Upgrade
by Crouch, Blake






When his DNA is rewritten with a genetic-engineering breakthrough beyond anything the world has seen, Logan Ramsey finds his transformation threatening everything around him as he is forced to take sides in a fight to save humankind.





Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. His novels include Recursion, Dark Matter, and the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted into a television series for FOX. Crouch also co-created the TNT show Good Behavior, based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He lives in Colorado.





Logan Ramsey's mother, Miriam, was a brilliant scientist who changed the world. Unfortunately, not for the better. Her DNA research and rogue attempt to modify crops via virus mutations led to The Great Starvation and the death of millions. It also led to the creation of the Gene Protection Agency, where Logan now works as a special agent. When a raid on an illegal gene lab goes wrong, Logan finds himself intentionally modified: exposed to a virus that enhances his mental and physical capabilities, turning him into a super-human. Was this his mother's plan all along, to create a new species of humans? Crouch's latest mind-bending thriller is well-paced, and his characters are realistic and interesting. While there is a bit of science jargon, it fits in perfectly with the action and won't bog down readers unfamiliar with DNA technology. This is an excellent follow-up to Crouch's other dark-science novels, Dark Matter (2016) and Recursion (2019), and will appeal to readers interested in climate fiction or superhero origin stories, as well as those who enjoy smart thrillers. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.





Logan Ramsey's mother, Miriam, was a brilliant scientist who changed the world. Unfortunately, not for the better. Her DNA research and rogue attempt to modify crops via virus mutations led to The Great Starvation and the death of millions. It also led to the creation of the Gene Protection Agency, where Logan now works as a special agent. When a raid on an illegal gene lab goes wrong, Logan finds himself intentionally modified: exposed to a virus that enhances his mental and physical capabilities, turning him into a super-human. Was this his mother's plan all along, to create a new species of humans? Crouch's latest mind-bending thriller is well-paced, and his characters are realistic and interesting. While there is a bit of science jargon, it fits in perfectly with the action and won't bog down readers unfamiliar with DNA technology. This is an excellent follow-up to Crouch's other dark-science novels, Dark Matter (2016) and Recursion (2019), and will appeal to readers interested in climate fiction or superhero origin stories, as well as those who enjoy smart thrillers. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.





When a government agent is exposed to a virus that modifies his genetic code, he must consider whether to share these enhancements with the world or eradicate the virus. Logan Ramsay works for the Gene Protection Agency in a world where genetic modification has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem. His mother, a brilliant scientist, was responsible for the "Great Starvation" nearly two decades before, when she tried to improve the resistance of a rice plant to a particular virus and instead devastated the world's rice supply. Two hundred million people died, and Logan went to prison for his role in the catastrophe; his mother took her own life. Now he investigates and takes down people who are running "dark gene lab[s]" and otherwise seeking to change the human genome. During a raid, Logan is exposed to a virus, and while the initial side effects seem to ease after a few days, he soon begins to notice unusual things: the fact that he can read incredibly complex books in just a few hours and retain all of the information; the fact that he can beat his daughter in chess, which hasn't happened for years; the way he can remember every moment of his life in perfect detail. Government agents lock him up and run test after test as Logan becomes stronger and more intelligent by the day. It is revealed that, before her death, Logan's mother promised to release "a viral gene drive" that would offer a "significant upgrade" to the human species. When someone arrives to break him out of the containment facility, Logan will be forced to make a decision: allow the genetic upgrade to spread through the human species, even though a certain percentage of the population will die horrible deaths, or destroy the virus. High-octane action, some moral complexity, and a surprisingly emotional ending elevate this novel. Recommended-even for reluctant science fiction readers. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





When a government agent is exposed to a virus that modifies his genetic code, he must consider whether to share these enhancements with the world or eradicate the virus. Logan Ramsay works for the Gene Protection Agency in a world where genetic modification has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem. His mother, a brilliant scientist, was responsible for the "Great Starvation" nearly two decades before, when she tried to improve the resistance of a rice plant to a particular virus and instead devastated the world's rice supply. Two hundred million people died, and Logan went to prison for his role in the catastrophe; his mother took her own life. Now he investigates and takes down people who are running "dark gene lab[s]" and otherwise seeking to change the human genome. During a raid, Logan is exposed to a virus, and while the initial side effects seem to ease after a few days, he soon begins to notice unusual things: the fact that he can read incredibly complex books in just a few hours and retain all of the information; the fact that he can beat his daughter in chess, which hasn't happened for years; the way he can remember every moment of his life in perfect detail. Government agents lock him up and run test after test as Logan becomes stronger and more intelligent by the day. It is revealed that, before her death, Logan's mother promised to release "a viral gene drive" that would offer a "significant upgrade" to the human species. When someone arrives to break him out of the containment facility, Logan will be forced to make a decision: allow the genetic upgrade to spread through the human species, even though a certain percentage of the population will die horrible deaths, or destroy the virus. High-octane action, some moral complexity, and a surprisingly emotional ending elevate this novel. Recommended-even for reluctant science fiction readers. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





1

We found Henrik Soren at a wine bar in the international terminal, thirty minutes from boarding a hyperjet to Tokyo.

Before tonight, I had only seen him in INTERPOL photographs and CCTV footage. In the flesh, he was less impressive-­five and a half feet in his artificially distressed Saint Laurent sneakers with a designer hoodie hiding most of his face. He was sitting at the end of the bar with a book and a bottle of Krug.

I commandeered the stool beside him and set my badge between us. It bore the insignia of a bald eagle whose wings enveloped the double helix of a DNA molecule. For a long moment, nothing happened. I wasn't even sure he'd seen it gleaming under the hanging globe lights, but then he turned his head and looked at me.

I flashed a smile.

He closed his book. If he was nervous, he didn't show it. Just stared at me through Scandinavian blue eyes.

"Hi, Henrik," I said. "I'm Agent Ramsay. I work for the GPA."

"What am I supposed to have done?"

He was born thirty-­three years ago in Oslo but had been educated in London, where his mother was a diplomat. I could hear that city around the edges of his voice.

"Why don't we talk about that somewhere else?"

The bartender was watching us now, having clocked my badge. Probably worried about getting the bill paid.

"My flight's about to board," Soren said.

"You aren't going to Tokyo. Not tonight."

The muscles in his jaw tightened and something flickered in his eyes. He tucked his chin-­length blond hair behind his ears and glanced around the wine bar. And then beyond it, at the travelers moving through the concourse.

"See the woman sitting at the high-­top behind us?" I asked. "Long blond hair. Navy windbreaker. That's my partner, Agent Nettmann. Airport police are waiting in the wings. Look, I can drag you out of here or you can walk out under your own steam. It's your call, but you have to decide right now."

I didn't think he'd run. Soren had to know the impossible odds of eluding capture in an airport crawling with security and surveillance. But desperate people do desperate things.

He looked around once more, then back at me. With a sigh, he polished off his glass of champagne and lifted his satchel from the floor.

We drove back into the city, with Nadine Nettmann behind the wheel of the modified company Edison and I-­70 virtually empty at this hour of the night.

Soren had been installed behind the passenger seat with his wrists zip-­tied behind his back. I'd searched his carry-­on-­a Gucci messenger bag-­but the only item of interest was a laptop, which we'd need a federal warrant to break into.

"You're Logan Ramsay, right?" Soren asked, his first words spoken since we'd escorted him out of the airport.

"That's right."

"Son of Miriam Ramsay?"

"Yes." I tried to keep my tone neutral. It wasn't the first time a suspect had made that connection. He said nothing else. I could feel Nadine looking at me.

I stared out the window. We were on the outskirts of the city center, doing 120 mph. The dual electric motors were almost silent. Through the wraparound NightShade glass, I saw one of the GPA's new billboards shoot past-­part of the latest public awareness campaign.

In black letters against a white background:

GENE EDITING IS A FEDERAL CRIME

Downtown Denver loomed in the distance.

The megatall Half-­Mile Tower soared into the sky-­an arrow of light.

It was one a.m. here, which meant it was three back in D.C.

I thought of my family, sleeping peacefully in our home in Arlington.

My wife, Beth.

Our teenage daughter, Ava.

If all went smoothly tonight, I'd be back in time for dinner tomorrow evening. We were planning a weekend trip to the Shenandoah Valley to see the fall colors from the Skyline Drive.

We passed another billboard:

ONE MISTAKE CAUSED

THE GREAT STARVATION

I'd seen that one before, and the pain hit-­an ache in the back of my throat. The guilt of what we'd done never failed to hit its mark.

I didn't deny it or try to push it away.

Just let it be until it passed.

The Denver field office of the Gene Protection Agency was located in an unremarkable office park in Lakewood, and to call it a field office was generous.

It was one floor of a building with light admin support, a holding cell, an interview room, a mol-­bio lab, and an armory. The GPA didn't have field offices in most major cities, but since Denver was the main hyperloop hub of the West, it made sense to have a dedicated base of operations here.

We were a young but quickly growing agency, with five hundred employees compared to the FBI's forty thousand. There were only fifty special agents like me and Nadine, and we were all based in the D.C. area, ready to parachute in to wherever our Intelligence Division suspected the existence of a dark gene lab.

Nadine drove around the back of the low-­rise building and pulled through the service entrance to the elevators. She parked behind an armored vehicle, where four bio-­SWAT officers had their gear spread out on the concrete, making last-­minute weapons checks for what would hopefully be a predawn raid based on the intel we were about to extract from Soren.

I helped our suspect out of the back of the car, and the three of us rode up to the third floor.

Once inside the interview room, I cut off the zip ties and sat Soren down at a metal table with a D-­bolt welded into the surface for less compliant suspects.

Nadine went for coffee.

I took a seat across from him.

"Aren't you supposed to read me my rights or something?" he asked.

"Under the Gene Protection Act, we can hold you for seventy-­two hours just because."

"Fascists."

I shrugged. He wasn't exactly wrong.

I placed Soren's book on the table, hoping for a reaction.

"Big Camus fan?" I asked.

"Yeah. I collect rare editions of his work."

It was an old hardback copy of The Stranger. I thumbed carefully through the pages.

"It's clean," Soren said.






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