In Recursion, the main character is Barry Sutton, a straight white NYPD detective who got divorced after his young daughter was killed in a hit-and-run accident ten years before. Barry learns that the recent increase in FMS (False Memory Syndrome) is a result of a technological advance that allows certain people to reset reality for everyone else; the false memories people are experiencing are really memories of the previous reality which has been erased that somehow are lingering on in their consciousness. Barry has to figure out what he can do to restore reality, and decide if he can and should select a reality where his daughter doesn’t die.
In Dark Matter, the main character is a straight white guy named Jason Dessen, a former quantum mechanics scientist and physics college professor who has a wife Daniela and a baby son Charlie. One day Jason regains consciousness while stumbling out of a metal cube. He realizes that he is in an alternate universe where 15 years ago the alternate version of Jason (which he calls Jason2) decided NOT to marry Daniela and instead pursued his quantum mechanics research and ended up creating a device (the metal cube) that allows people to jump between parallel universes. Jason2 has swapped places with Jason in order to explore what his life would have been like if he had pursued Daniela instead of research. Jason has to figure out how to get his life back from a more ruthless version of himself, Jason2.
In Upgrade, the main character is Logan Ramsay, a straight white guy married to a female history professor who teaches at American University in Washington, DC and has a tween daughter who regularly beats him in their daily chess game. Logan works for the GPA (Gene Protection Agency), a federal agency tasked with enforcing the Gene Protection Act, which outlawed all gene manipulation and research in the United States. The GPA also authorizes universal, invasive surveillance of all U.S. citizens in order to enforce the ban on gene research and resulted in the incarceration of most biotech scientists. The legislation is a(n over)reaction to “The Great Starvation,” a cataclysmic event that was triggered by the release of genetically modified locusts in China by Logan's mother Miriam Ramsay in order to try to improve rice production a decade before the events in Upgrade. Miriam Ramsay was well known as a brilliant scientist and one of the richest people in the world before her experiment resulted in the starvation deaths of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Logan’s mother killed herself soon after the magnitude of her mistake became clear and Logan went to jail for multiple years for his minor role in the event (as an assistant). During a routine raid to find a rogue geneticist Logan is infected with some biochemical agent which after a few weeks he realizes has upgraded and altered his genome, giving him all sorts of enhanced abilities like increased concentration and mental acuity, thicker bones, and speed and agility. Of course the GPA outlaws all gene modification so when the extent of his abilities becomes clear Logan is kidnapped by his own co-workers and taken to a secret site where they can observe him and monitor his changing body. He gets busted out of the secret prison by someone who has very similar upgraded abilities to him; this turns out to be his sister Kara.
Overall, I’d recommend Upgrade to anyone who has read and enjoyed Dark Matter and/or Recursion.
Author: Blake Crouch.
Length: 352 pages.
Publisher: Ballantine Books.
Date Published: July 12, 2022.
Date Read: November 23, 2022.
OVERALL GRADE: B+ (3.3/4.0).