Publication Date: July 12th, 2022
Hardcover. 352 pages.
"“You are the next step in human evolution.”
At first, Logan Ramsay isn’t sure if anything’s different. He just feels a little . . . sharper. Better able to concentrate. Better at multitasking. Reading a bit faster, memorizing better, needing less sleep.
But before long, he can’t deny it: Something’s happening to his brain. To his body. He’s starting to see the world, and those around him—even those he loves most—in whole new ways.
The truth is, Logan’s genome has been hacked. And there’s a reason he’s been targeted for this upgrade. A reason that goes back decades to the darkest part of his past, and a horrific family legacy.
Worse still, what’s happening to him is just the first step in a much larger plan, one that will inflict the same changes on humanity at large—at a terrifying cost.
Because of his new abilities, Logan’s the one person in the world capable of stopping what’s been set in motion. But to have a chance at winning this war, he’ll have to become something other than himself. Maybe even something other than human.
And even as he’s fighting, he can’t help wondering: what if humanity’s only hope for a future really does lie in engineering our own evolution?"
Upgrade was my first Blake Crouch reading experience, and what an experience it was! This is a fast-paced, twisty sci-fi thriller that is constantly moving and taking the narrative in new and unexpected directions. It'd be pretty hard to feel bored with this one!
Upgrade is set in the near future when gene editing has become a common and invasive problem, enough so that any gene editing is now illegal. Logan Ramsay works for the GPA, or Genetic Protection Agency, which monitors and arrests those caught gene editing. One day while on a regular mission, Logan receives a non-consensual and illegal genetic upgrade from a virus-laced bomb that changes life for him in some pretty drastic ways–including, but not limited to, imprisonment by his employers because of said genetic upgrade since it is new, and has unknown implications to both Logan and the world. …And also because his mother is known in the genetics world for creating some gene-edits that ended up causing a massive famine around the world that resulted in the starvation of millions of people.
There aren’t too many things I can say specifically about the plot or Logan’s journey because it would be way too easy to give away spoilers, so I’ll try to keep things a bit more general while still giving a thorough review. I really loved getting to read about Logan’s upgrade and to see how it affected his daily life in so many different ways, especially the small things like the change in “sensory gating” and how it sometimes felt like he was getting overwhelmed with all of the new information he was able to take in constantly. Crouch was very thorough in exploring what this type of upgrade would be like, and I found that one of the most fascinating aspects of Logan’s gene edit. At the same time, I sometimes felt like this gene edit really made him a super man with almost no weaknesses and then I just started expecting him to understand or figure everything out easily, which then led to a slight decrease in tension in some scenes. This issue does level out a bit as the story progresses, but I can’t really say how or why so I’ll just leave that thought there.
Crouch’s prose is very accessible and avoids any overuse of excessive description or flowery prose, which I think fits well with the tone and content of this book. He tackles a lot of really complex and multi-faceted ideas and concepts in this book and does it all with ease. It's a very big topic to take on, and despite the many science lessons (which I'll discuss later) I think Crouch was able to successfully tell this story in a way that is fairly easy to follow and makes for a quicker read.
I found Upgrade to be a fast-paced read, but at the same a read that felt somewhat slow moving at times as well in regards to plot, and I understand how confusing that sounds. This book has a lot of thriller aspects in the sense that the plot is always twisting and turning and Logan seems to always be on the move and uncovering something new and momentous, which creates the fast-paced feeling of never really slowing down. That being said, the overall plot felt like somewhat of a slow burn at times. I felt as though it sometimes took a long time to really get to the point or understand where something was going with the story. There were so many diversions along the way that I occasionally lost track of what the greater picture was, almost as if there was a meandering quality to the plot.
Blake Crouch goes pretty hard with the science explanations in this book, something that I both appreciated and felt went over my head a couple times, but it fit well and added a great deal of legitimacy to the narrative. It did feel a bit like Crouch would stop the story to give a small science lesson and although I found some of these interesting, I will say that they interrupted the pacing and flow of the story quite a bit, and I often found myself getting more distracted or having to slog through it occasionally.
All of the above being said, the highlight and strong point of this novel for me was the discussion of ethics and morals around scientific advancements, human potential, and where the limit should be placed on the lengths people should go to save the future of humanity. Crouch excels in exploring these topics through his characters and the actions they undertake, and I think this is the part of the story that he executed best.
Overall, I’ve given Upgrade 3.75 stars! This is a very solid sci-fi thriller that I think any fans of Blake Crouch and the genre will love. From what I hear, his previous books like Dark Matter and Recursion seem slightly stronger so I will definitely be checking those out (hopefully) in the near future because I really enjoyed what I read in Upgrade!
*I received a copy of Upgrade courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*