Upgrade by Blake Crouch
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication date: July 12, 2022
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Science Fiction, Suspense
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As summer winds down, it’s time for one last hurrah of propulsive, can’t-put-down, vacation reading. For me, it was Upgrade by Blake Crouch. In the novel, Agent Logan Ramsey shares his troublesome past and the present that’s shattered his life as he knew it. It’s an unspecified time in the future and he’s on the run trying to find and stop the person who believes their idea of utopia is the only option. Even if it means re-engineering the human race.
Logan works for a federal agency tasked with stopping the spread of genetically modified species. At the group’s most recent raid he’s hit by an explosion that leaves him under quarantine in the hospital, due to the sensitive nature of their work. After flu-like symptoms he’s finally cleared to go home, but as the days and weeks pass, Logan notices changes within himself. His bones become stronger, he needs less sleep, and his mind is clearer. He feels better than he has in years, but given his family history, this is cause for concern both for Logan and his bosses.
This is due to his past or more specifically, his mother’s. Miriam Ramsey was one of the most infamous scientists ever known. While working in China to modify rice to be locust resistant, her overreach caused what came to be known as the Great Starvation. The genetic plant modifications she created put in motion a spiral of climate change, supply chain disruption and famine that led to hundreds of millions dead and the world forever changed. Disease and scarcity are now rampant across the globe.
The U.S. governmental response is the Gene Protection Agency where Logan now works. Except it seems he’s been compromised and before he can react he finds himself in a secure facility being studied because somehow, in the explosion, his body was penetrated by a virus that is altering his DNA. Upgrading him as it were.
And this is as much as I can say about Upgrade. Mostly, because even if I were the type to put spoilers in my review, I can’t even explain the cell biology/technology/science behind everything happening in this book. What I will say, is that the intricacy is not off-putting. Instead, author Crouch is a mesmerist, rapidly pulling the reader in with both the paranoia of government overreach and the allure of science being able to rewrite our DNA to be healthier, smarter, stronger…any human characteristic found in the genome. (My MS riddled brain was jumping around at that thought)
Of course, this is how the balance tips in Upgrade. One person or group of people getting to decide what are the most desirable human traits? Not a good idea and one that Logan must now try and stop, even as he himself evolves far beyond the physical and mental traits he’s been born with.
All of this comes together to make a sci-fi thriller with a mashup of elements I loved: futuristic possibilities, good vs. evil, individual rights, man’s inaction in the face of climate change, and consequences. Upgrade is smart, explosive reading of the kind that demands attention. Enjoy!
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*I received a free copy of this book from Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.*