In his new novel Recursion (hardcover, Kindle), writer Blake Crouch explores the idea of preserving memories. But in the following email interview, he explains what inspired it, what influenced it, and why it isn’t a sci-fi medical thriller.
Photo Credit: Jesse Giddings
To start, what is Recursion about?
It’s about a neuroscientist named Helena, who invents a technology that allows people to immersively return to their most precious, vivid memories. Her mom has Alzheimer’s and she’s trying to preserve her core memories. Unfortunately, this technology morphs into something with the potential to break the very fabric of reality.
Where did you get the idea for Recursion and how did that idea evolve as you wrote the story?
When I finished Dark Matter I wanted to write something even more ambitious, so I started thinking about the most fundamental element of our existence. Pretty quickly, I came to the conclusion that it was memory. Then I came across an article in the Smithsonian about two scientists from MIT implanting false memories in the brains of mice. I knew immediately I wanted to scale that idea up to the macro level of humanity and see what happened if we started manipulating our own memories.
It sounds like Recursion is a science fiction medical thriller. Is that how you see it?
Not at all. It opens in such a way to make readers think it’s an “outbreak” novel, but very quickly it becomes apparent that what’s at stake is the very nature of identity and reality.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that were a big influence on Recursion but not on any of your other novels?
The work of Michael Crichton and Einstein.
How about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that had a big impact on Recursion?
The films of Christopher Nolan.
Now, as you know, some sci-fi stories are self- contained and others are parts of larger sagas. What is Recursion?
It’s a stand-alone novel.
Recursion is currently being developed as both a movie and multiple TV shows for Netflix by Shonda Rhimes [How To Get Away With Murder] and Matt Reeves [Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes]. Are you going to be involved with it the way you were with Good Behavior, which was based on your novellas The Pain Of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab [published collectively as Good Behavior]?
No, I’m not involved in this adaptation. I felt that I wrote the very best story I could in book-form and wanted to devote my attention to my next novel.
Is there anything you can tell us about it, though?
It’s still very early days, but the plan is to make movies and a TV series based on the book. In other words, to build a film and television universe based on Recursion.
As you know, writers don’t get a say about what actors play what roles in shows and movies based on their books. But if you could, who would you like them to cast in the Recursion movie and TV show?
Honestly, I haven’t thought about it, and I am always reticent to answer questions like this, because inevitably the actors I would choose won’t be the ones that are actually cast, and I never want anyone actor to feel anything but complete support from me.
Along similar lines, in the previous interview we did about Dark Matter [which you can read here], we talked a little about the movie they were making based on that novel. Where do things stand with that?
I unfortunately don’t have any updates on the Dark Matter film. Hollywood is moving at its typical speed. Glacial.
Finally, if someone enjoys Recursion, which of your other books would you suggest they read next?
Dark Matter. These two books are really nice companion pieces that, although quite different in story and tone, address the topics of reality, identity, and the slippery nature of truth.