Upgrade [a review]
I don't know what else to say other than that Blake Crouch has got it. I got introduced to him a couple years ago with Dark Matter and Recursion (both of which are excellent sci-fi) and when I heard about Upgrade I knew I would need to drop everything and binge my way through it. One of the things I loved about both Dark Matter and Recursion is that while they're both just plain exhilarating stories, Crouch also probes at the ethical dilemmas at the edges of science. If the multiverse is real and we were able to travel between universes, should we? If time travel were possible, should we? In his latest novel Crouch asks a similar question: if we could hack our own genetic code, should we?
It's tempting when addressing ethical questions through fiction to take a preachy tone, but Crouch mostly avoids that trap by playing out the scenario in all its gritty details. Upgrade follows the path of Logan Ramsay, a government agent in the near future tasked with tracking down black hat genetic hackers. Then in a raid gone wrong, he himself is infected with a gene-modifying material and finds himself turning into something no longer quite human.
A story like this could easily devolve into another boring Marvel-esque superhero who has to follow the hero's journey to take down the latest bigger badder villain. There is a little bit of that vibe to be certain, and I'm not against a good action sequence, but the thing that sung to me about the book was its meditations on the pros and cons of meddling with nature. Would we finally be able to solve climate change, war, and famine if we just upgraded human beings to be a little smarter? On the other hand, what are the unintended, unforeseen consequences we might run into? What are the terrible costs we have to pay for all our good intentions? Upgrade is an extended, action-packed meditation on these deep questions and I highly recommend it.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.