Written By: Blake Crouch
Published By: Ballantine Books
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
I am a very fast reader and love reading new and exciting books from authors I haven’t sampled before. Recently, I was offered an opportunity to review a science fiction novel by Blake Crouch called Upgrade. I wasn’t entirely certain what it was about, but I knew it involved fiddling around with the human genome to create a “better” human. Based on the goings on in the world today, I was definitely interested in reading this book.
Upgrade takes place in a future Earth in which the science of genetic engineering is considered dangerous thanks to past mistakes that have led to planetary devastation. Logan Ramsay knows all about it firsthand – he was involved in his mother’s genetic engineering experiment that was designed to save the world’s grains but ended up destroying them instead. Years later, Logan is now a member of a law enforcement agency that hunts down scientists performing illegal genetic engineering experiments as penance for his mother’s deeds.
While on one such hunt for illegal genetic scientist activity, Logan is ambushed. When he comes to, he discovers that he has changed – his cognitive functions have been heightened and his healing powers have increased exponentially. It isn’t long before Logan realizes that his genome has been hacked, but to what end? Logan soon learns that his genetic upgrade has something to do with his mother’s legacy. What’s worse – his upgrade is just the start of something big she had planned for the fate of humanity. Should Logan intervene and prevent the evolution that is about to take place, or should he just lay back and enjoy the ride?
As with a great many science fiction novels I have read in the past, Upgrade deals with the ethics of genetic engineering and the arrogance of humans. This book is a tad different though based on the time in which it has been published. This is an Earth that has endured COVID-19 and the various theories surrounding the virus. At one point, it was thought that COVID-19 was genetically engineered, and this has yet to be proven or disproven. We are living in a world where scientists are viewed with skepticism and distrust and Blake Crouch perfectly incorporates this all in his book. He also does a great job displaying the arrogance that some higher intellects have – generally believing that they are the only ones with the right answers – that nurtures the skepticism and distrust in average citizens.
Upgrade is an intelligent reader’s novel. There are some complex ideas at play in this book and some readers might get lost in all of the genome, RNA, DNA, etc. talk if they are not up on the latest in genetic science. That being said, there is great deal of action and intrigue to be had as well thanks to Logan’s law enforcement background, his sister’s military background and the unknown factor behind the upgrade. No one can be trusted and everyone is a potential enemy until the final moments of the book.
I was left on the edge of my seat while Logan hunted down who was behind his upgrade and then tried to stop the upgrade from spreading. You just never knew who was willing to go along with the conspiracy or what kind of new dangers Logan would find himself in while trying to level the playing field. I read this book in a matter of a couple of days and loved every minute of it – perfect testimony to the exciting and descriptive writing style and storyline created by Blake Crouch. Upgrade was definitely a fun read!