Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

Blake Crouch is not only a novelist but a screenwriter as well. His books reveal a distinctively visual effect. He raises the question: what would be the effect on the human body if man were capable of accessing the next stage in human evolution? In the book under discussion, he proposes that man’s concentration would be enormously improved, that he could multitask quicker, read faster, memorize more, sleep more deeply, and comprehend at a much deeper level.

Crouch’s hero is named Logan Ramsay. He’s beginning to feel the effects of upgrading. He’s beginning to look at the world around him in a different way; he is viewing the ones he loves most from a completely different standpoint. The legacy his mother left the world when she disappeared is an ignoble one and Logan believes this is a weakness that has left him vulnerable. When he is forced to go to war with his sister who, like his mother was prepared to sacrifice millions to foster an idea, he is forced to go to extreme lengths to bring sanity back into the world.

The book is essentially in two parts. Part 1 explains how Ramsay finds himself in trouble. It contains a great deal of pseudo-science that we are meant to read and absorb and accept as truth. It contains the theoretical underpinnings of the theory that rumbles away unannounced until Ramsay reveals it to the world. An example that can be shown in part occurs when the virus attacking Ramsay’s body is listed as

Adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine: the four chemical bases that comprise deoxyribonucleic acid.

DNA…Endless, mysterious permutations of the blueprint of all life on Earth.

I could feel the letters splashing down on my face.

I inhaled them.

A torrent of Biocode that kept changing, mutating (30).

Most readers will recognize this description as rubbish, but in a tale of fiction, it’s probably permitted. But consider:

Wow. Okay. These next few are kind of weird. EGLNI, PASI, THER, and EPOR…They support life and body function at high altitude. BHLHE41=DEC2, NPSR1 and ADRB1 (75),

what place is there in a general fiction book for this language? At the very least, its use must confine a reading public to the dedicated scientific fiction reader.

Part 2 is more reader-general. This is where the adventure part of the story holds sway. It is an exciting, adventure-style recount in which Ramsay takes on a surprising criminal. Crouch sketches out a story that is epic in concept if not in size. The author keeps rigid control and ends up producing fine, honest writing. It is a great pleasure to read.

The romantically-inclined among Crouch’s readership may become upset at the fate of Beth’s marriage. The more hardheaded among us will see that her actions were pretty much inevitable.  Her confession to her husband that she has a preference for him over her current partner is a worrying sign of concern.

Overall, a great book.

Upgrade

(2022)

By Blake Crouch

PanMacmillan

ISBN: 978-152904-536-9

$39.99; 352 pp

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