“Life with a cheat code isn’t life. Our existence isn’t something to be engineered or optimized for the avoidance of pain. That’s what it is to be human – the beauty and the pain, each meaningless without the other.”
Neuroscientist Helena Smith, in a bid to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and save her mother’s life, accidentally builds a machine totally unprecedented. This machine allows you to store a memory, then go back and relive that memory and your life from the day of the stored memory all over again.
New York city cop, Barry Sutton, is investigating a devastating phenomenon called False Memory Syndrome, where residents are waking up with false memories of lived full lives, different from ones they are living now. Suicide skyrockets and Sutton tries to get to the bottom of the phenomenon before memory as we know it is destroyed. Needless to say, these two stories collide in a way that’ll make you question time, memory and love.
“There are so few things in our existence we can count on to give us the sense of permanence, of the ground beneath our feet. People fail us. Our bodies fail us. We fail ourselves. He’s experienced all of that. But what do you cling to, moment to moment, if memories can simply change. What, then, is real? And if the answer is nothing, where does that leave us?”
Who doesn’t want a do over in life? Personally, I don’t trust people who say they have no regrets. If you’re offered a way to go back in time and relive it, with all the knowledge you have now still intact, who wouldn’t be tempted to take that chance? This and so many questions are asked and answered in this book. Crouch writes a very human novel. Infact, I’d argue that this book is basically a love story. We see how much love pushes us to be the best or worst versions of ourselves, how desperate love makes us and ultimately, how love breaks us.
Other questions like, would you go back and stop Hitler? What are the consequences of that? If World War 2 never happens, then half the population on earth now stops existing and we get a totally new world. Blake Crouch turns his incredible imagination loose in his latest thriller and your mind will be racing trying to keep up with him.
“He has wondered lately if that’s all living really is—one long goodbye to those we love.”
Ignore the science. Honestly, don’t try to understand all the facets of this. Get the gist of how the base science works then let everything else go. I find that’s why people think they can’t read science fiction because they get bogged down by the science. Understand the basics of how this world Crouch is creating works and then let everything else go. Reviewing Crouch’s book is not an easy task; there’s a huge limitation on how much of the plot I can talk about without spoiling something, and I don’t want that.
I will say that when Helen Smith relives her life over and over and over again till the readers are out of their minds with the familiarity of it all, it gets to a point where you just want it to freaking end. This gives you a glimpse of how Helen feels and your heart absolute breaks for her. I think this section of the book pushed the book up a star for me because if I went crazy as a reader, just imagine what the protagonist felt, living her life over and over again, trying to stop the inevitable from happening.
“My soul knows your soul. In any time.”
If you’re looking to venture into science fiction, I think you should give Blake Crouch a try. Underneath all that science, Crouch writes human stories. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. If you read this and enjoy it, you should give his first book, Dark Matter, a shot.