I’ve been meaning to get back into reading Black Crouch after Wayward Pines and his new book Upgrade was a great way to do that! It’s a sci-fi thriller that brings into question the ethics and consequences of genetic manipulation to “upgrade” a person’s DNA. Crouch’s new book is fast-paced and filled with action and science lessons. A pretty quick and thought-provoking read depending on the audience.
“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?
Intimate in scale yet epic in scope, Upgrade is an intricately plotted, lightning-fast tale that charts one man’s thrilling transformation, even as it asks us to ponder the limits of our humanity—and our boundless potential.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel very attached to our main character or any character honestly. Our protagonist Logan finds himself unknowingly upgraded (which is illegal) and as a result of his upgrades, some of his senses get heightened. But he also loses what makes him human, i.e. his emotions. Understandably once you have a character become less in touch with their humanity and only focused on their mission it’s hard to feel connected to them. So rather than characters and their development compelling me to continue on, it was mostly the don’t-let-the-bad-people-win plot that forged the path onwards.
The concept of genetic engineering and creating the perfect human is not a new sci-fi theme. While it didn’t feel stale in Upgrade, it also didn’t feel particularly innovative. Clearly, Crouch took the time to explain the science. But at times I felt that maybe I needed an upgrade in order to understand it as the story progressed. I could see people who are not into sci-fi not enjoying the science lessons throughout. (Or if you are listening to it on audiobook you might not want to hear long strains of ATGTTCCCCGAT when discussing DNA sequences.) I think also a downside of the concept of upgrading the main character then makes them feel almost like a superhero. This reduces the amount of suspenseful nail-biting for the reader. How can they not succeed if they are essentially superhuman?
Upgrade by Blake Crouch was an interesting read. Innovative in the sense of twists and turns perhaps but not adding anything new to the genre of genetic engineering/manipulation. While I was not attached to any one character throughout, the plot and the wider implications intrigued me enough to want to finish the book. At times the perfect-ness of the main character through his upgrades makes him less human. This casts less doubt on his ability to succeed in his objectives. The epilogue, however, does help to assuage these concerns for character building in the book. Better late than never?