Upgrade – Blake Crouch

“You can stop splitting the atom; you can stop visiting the Moon; you can stop using aerosols; you may even decide not to kill entire populations by the use of a few bombs.

In the not-too-distant future, gene editing techniques have been perfected. But while most have only good intentions, sometimes they can go wrong – disastrously wrong. After an attempt to blight-proof the world’s rice crops, a global starvation event instead sees gene editing made very, very illegal.

Bring forth our main character, Logan Ramsay, who has a lot of guilt around the past, and now works for the government agency responsible for cracking down on any gene-altering activity and research. It’s an uncomfortable role: is a former geneticist trying to make a new career for himself as a biology teacher really a threat? And are all the powers the GPA (Gene Protection Agency) has given itself going more than a little too far?

But then, sent out on a raid on an illegal lab, Logan instead walks into a trap – a genome bomb kind of a trap. Pierced with fragments of ice, he at first seems okay bar a few broken ribs. Until, that is, he starts getting smarter. And stronger, faster, and just… better. But if someone wants to roll out his ‘upgrade’ to the rest of humanity, they might be dooming rather than saving the planet. So can Logan evade his former bosses and track down those responsible before it’s too late?

Blake Crouch is a name I’ve seen a lot over the years, attached to titles with highly intriguing buzzlines. I’ve been meaning to try some of his work for years, and finally here I am. So?

To be honest, I was a little under awed, although not in a terrible way. Sometimes grand ideas don’t translate to story; here he does deliver, but in a rather shallow, airport thriller kind of a way. I’ve described this book to many as a ‘tech sci-fi Da Vinci Code’ – the DVC link being the pacing, highly gripping but ultimately rather superficial kind of story telling.

That’s not to say I don’t recommend it: there is a lot of place for non-deep, quick and relatively easy reads. In other hands we could have got utterly bogged down in all the motives; here it’s just ‘keep moving and people will accept it especially if we throw a bunch of cool-sounding tech at them’. And so it is.

Overall: no regrets at having read it, I’ll give the author’s work another go happily enough, but had gone in expected more than an action thriller airport novel, all pace and cool core idea, but fair from sophisticated or elegantly written. But hey, based on the success of DVC, chances are this will appeal a whole lot more to a large swathe of readers.

Upgrade book coverNetGalley eARC: 352 pages / 16 chapters
First published: 7th July 2022
Series: none
Read from 10th-27th June 2022

My rating: 6/10

3 thoughts on “Upgrade – Blake Crouch

  1. I’m finishing this up today, and to be honest it’s my least favorite of Crouch’s books, so your review is right on the mark. Both Recursion and Dark Matter are much better and more carefully written and plotted, IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

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