Blake Crouch is an automatic-buy-and-read- new-material author for me. His last novel, Recursion, is among my favorite books of all time. So of course, I was excited to read his most recent offering, Upgrade.

Going in, I knew I had to temper my expectations. I knew there was pretty much zero way that the new novel would best Recursion. It is a high bar and so I went into Upgrade just wanting to enjoy the ride. And enjoy it I did!

Upgrade is set in a near future world where genetic altering is illegal and a government agency chases down and imprisons scientists. Our protagonist is an agent for this government agency, but things go awry when he unexpectedly receives an “upgrade.” His body becomes stronger, his mind becomes sharper. And he becomes a wanted man.

This novel reminded me less of Recursion and Dark Matter and more of Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy. It’s a hybrid sci-fi/thriller that leans heavily into the thriller side. It is a fast paced chase of a novel. This is not to say, though, that the science pieces are given short shrift. The amount of research that went into the science of this novel shows, and Crouch deftly explains the heady science in an understandable way.

But the thing that makes me love Crouch (and any good sci-fi really) is philosophy. I want my sci-fi to ask philosophical questions. Whether it’s about the nature of memory, or the nature of mankind, I love science fiction that speaks to bigger philosophical questions. And this book does that. Embedded in this thriller are questions about what makes us human, and what is the key to saving ourselves from a demise of our own making. Is the philosophy quite as front and center as it is in Dark Matter or Recursion? Not really. But it is there enough that the thriller has substance.

Bottom line: not my favorite Crouch, but that’s a high bar. I liked this book a lot and definitely recommend it to anyone that enjoys fast paced science fiction.

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