Blake Crouch expertly explores this dilemma with a riveting sci-fi techno thriller with a thought-provoking roller-coaster ride laced with plenty of ass-kicking action. There is abundant suspense, intrigue and twists to satisfy any crime thriller enthusiast.
Our main protagonist, Logan Ramsey although flawed, is immensely likable. Set in a future where all vehicles are electric and mass transit is provided by hyperloops that travel at the speed of sound. DNA editing, although possible, has become illegal due to the dangers of unintended consequences. The government has created the Gene Protection Agency (GPA) to police and shut down any rogue scientists that persist in the prohibited research or application of genetic engineering.
Logan Ramsey, in an attempt to atone for the sins of his mother, Miriam, works for the Denver field office of the GPA. Miriam was the pre-eminent cell biologist in the world. She had mastered writing and editing DNA, with the aim of healing sickness, improving the quality of life, improving the environment, and ending world hunger. Responding to a hunger situation in Shenzhen, China being caused by a blight to the rice crops, she devised altered locusts that would infect the rice paddies, imparting enhanced plant resistance. Due to unexpected and unintended consequences, the locusts propagated exponentially leading to a global catastrophe with the accidental killing of millions due to a worldwide famine. Shortly afterward, Miriam had died in an accident, when her car ran off Highway 1 on the California coast and plunged into the ocean. Was it suicide?
Logan is the lead agent on a raid of a potential illegal lab. Entering the basement, he realizes something is wrong, and all flee with him bearing the brunt of the explosion. A shower of ice flechettes punctures his hazmat suit resulting in multiple lacerations of his extremities.
It is assumed that he has been exposed to a synthetic virus carrying genetic material into his cells, with the capability of rewriting his DNA to an unknown effect. Initially in the hospital, after a brief bout of fever, no untoward effect is noted. However, after being released from the hospital, Logan starts to experience a gradual metamorphosis. His mind and perception are initially enhancing daily, and now seemingly hourly. He suddenly realizes his strength and memory have improved exponentially. He has been “Upgraded” … apparently lured to the explosion on purpose. In fear that the GPA will confine him at least , if not execute him, he flees to find answers and significance. On his own, he soon discovers that his only other living relative, his older sister Kara, has also been targeted with an upgrade. Obviously one step in a much larger plan to infect the same changes on all of humanity …and to what consequence. His sister does not see the possible implications or the extent of the significant unattended results. He cannot help but vividly recall the results of the “Ramsey Famine”
Blake Crouch proves to be a masterful storyteller as he weaves an intriguing and entertaining tale that may affect humanity. As the reader is led down many a twisted road, the suspense and intrigue escalate to an exciting denouement, laced with non-stop action as the pages fly by. This is a cautionary tale on the possible next step in human evolution. Is making people smarter a long range answer or would an infusion of empathy and compassion better serve humanity.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House -Ballantine Books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.