Blurb Book Review: Upgrade by Blake Crouch (spoilers ahead)

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I’m just blasting through books! I have a stack of five more that I want to get read before they’re due back at the library.

I’ve read two other books by this author and I must admit, this one was easier to follow even though it was science-heavy. But easy to follow doesn’t necessarily mean good.

The novel is about upgrading human DNA to improve both physical and mental aspects. The narrator’s mother was a geneticist who tried to improve crops but ended up killing around 200 million people. Genetic engineering became outlawed and the narrator, Logan, is arrested for his part in the massacre. He serves time and gets hired by a government agency intent on locating anyone participating in gene editing.

When Logan is the victim in a bombing, his genes become altered via a virus. He becomes a kind of superhuman. The government captures him and observes him to track the extent of his changes. While the changes are setting in, a mysterious figure breaks him out. This mysterious person turns out to be his sister – also upgraded – who wants to follow in their mother’s footsteps and upgrade all of humanity. He believes he must stop her at any cost.

I had no connection with the main character. I didn’t care about him at all, which made it hard to care about the story. I also found the author’s style to be a bit distracting. This novel was definitely easier to follow but I had a sense of general misogynic threads. As an example, Logan was seeing a psychologist named Aimee. Not “Dr. –“, but Aimee. Also, Logan’s wife, for no reason at all, gets into a bathtub with Logan while he’s in pain from the upgrade. Why would she do that except to have the reader imagine her naked? A regular bathtub barely fits two people, which made this whole scene just a bit distasteful.

The author also used nouns as verbs. The character ‘glassed’ the area (looked through binoculars), and ‘badged’ in (used a security badge to electronically open a door), and ‘broomed’ the area (swept it). While I can accept these, they did pull me out of the story a bit.

Overall, it was entertaining enough to finish. I was curious about how Logan would save the world, but I admit I rolled my eyes at the solution. While it was good, it was also a bit hokey.

Blurb Book Review: Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (spoilers ahead)

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This novel was a remarkably difficult read. Not for the narrative style, but for the content. Still, I was glued to it from the first page right until the end.

Some people are bred to be consumed. In the novel, this is literal. A virus made animal meat inedible so all animals were exterminated. The population still wanted meat, so the government created and monitored a process for sterile cannibalism.

In reality, the working class is bred for consumption of corporations. Celebrities are bred or curated for consumption by the masses. The only perceived value some people have is what they can offer in terms of content.

Beyond cannibalism, the novel explores how humans can sanitize the most horrific acts by using clinical language. The characters weren’t consuming people, they were consuming ‘special meat’. The group of humans entering the processing facility weren’t human, they were ‘head’ or ‘meat’.

What was truly disturbing was how fast this society adapted to this concept. The main character, Marcos, remembers animals as a child. As a young adult he worked in a meat processing facility where he learned how to handle the head and the ins and outs of the industry. Now, as a middle-aged man, he ran a processing plant for special meat.

This novel is a masterpiece in examining human attitudes and beliefs, of our societal norms, and of how easily people can be manipulated. It’s also, hands down, the most disturbing book I’ve ever read. I recommend this book to anyone who can stomach the contents.