Review | Upgrade by Blake Crouch

A solid sci-fi thriller with a side order of existential philosophy. 4/5.

Upgrade by Blake Crouch book cover
The blurb: “You are the next step in human evolution.”

At first, Logan Ramsay isn’t sure if anything’s different. He just feels a little . . . sharper. Better able to concentrate. Better at multitasking. Reading a bit faster, memorizing better, needing less sleep. But before long, he can’t deny it: Something’s happening to his brain. To his body. He’s starting to see the world, and those around him—even those he loves most—in whole new ways.

The truth is, Logan’s genome has been hacked. And there’s a reason he’s been targeted for this upgrade. A reason that goes back decades to the darkest part of his past, and a horrific family legacy. Worse still, what’s happening to him is just the first step in a much larger plan, one that will inflict the same changes on humanity at large—at a terrifying cost.

Because of his new abilities, Logan’s the one person in the world capable of stopping what’s been set in motion. But to have a chance at winning this war, he’ll have to become something other than himself. Maybe even something other than human. And even as he’s fighting, he can’t help wondering: what if humanity’s only hope for a future really does lie in engineering our own evolution?

My take:

I cannot believe it has been SIX YEARS since I read and reviewed Dark Matter by Blake Crouch! I really enjoyed that book but haven’t had the chance to read his subsequent novels, so I jumped at the chance to read Upgrade.

I didn’t enjoy Upgrade quite as much as Dark Matter. That said, it’s a very good sci-fi thriller which mostly moves along at a cracking pace with only occasional slower moments. It also has plenty of twists and turns, a few surprises and a couple of blood-chilling moments. All the genetics is impressively well-researched, detailed and well-explained for those of us who aren’t experts.

I also liked the exploration of what it is to be human, why our species may be doomed and what could be done to prevent our extinction. The epilogue, in particular, contained a really interesting idea about what needs to be done to ensure the survivial of the human race (no spoilers!).

I’ve thought a lot about why I wasn’t as gripped by this story as I was by Dark Matter, and I think it comes down to character. As the main character, Logan, becomes super-human, he does start to feel more distant and consequently, for me, less sympathetic. Perhaps more time could have been given to establishing his character and family relationships before he is exposed to the virus which changes his DNA, so I felt a greater connection to him.

Also, I kept thinking about The Martian. Both Upgrade and Andy Weir’s book are concerned with heroes fighting for survival against huge odds who give us lengthy scientific explanations that I can’t claim I understood all of. However, I loved The Martian because its protagonist – Mark Watney – never loses his sense of humor, even in the most dire of situations. In contrast, Upgrade is entirely devoid of light-hearted moments and Logan starts out serious only to become downright devoid of a sense of humor as the story progresses. Another feature which makes it hard to warm to him or care about his fate.

Overall: a solid, mostly gripping (if a little po-faced,) sci-fi thriller.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul


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