Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

Recursion-cover-1263x1920Helena Smith’s mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s and she wants nothing more than to bring back her mother’s precious memories. So she begins experimenting with a new technology that will preserve special moments in life while also allowing them to relive learning to drive, getting married, the birth of their children or the last few moments with a loved one who is about to pass over into the afterlife.

Through her research and efforts, “the chair” is created. It can send you back to different memories in time, creating new timelines and erasing past mistakes or events. The only problem is, Helena’s boss isn’t using it for the purpose she intended and instead of doing good, her technological advancement is wreaking havoc on the current timeline of the world.

NYC cop Barry Sutton stumbles upon Helena’s invention while investigating False Memory Syndrome – a condition that’s causing people to kill themselves based on memories of lives they never thought they experienced. Unknown to them, their jolting memories, which return to them once they’ve reached the moment in time the original event was altered, are a side effect of someone else in their life using “the chair” to undo some event in the past.

The general public doesn’t know about “the chair” – only Helena and a few other researchers, and their subjects are poached off the street by Helena’s boss, Marcus Slade.

Soon the government will get involved and that opens a whole new Pandora’s Box. They start small by jumping timelines to undo school shootings or horrific criminal acts and soon, top officials want to eradicate past events like the Holocaust.

Recursion is a stellar follow up to sci-fi writer Blake Crouch’s thriller Dark Matter. There’s a lot to keep track of with the shifting timelines, but once you get used to it, it’s not hard understand where our characters are in the story line.

In addition to the face paced writing style, Crouch challenges readers to think about if changing the past really would really be for the moral good and if the human race can ever be trusted to carry that out if the technology is ever invented.

Easily one of the best books I’ve read all year, Recursion should be at the top of your reading list. Netflix has already optioned it for a film/TV series with Shonda Rimes’ production company to produce.

 

What’s the Next Big Thing in Young Adult literature?

Since the Divergent and Hunger Games series have wrapped up their sagas, teens may be looking for the next big thing. There aren’t a lot of series getting much buzz right now and it seems like dystopian is dead. Vampires certainly are and zombies may be on their way out too. What does seem to be emerging is a trend are stories featuring characters with special abilities – maybe YA authors are cashing in on the popularity of superheroes?

Here are a few titles that I’ve recently read that I think could be the next big thing at the library, bookstores and eventually the box office.

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The Red Queen
by Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow lives in a world that’s divided by blood – those who bleed red are the poor commoners, destined to a life of poverty. The silver bloods are the elites in society who also possess super-human powers and strengths.

After a series of unfortunate events and a chance encounter with a prince, Mare discovers she has special abilities of her own. In the wake of a Red rebellion, the royal family forces her to hide her true identity, claiming she’s of Silver lineage and betrothing her to their son. The rebels can’t be silenced though and Mare’s abilities play a crucial role in the impending revolution.

The Red Queen is a mix of The Hunger Games, X-Men and Game of Thrones. Sounds like a weird combination but it surprisingly works. While the book isn’t especially original and some of the plot twist are predictable, it’s still an entertaining and action packed story.

 

The 5th Wave
by Rick Yancy

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Sixteen year old Cassie Sullivan is trying to survive on her own after a series of alien invasions, called waves, that have begun wiping the planet of human life. She’s already lost both parents and she last saw her little brother waving from the back of a school bus on his way to safety at a nearby military base…or so she thought.

The aliens know she’s out there though and they’ve sent a “Silencer”to track her down and kill her. What they didn’t plan on is a very real, very human connection that forms between Cassie and her would be assailant.

Part War of the Worlds and part Falling Skies, The 5th Wave is a high octane survival story that will appeal to both guys, gals and their parents. Cassie is the main protagonist, but the chapters alternate between her point of view and other main characters in the novel until all their stories meet at the end. The movie version didn’t do so well at the box office, but the book is a well written, engaging story that will leave teens eager for the next installment, The Infinite Sea.

 

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Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

Don’t let the cover fool you – this book is not a horror story! Instead, brace yourself for a time traveling adventure as Jacob Portman, who sets out to find out who his recently deceased grandfather really is, stumbles upon a portal that takes him back to Wales during WWII.

There he discovers the orphanage his grandfather grew up in, a bunch of mysterious children with super powers and a dangerous monster that’s out to kill them all.

Part one in a trilogy, Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a fascinating story that uses photographs to enhance the plot and reader’s experience. Characters are extremely well developed and the story unlike any you will ever read. The books have been wildly popular for a few years now, but with the movie version set to hit theaters in August, expect a rush of new fans to the series.

 

The X-Files: Season 10 Review

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On January 24th, fourteen years after what fans thought was the series finale,  The X-Files kicked off its much hyped six episode event. Ratings were HUGE with 16 million people watching episode one (probably didn’t hurt that it directly followed the Super Bowl) and even though episode two only pulled in about 10 million viewers, those are still big numbers for any network show, but especially interesting considering the show’s age (the pilot episode of the X-Files premiered 23 years ago.)

Critics eviscerated the first episode (“My Struggle”), but from a fan perspective, I thought it was pretty good. Granted the first episode brought a lot of happy nostalgia with it, which probably skewed my opinion of the episode a tiny bit, but at the end of the first two hours, I felt like the show still had something special to offer. Yes,  a lot of information was thrown at us all at once but the writers only had so much time to catch everyone up, introduce a new alien conspiracy and set in motion the rest of the season.

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny also seemed a little bit rusty with their character portrayals, although by the second episode, the actors seemed more like their usual selves. But maybe the most jarring part of watching was seeing how much Mulder and Scully have aged from previous episodes – it took some getting used to and probably seemed more prominent since I had just finished watching the entire series the week before.

Episode two (“Founder’s Mutation”) felt more like your typical X-Files, re-introduced us to the William story-line and left fans feeling a little bit weepy. By episode three (“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”) fans were treated to a monster-of-the-week episode written by Darin Morgan who wrote several of the show’s all time best episodes. “Home Again” contrary to early speculation was not a sequel to season four’s “Home” (although that would have been really cool) but instead continued with the monster-of-the-week theme.

By episode five, the season 10 story arc had switched gears, moving things toward the finale. “Babylon” felt more like an episode of 24 and touched on post-9/11 subject matter and themes that the show never got to explore  in its initial run. The episode also has one of the funniest moments of season 10 when Agent Mulder is given psychedelic mushrooms and sends him on a country music fueled trip that also includes a tribute to the Lone Gunmen – another weepy moment for the show.

That brings us to episode six (“My Struggle II”) and the finale. We’re brought back to where episode one left off and a deadly contagion starts wreaking havoc across the globe . Scully seems to be the only one who is immune to the virus and begins work on a vaccine made from her DNA but when she finally reaches Mulder in time, only their son William can save him. The problem? No one knows where William is.

Cue the alien spaceship and bright light beaming down on Scully and cue the end of season 10.

Fans were promised a cliffhanger and Chris Carter delivered. The only downside is, we have no idea when/if the show will continue, so opening up a whole new chapter on the X-Files when there are no more episodes being planned is really quite typical, but frustrating.

Do I think there will be more? Probably. Ratings were solid, fans will be eager to see what’s next and the actors have said they’re open to more. Personally, I’d like to see maybe thirteen more to explore the themes the show opened up this time around but I say after that,  wrap it up and give some closure to the series.

When that will happen remains a mystery. Until then, I want to believe there’s more story left to be told. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another fourteen years to tell it.

 

A Look Back at the X-Files, Season 8

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Mulder is out and John Doggett is in as Scully’s new partner on the X-Files. Originally recruited for a special FBI task force to find Mulder (who may or may not have been abducted by aliens),  Doggett and Scully start off on the wrong foot but by the end of the season, generally work well together. As a veteran FBI agent on the X-Files, Scully’s skepticism and need for proof seems to have been satisfied and for quite a bit of season eight she almost personifies Mulder while Doggett becomes the skeptical partner.

The first half of season eight focuses on the search for Mulder, working in a few monster of the week episodes here and there. The last half is all about *SPOILER ALERT* Scully’s pregnancy and whether or not her unborn child is an alien baby. We also meet Agent Monica Reyes, who joins the series full time in season nine.

From a critical standpoint, season eight is very uneven as viewers have to adjust to a new working chemistry between Scully and Doggett. The show starts to show its age a little and you can feel that the producers and writers were running out of steam. The addition of Doggett and Reyes, besides filling a character hole left by Mulder’s absence, were probably brought in to give the series life beyond the central characters of Mulder and Scully and while they were fine in their own way, they just weren’t the heart and soul of the X-Files.

Here are a few stand-out episodes from season eight:

Episode 1: Within. Important to watch as viewers meet John Doggett and learn about his assignment to find Mulder.

Episode 3: Patience. Doggett and Scully work on their first case not involving the search for Mulder and realize their investigative techniques are nothing alike.

Episode 4: Roadrunners. Scully is out on her own and is taken by a satanic cult that worships a worm like creature. Gross content alert!

Episode 6: Redrum. Doggett’s friend is on trial for the murder of his wife and while trying to clear his own name, finds that his days are moving backward. The best episode of the season.

Episode 17: Empedocles. Mulder and Doggett work a case together but neither trust the other.

Episode 21: Existence. Scully’s baby is born.