Upgrade – Blake Crouch

As an employee of the GPA (Gene Protection Agency), Logan Ramsay is tasked with tracking down and eliminating rogue gene labs that are being used to either alter human DNA or even create new species. However, when a raid goes wrong, Ramsay awakens in a hospital bed days later in unimaginable pain. Following a barrage of tests designed to determine whether Ramsay himself suffered unexpected gene-altering damage, he is given a clean bill of health.

However as weeks pass, Logan begins to notice changes in both his body and cognitive abilities. Suddenly, he can best his unbeatable daughter in chess, he can remember exact details of every conversation he’s ever had and every line of every book he’s ever read. He feels stronger and no longer has to deal with distractions while trying to concentrate. What exactly is Logan becoming?

I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Blake Crouch is easily one my favorite authors writing today, which is what makes this review especially difficult. In 2019, I read and loved his last novel Recursion, a story I still think about from time to time. I was sucked in and fascinated by the idea of traveling back through your own consciousness to live your life all over again, knowing what you know now. Sure, there was a lot of hard science in there, but the story had tragic characters and incredibly high stakes that kept me reading long into the night.

While the stakes are just as high in UPGRADE, I didn’t quite feel that connection or that urgency I had felt with RECURSION or even DARK MATTER for that matter. I think much of it came down to my general dislike for Logan and a failure to connect with him. I also felt the hard science behind the gene-altering methods often got in the way and took me out of the story far too often.

I get that you need to show Logan’s progress in his intelligence and abilities, but the more capable he became, the more insufferable and annoying he came across. I’m not sure if that was the point – maybe it was. It was like that episode of The Simpsons where the crayon from Homer’s brain is removed and he becomes annoyingly brilliant, so everyone hates him. It certainly didn’t endear Logan to me and he lost that relatable nature that likely may have had me rooting for him.

Overall this one just didn’t do it for me. Even the last third of the book – which is designed as a race-against-time action thriller – left me skimming large chunks of text, feeling a “get-it-over-with” attitude that I do not expect from a Crouch novel. I had extremely high expectations, however, as UPGRADE, unfortunately, has to exist in the shadow of two very good preceding books.

UPGRADE will be released on July 12th, 2022.

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