Today I have reviews for two very different books. One is a science fiction thriller that reads like an action thriller movie and the other is a fictional account of a group of people who live in and around LA. I must say I’m not much for the action genre of movies, so, while I appreciated the writing and science that felt accessible to me (or otherwise ignorable), it just wasn’t my cup of tea, and I’m unlikely to pick up more of Crouch’s books. But I do love slice of life stories, and I got a few laughs out of reading about the crazy things people in Southern California do in the second book. Several years ago, my family and I were in heavy traffic…because two women were duking it out in a car stopped in the middle of the freeway. I wish I were exaggerating.
Anyways, enjoy a couple of much shorter reviews.
Upgrade by Blake Crouch
Title: Upgrade | Author: Blake Crouch | Publisher: Ballantine Books | Publication date: July 12, 2022 | Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction
“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?
Intimate in scale yet epic in scope, Upgrade is an intricately plotted, lightning-fast tale that charts one man’s thrilling transformation, even as it asks us to ponder the limits of our humanity—and our boundless potential.
Description and purchase link(s)
One Sentence Summary: When Logan, whose job it is to prevent people from playing around with gene editing, has his genome edited and upgraded, he ends up on the run from his former employer and on a mission to prevent his own sister from potentially killing millions.
I’ve read a lot of really good reviews of Crouch’s other books so, when I saw this on NetGalley, I figured why not give it a shot. I expected a science heavy, fast-paced thriller, and that’s exactly what I got. This book reads like an action thriller movie, which is not my favored movie genre. I enjoyed how clear and concise the writing was and appreciated how the science was packaged so it was understandable, but also not strictly necessary to be understood to enjoy this novel, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea.
Upgrade is a fast-paced story that keeps moving, though there is a huge time leap that both made sense and felt very curious to me. I enjoyed the sibling vs. sibling story, but their relationship, and every other relationship Logan had, even with his own wife and daughter, felt very devoid of any real depth and emotion. The idea of the upgrade was fascinating and I loved how there were limitations, but it made Logan feel more like machine than man. What I did really like was the setting. It’s set in a future where climate change has a serious hold on us. There are some fascinating technological advancements as well, but I was most interested in how the world changed. I did wish for more of an impact, but it was nice that this future acknowledged changes that feel quite inevitable now.
My biggest issue, though, was the story being separated into two parts with a huge time jump between them. It meant I had no real idea what this book was supposed to be about until about halfway through, and then it just kept moving so fast I felt like I was getting whiplash. The first part majorly set up Logan and his relationships and problems, and then the second half felt like it ditched a lot of things in favor of moving like an action adventure thriller movie. All action, no depth. But at least it was a quick read.
Rating: 3 stars
Revolution by David Dorrough
Title: Revolution | Author: David Dorrough | Publisher: Self-published | Publication date: March 22, 2022 | Genre: Fiction, Slice of Life
We all know it’s not easy being a 21st century middle-aged, well-educated American with a decent job, no major health issues, no legal or financial problems, and plenty of family and friends. But most of us are pretty short on details. What exactly are the day-to-day challenges, not to mention the innermost mental and emotional processes, of folks struggling through this existence?
REVOLUTION attempts to illuminate these mysteries, and many more as well, by delving deeply into the lives of several such people. Join them as they laugh, cry, love, and hate. Share in their sweet triumphs and their devastating failures. Ride along with them as they courageously press onward, learning and growing, facing immense obstacles, rising up, finding a way, charting a course, chasing their dreams… all against the magnificent, paradise-like backdrop of Los Angeles, California.
One Sentence Summary: Revolution revolves around a middle-aged couple in West LA and the people they’re related to, work with, reside near, are friends with, and just generally know.
Revolution is a slice of life style story that revolves around a middle-aged couple who live on the west side of LA. I adore slice of life stories and enjoy stories set in LA just enough. This novel had me laughing and giggling at the very hilariously stupid and simultaneously fairly accurate portrayal of the people. As I was born and raised in the LA area, I found the setting to be highly entertaining and appreciated the peek into the lives of all the people I live around. At the same time, as much as I loved the setting and the characters, I did find the story itself to be overly long. At over 500 pages, this is quite a hefty story and eventually became a bit cumbersome to read through.
The setting and the characters is where Revolution shines. It very much made me feel like I was in and around LA. The characters were all unique and fascinating, though I did feel like far too many of them were of the same lazy sort and I would have loved to see a bit more variety. The characters we really get to know, though, were a lot of fun and I loved how they all felt real. I was really impressed with the way Dorrough handled that number of characters with their many subplots and personalities. They were so consistent and fit in so well with what I know of Angelenos in general that I felt they could be real.
But Revolution did feel far too long. There are numerous subplots and every character had their own story they were following over the course of the year this book documents. I liked that they all reached some kind of conclusion by the end, but I never really felt like any of them experienced any change, and some of them just felt like they vanished a little. The only ones who didn’t seem to have a story of their own was the couple Revolution is centered around: Bill and Yvonne Smede. I liked them. They were very low-key and as functional and dysfunctional as many couples who have been together can be. Their interactions with all the other characters was a lot of fun and really made them feel like they were the normal ones in this sea of varying and amusing personalities. All the side stories, though, while I loved how they wove around each other and seemed expertly braided together, just made the book too long.
Rating: 4 stars
Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for review copies. All opinions expressed are my own.
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