By Blake Crouch
In the book Upgrade, real meat has become extremely rare in the aftermath of the Great Starvation. As a result, most people are relegated to eating synthetic meats. In order to explore this world, grab some tortilla chips and serve your book club this Chili Con Queso dip from Impossible Foods. It has the added bonus of allowing friends who have never tried synthetic meat to take it for a spin. Click here to view the recipe from Impossible Beef.
When was the last time you felt the need to atone for your actions?
Guilt and atonement are Logan Ramsey’s guiding principles in Blake Crouch’s new book, Upgrade. Logan is the son of famous geneticist Miriam Ramsey, who developed a DNA-modifying system named Scythe. Miriam was a once-in-a-generation genius who was heralded for her breakthroughs in the field of genetics. Surrounded by the world’s best scientists, Miriam allows young Logan to join her research team. Logan is clearly outmatched in mental acuity, but his mother allows him to hang around anyway as the team experiments on the DNA of mosquitos. Unfortunately, their research leads to the destruction of most of the world’s rice crops, causing global unrest and a time period that will be known in history as “The Great Starvation.” Around 200 million people die worldwide, and Miriam’s team, including Logan, are sentenced to prison time. Miriam drives her car off a cliff before getting arrested.
Once he gets out, Logan begins working at the Gene Protection Agency, a government organization formed after the Great Starvation to take down illegal genetic labs. Scythe is now illegal, and Logan works on the team that finds and destroys people trying to use it. He HATES his work, but he’s driven by guilt and the blood of 200 million people to continue it.
During a raid one day, a bomb explodes and impails him with icicle darts. Within a few weeks, he starts noticing changes in his body. He doesn’t need to sleep as long. He has amazing endurance. He can remember every single thing that ever happened to him. He can remember every single word he ever read. After a while, Logan can no longer ignore these new skills, so he asks his doctor to test him for changes to his genome. The GPA seizes the results and arrests Logan for suspicion of self-altering his genes to “upgrade” his own system, a practice that is highly illegal.
While in jail, the GPA realizes how amazingly upgraded Logan is. Before long, he realizes that the GPA isn’t going to release him, even though they believe that he didn’t alter is own DNA. One day, a woman enters the facility with guns blazing and rescues him. Logan is amazed to find his sister, Kara, behind the mask. Kara has also had her DNA altered. As Logan starts analyzing his own genetic code with his now-superior intellect, he finds a message hidden lying in his DNA. That message leads to the discovery of a video from his mother. In it, she explains that she has left her research and vials of the upgrade formula that she used on Kara and Logan. She thinks that humanity is doomed to destroy themselves, and the only way to save the Earth is to upgrade all humans to create a “new” species of homo sapiens. Then, they can band together to solve global warming, world hunger, and all the other messes they have created. Kara immediately wants to enact her mother’s plan. Logan, who had a front-row seat to the Great Starvation and killed 200 million people, does not. With humanity in the balance, Kara and Logan immediately become deadly enemies.
Upgrade is the latest sci-fi thriller from Blake Crouch, and it did not disappoint. However, I don’t think it left me on the edge of my seat like Dark Matter and Recursion did. It included more scientific facts than previous books, which will either attract you or serve as a drawback depending on your taste. Genetics can be a confusing subject, so I found the extra details to be helpful.
It was interesting to consider the ramifications of gene therapy if its usage was more wide-spread. In fact, my favorite part of this book was discussing the ethical dilemmas with my husband. If given the chance, should we modify people’s DNA? If something goes wrong, should the practice be banned in its entirety? Is the death of a significant portion of the population worth saving the entire planet? Who gets to have these conversations, and why do they get to decide?
If you are a Blake Crouch fan, Upgrade is a solid pick for your bookshelf. It has the potential to draw in non-science fiction fans. Plus, who wouldn’t want an upgrade so they could get through their TBR pile sometime this century?
My Rating System Explained 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: This was an amazing book, and I can't stop thinking about it. It impacted me emotionally or changed my perspective. My thoughts keep flickering back to it at random times throughout the day. I will absolutely recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs. 4 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: This was a really good book. Parts of it stuck with me, and I might mention it in a conversation. There is a high likelihood that I will recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs. 3 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️: I liked this book. It allowed me to escape from reality for a while. While I might tell somebody about it if I think it will interest them, I will probably not suggest it to one of my book clubs. 2 Stars ⭐️⭐️: There's something about this book that I didn't like. I wasn't willing to go all the way down to a one-star rating, but I'm definitely not digging it. I may recognize that this book is not for me, but it might be for other people. I will not recommend it to my friends or one of my book clubs. 1 Star ⭐️: My rarest rating. I really didn't like this book. Something in the story line upset me, and I probably "hate-read" the majority of the book. Not only will I not recommend it, but I will actively tell people that I did not like it.