I vividly remember my first experience reading Blake Crouch. I was living in Idaho at the time and my children were still very young. We didn't have a dishwasher so I spent lots of time listening to audiobooks and washing dishes by hand. I had used my audible credits to get the Wayward Pines series, which begins with a man showing up in the middle of nowhere, Idaho, and noticing the town is not what it seems. He can't quite figure out what is wrong, but has the impenetrable sense of off-ness in the residents he talks to trying to find a phone. From there, the story takes off and totally exploded my brain with what I thought it would be.
I devoured that series and have loved his books ever since. Dark Matter, and his most recent, Recursion, just as much, maybe more so. He is a talented writer that manages to be compelling, surprising, unbelievable, totally imaginative and realistic, all while balancing character development with excellent dialogue.
Anyway, only a few things have come close for me to the experience of reading a Blake Crouch novel and i was thrilled to see that one of the authors who did come close is actually one of Crouch's friends. He's mentioned in the acknowledgements of Recursion as being the namesake of one of the villainous characters. For anyone else who's looking for more of the experience Crouch delivers, this list is for you.
Until we get to devour his next book, may you enjoy these in the meantime:
The Brilliance Trilogy, by Marcus Sakey - the same type of sudden shift in what you thought reality was, and a similar blend of technological advancements with almost unfathomable consequences. The basic premise is that there are a handful of humans born with exceptional abilities, one character perceives time in a way where they can be invisible, and they're called the Brilliants. Sakey fully imagines how this would impact the nation, and I loved the cause and effect part of the plot. You follow one character as he navigates this new landscape and tries to manage the multiplying crises that show up as a result. I loved this series and it's great in audio also.
The Bobiverse series, by Dennis E. Taylor - This has the immersive adventure that I love from Crouch, but sets things in space with infinite possibilities, charming and clever characters that you get to know really well over the three books worth of story. I've shared this rec with a lot of people and so far all of them seem to love it. It's an audible series that is really worth the price of the credits, the narrator is phenomenal and helps transport you to space. I don't want to give anything away, just go read it. It's so much fun and one that I've re-read several times, and I'm not a big re-reader at all.
All of Riley Sager's books - These are straight thrillers without the technological/sci-fi additions that Sakey, Taylor, and Crouch add to their stories. Sager has sucked me into the plots of all his works in a compelling way similar to what Crouch accomplishes. Plots thick with twists and a totally immersive reading experience, all of Sager's books were read eagerly in two sittings or less, so far. They're great if you're looking for something spooky.
The Last Policeman series, by Ben H. Winters - These are such wonderful books!! The story explores what a policeman does in the wake of an imminent and unavoidable apocalypse when he finds that someone's been murdered. To me, these blend the plot and characters of Crouch, with the immersive contemplation of Peter Heller's writing - most similarly to Heller's recent novel, The River, in creating an atmosphere that you could swear was tangible. A wonderful trilogy that opened up to me what an apocalyptic story could be (hint: more than a fluffy plot device). The final scene in this series made me cry like a damn baby and I loved every word of it.
The Seven and A Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton - This book is like a jigsaw puzzle thrown across the room, then reassembled. This tells the story of a murder to be solved, possibly prevented, with threat of terrible consequences. The narrator we follow spends time in each characters point of view, like an immersive game of clue where you are every single player and maybe more also, but have to keep a handle on your own self at the same time. I love it for it's lofty goal and for how well he pulled this off. A masterful and incredible thriller that, like Crouch's most recent book, manages to keep you in the story while accomplishing a dizzying time table with the plot. Fantastic.
What I enjoy most about these books I've mentioned, and probably about Crouch's writing as a whole, is how much FUN it is to read. It's clear he is like a kid on a playground with exceptional knowledge of the monkey bars who's leading his friends and followers to an exceptional and beautiful victory in a game of lava monster.
I am always inspired by his bravery of plot cleverness, his success in what he sets out to do with characters and narrative, and emboldened to even try to write more outside what I fall to as "possible" by experiencing his writing the seemingly impossible. His books explore all the experiences of humanity with an undercurrent of entertainment that he manages to create with the staying and lasting impression that I usually don't get from thrillers and exciting novels.
I don't know how he manages to do that, but I will eat up everything he writes and hope to find more like it.
p.s. I noticed this list is all male - not ideal. I would love to have a more diverse list of comps for an author I love so much, which leads me to two things. First - If you have a book in you, go write it and be bold (this message is for myself as much as for you, dear reader, if it also applies)! Second - If you have a recommendation for what you think is similar to Crouch's style that I don't have on this list, PLEASE tell me what it is.
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