by her side?

The initial experience of Hitch is sobering and savage, and its final effect is emotionally shattering, despite glimpses of tenderness, goodness and beauty. The novel is relentless, but in the best possible way, pushing readers through the emotional wringer but also compelling them to read on through the power of the prose. Quite simply a must read.