Gabino Iglesias reviews Blake Crouch’s Upgrade – Locus Online

Gets betterBlake Crouch (Ballantine 978-0-59315-753-4, $28.00, 352pp, hc) July 2022. Cover by Chris Brand.

by Blake Crouch Gets better it’s a wildly entertaining narrative that reveals its changing nature as the story progresses. It begins as the sad story of a man trying to rebuild his life, quickly turns into the story of an attempt to save the world from something that could end up killing a large part of humanity, and finally transforms into a narrative that explores the importance of empathy. and discusses how the end of our species as we know it is imminent, unless we do something to stop it.

Logan Ramsay carries with him a heavy past. His mother, the most brilliant geneticist in history, accidentally killed 200 million people while she was trying to save crops using genetically modified locusts. Logan was involved, and had a hard time over his involvement in his mother’s project shortly after she was killed in a car accident. He is now busy working for the government, making sure things like that don’t happen again. In one of his raids, he walks into a basement facility and contaminates himself with something, despite wearing a hazmat suit, and spends time in quarantine as doctors of all stripes try to figure out what might have been injected into him. his system. Despite his fears, Logan soon makes a full recovery and is released from the hospital. Logan feels fine, but something has changed. He now concentrates much better and can read books in one night that used to be a challenge. He processes thoughts faster, beats his daughter at chess when that hadn’t happened in a long time, and can remember things he read years before with incredible clarity. Then things get even weirder and Logan can memorize entire books, recall conversations from years ago, and do difficult calculations in a second. Also, his body is changing. Logan is becoming a much better human being. He soon finds out why: his genome has been hacked. Logan has undergone genetic enhancement that is rapidly making him superhuman, but why? As soon as the government finds out, Logan is locked up in a research facility, where he finds out what happens to his brain and body. As his understanding of him grows, one thing becomes clear to Logan: he needs to get out. Once he accomplishes that, with some surprising help, the correlation between what is happening to him and his past becomes clearer, and with it comes the realization that his genetic enhancement is just the first step in a plan that could decimate mankind, and that he is the only one smart enough to foil that plan.

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That’s a long synopsis, but it only scratches the surface of this novel. For example, it doesn’t mention the science behind Logan’s changes, all of which were meticulously researched and explained in the narrative in a very clever and scientific way, but also easy to understand. Likewise, the way Crouch takes readers into Logan’s shifting brain is excellent. Readers can follow the journey as Logan becomes the smartest person ever, and it’s a very engaging journey.

There are many items in Gets better that deserve discussion. However, there are two that occupy the top of the list. The first is the way the narrative turns into empathy. This is a techno-thriller full of fights, bullets, high-speed chases, genetic mutations and explosions, but it’s also a story about the things that make us human and how we need to feel more empathy for others because of the horrible state of the world. it has made us insensitive to death and suffering.

The second thing that deserves a moment of attention is the way Crouch seamlessly weaves together a narrative using some of the best elements from various genres. This is a near-future sci-fi novel that has a lot of science in it, but also has bits of it that read like a literary novel about family drama, grief, and loss. And that’s just the beginning: there are also elements of thrillers, road novels, military science fiction and a dash of philosophy. Despite the variety of elements that Crouch brings to the table, there is a fundamental question at the center of Gets betterand it’s something worth asking, and one that will haunt readers long after they’ve turned the last page: What if the only way to protect humanity is to use what we know to hack into our genetic code and force us to become a better, more intelligent and more empathic species?

Gets better it’s easy to devour and complex, very clever but also very readable. This is a novel about big ideas that has been genetically engineered to have the body of an action-packed techno-thriller but the soul of a philosophical narrative about the fate of humanity in the face of what we have done to ourselves and the planet. . . There’s a reason Crouch is a household name, and this novel shows him at the top of his game.

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Intimate in scale but epic in scope, Gets better is a fast-paced, intricately plotted story that charts one man’s exciting transformation, even as it asks us to reflect on the limits of our humanity and limitless potential.


Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, teacher, and book critic who lives in Austin TX. He is the author of zero saints Y coyote songs and the editor of Both sides. His work has been nominated for the Bram Stoker and Locus Awards and won the Wonderland Book Award for Best Novel in 2019. His short stories have appeared in a host of anthologies and his non-fiction has appeared in the New York Timesthe Los Angeles TimesY CrimeReads. Her work has been published in five languages, selected for film, and praised by authors as diverse as Roxane Gay, David Joy, Jerry Stahl, and Meg Gardiner. Reviews of him appear regularly on places like NPR, weekly editorsthe San Francisco Chronicle, criminal element, mystery tribune, vol. 1Brooklynthe Los Angeles Book Reviewand other places in print and online. He has served as a judge for the Shirley Jackson Awards twice and has been a judge for the PANK Big Book Competition, the Splatterpunk Awards and the Newfound Prose Award. He teaches creative writing in the online MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. You can find him on Twitter at @gabino_iglesias.


This review and others like it in the August 2022 issue of Place.

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