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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Upgrade by Blake Crouch (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Order “Upgrade” HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Pines" by Blake Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Eerie” by Blake and Jordan Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Run” by Blake Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Serial Killers Uncut” by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Wayward" by Blake Crouch
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Interview with Blake Crouch (2011)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Blake Crouch was born in Statesville, North Carolina and graduated in 2000 with degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina. He has written four previous novels and a host of short stories. Two of his stories have been optioned for film adaptation. Blake currently lives in Durango, Colorado with his wife.

OFFICIAL BLURB: “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?

FORMAT/INFO: Upgrade is 352 pages long divided over three parts with fifteen chapters an epilogue. Narration is in the first-person via Logan Ramsay.

July 12, 2022 marks the Hardcover and e-book publication of Recursion via Ballantine Books.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Blake Crouch is an author with a lot to prove and in the last seven years with his SF thriller turn. He’s risen to hitherto new heights than from his horror-thriller days. As a fan from the advent of his self-publishing time, it is heartening to see this talented writer. After the amazing story in Recursion, I was thrilled when Upgrade was announced and here we are.

Upgrade begins in the near future where gene editing is outlawed around the world due to an incident in China called the Shenzhen Famine. The Gene Protection Agency (GPA) is a federal agency that hunts down people who commit illegal gene editing procedures. Logan Ramsey is our narrator through whom the story unfolds and to whom the most changes occur.

Logan Ramsay is a federal agent haunted by his past mistakes and along with his partner Nadine is forever trying to right his wrongs. On a recent case, where there’s a surprise break, a chance misencounter leads to an accident that leaves Logan in an ICU counting down his last days. Things however surprisingly take a turn for the better as Logan finds himself to be safe and free of any mishaps. That’s where the story begins and it’s from there onwards the thriller goes into hyperdrive.

After Recursion & Dark Matter, Upgrade is another high concept thriller from Blake’s brilliant mind and it is one hell of a thrill ride. I don’t know if the readers remember a movie called The Lawnmower Man, it was a Sci-fi thriller and it very much reminded me of this story. I must make it clear that there is no overlap between these two stories but the premise is similar in footing. Blake Crouch is a master in setting up a story and it’s very evident here as slowly the layers around Logan Ramsay & his past get peeled. I think this aspect of the story will be very much enjoyed by the readers.

Another plus point of the story is that the pace is very streamline and also the plot twists are plotted solidly. We come to a point near the first 15%, which is very similar to the Matrix wherein Neo (Thomas Anderson) is caught at his day job. There’s a similar turn within the book and it’s from that point onwards as the plot pace and twists get intertwined significantly and the story races to its exhilarating climax.

This first person narration is a very new addition to Blake Crouch literary arsenal and here it works solidly as slowly and surely the readers get to know Logan and his past. The narrative aspect also focusses the story on an intimate level for the readers and we get to feel all the highs & lows that Logan experiences in his entire journey within the story. All the betrayals, all the emotion and especially his abundant love for his family. This was a strength of the book that was very evident thanks to its first person narrative solely.

Now if I have one complaint about this book and it is a major one. It is that the story is very predictable one. Considering a writer of Blake caliber, I think this perception is due to the high expectations I have thanks to his previous amazing works. For me, this book while being solidly written, I didn’t enjoy as much because I could predict about 90% of the twists. I don’t know about the other readers but for me, this lessened the thrill to a considerable degree. Lastly I know we do not get a POV from the “villains” of the story but I honestly feel that a POV turn from them could have heightened the tension & betrayal felt by our protagonist. These were the two major factors that perhaps made this book a three star read for me but of course this is very subjective. Lastly I must point out in this era of fantastical covers, the cover for Upgrade is very staid.

CONCLUSION: Upgrade is another high-concept SF thriller that one can say shares some mutual SF DNA from the Lawnmower Man but takes a life of its own. In Blake Crouch’s fantastical literary hands, this story is a thrill ride that will enthrall many a reader. For me while there were some shortcomings, it still didn’t detract from the brilliance of the concept. I can’t wait to see where Blake Crouch goes next as in my mind, he’s the new Michael Crichton & the only way to go is upwards.



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