"Upgrade" by Blake Crouch

Review by Borodutch

I'm not going to lie; for the longest time, I thought this book was the basis for the movie of the same title from 2018. However, then I noticed that the book was published in 2022! Without the fear of re-reading the same plot as I've seen on the big screen (looking at you, Expanse), I dove into the next book by Crouch.

Blake, sorry, but just like with Asimov, I got tired of your novels. Nothing's wrong with them; they are brilliant! It's me being all too familiar with the way the action is taking place and needing to switch to a different narration style. However, I do have a few things that I'd like to note that I didn't like in the Upgrade first.

The narration this time is too linear (compared to Recursion or Dark Matter) — maybe so that the novel can be better adapted for the big screen, but I have a feeling that Blake did it not to overcomplicate the hard-ish sci-fi we have here. Or maybe there is another, more straightforward reason for this. Anyway, I felt less of a mystery this time and more of a "here's cool sci-fi crap, oh here's some more, and this issue? We'll solve it with more sci-fi!"

Gene editing is a fantastic concept, and Blake chose it as the central story arch. I also enjoyed reading about how the author considers the not-so-distant future of the mid-21st century. Some of the predictions were very cringy, though — like using hyperloop or rockets as the primary mode of inter-city transportation. No, this probably won't happen anytime soon — or simply anytime, period.

I have to give it to Blake, though — the book's action keeps you tense throughout the journey. Action sequences are virtually neverending — even though they might be considered quite basic from the high level.

When I started reading Upgrade, I got a bizarre feeling — I can see that Crouch's works are inspired by all the same influences I had growing up. Is this how the 80-s kids feel when reading "Ready Player One?" Less so in the Upgrade but in the previous books I've read by the author.

But there is nothing wrong with being influenced by pop culture. In fact, I think this is one reason why I would suggest consuming everything Blake writes. It's a journey as good as Asimov's Foundation — with the ever-so-relatable style of simple humans getting into superhuman situations.