Barry Sutton is a detective who attempted to saved a woman from killing herself – he wasn’t able to save her but he got curious about the reason why she killed herself. She was said to have FMS (False Memory Syndrome), a known disease in Manhattan. Someone that has FMS suddenly wakes up with a new set of memories – like having another life. Most people with FMS become suicidal because they are no longer sure what’s real and not.
As Barry dug into the woman he tried to saved – he ended up in a hotel. He lost consciousness and when he woke up, he was on a chair and the man was with him. He asked him to describe the day his daughter, Megan, died. He described the memory and it suddenly seemed so vivid. The next thing he knew, he was already in that memory and he was able to stop Megan from getting hit by a truck. A man he met from the hotel showed up and told him that he was given a gift. He was able to go back in time and this is now his reality. A new timeline has been created – he gets to live his life again.
This was the cause for FMS. The people who have FMS are those who were part of a false memory. For Barry, his wife Julia and daughter Meghan will have FMS in the future – when they reach the day that Barry sat on the memory chair.
In this new timeline, Julia and Barry got divorced (just like in the first timeline) while Meghan lived her life. When the FMS hit Julia and Meghan, they weren’t able to take it easy, just like the rest. Barry explained about what happened – but still, Meghan could not take the memory of her own death so she killed herself.
As Meghan died and as a lot more people experience FMS, Barry is now fully aware how dangerous the memory chair is. He went back to the hotel and looked for the man who sent him back to a memory – and planned to raid it.
When Barry was outside the hotel, he met Helena. He’s sure that he hasn’t met him, but Helena claims that the two of them met after 4 months in the future. Barry believed Helena because she told him about his plan to raid the hotel, and how it resulted to the memory chair being in the hands of the government.
Helena is the inventor of the chair. She accidentally invented it while trying to come up with a device to help map her mother’s memory, who has Alzheimer’s. In the original timeline, she accidentally invented the chair and her assistant, Slade, murdered her so he could use the chair. Slade created another timeline and on that timeline, he hired Helena so she would build the chair for him.
Since no one was funding her on the second timeline, Helena worked for Slade without knowing what she was building. When she realized how dangerous Slade’s plan is, she used the memory chair to create another timeline so she could decline Slade’s offer and hide from him. She was able to hide from Slade on that timeline, but he was able to create the chair from his memory. Even when Helena hid, the memory chair still existed.
On the current timeline, Barry and Helena planned to get in the hotel and put a virus on the memory chair. Sadly, the people from DARPA arrived. Slade & Barry got killed and the memory chair still exists. DARPA took the chair and they are planning to use it for a good purpose. Helena was held captive in an apartment under DARPA.
DARPA used the chair first to undo a school shooting incident that killed 19 children. The memory chair was also used to keep a plane from crashing. The chair was indeed used to help the majority, but Helena still believes in its danger and kept telling them that it should be destroyed.
Then one day, a series of false memories occurred to everyone in Manhattan. There were memories of explosions and bridges being destructed – but those were just false memories.
Helena isn’t sure what’s happening. When she met with the in charge from DARPA, it was revealed that Slade’s memory chair was hacked even before they raided the hotel and got hold of the chair. Different and multiple countries owns the same chair, and it’s blueprint is even available online.
Left with no choice, Helena decided to go back 33 years ago and live her life once again and try saving the world from destroying itself with the memory chair. It was very difficult – because when she reaches the day in April 2019 – everyone recovers the memory and the war would continue. Helena lived her life for 33 years multiple times. Most of the lives were spent being married to Barry. She kept on repeating those 33 years with no success in stopping the destruction caused by the memory chair – until her body gave up due to multiple uses of the memory chair. She died without fixing the damage done by her invention.
Barry built a casket for Helena. After settling her dead body in the casket, he took some pills himself because he couldn’t bear living after losing Helena. After taking the pills, all his memories from the previous timelines came back – and he remembered being able to talk to Slade in the previous timeline. Slade told him that to create another timeline and not have everyone else remember the previous timelines – he needs to travel to the original timeline. So the solution would be for Barry to go back to the first timeline and stop Slade from killing Helena.
Slade killed Helena on 5th of November 2018, and Barry has a memory he could go back to on 4th of November 2018, since it was Meghan’s birthday and he had dinner with Julia that day, reminiscing about their late daughter.
On 5th November, Barry went to Slade’s apartment, unloaded his gun and confronted him. After that, he found Helena and introduced himself to her.
The End of Recursion by Blake Crouch.