Published by Mark McClelland on October 24th 2012
Genres: Science Fiction, Cyber Punk, Hard Science Fiction
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His criminal past catching up with him, a troubled young man seeks escape into digital utopia by uploading his consciousness into a computer -- just as first love casts his life in a new light. In this thrilling near-future science-fiction novel, Mark McClelland explores the immense potential of computer-based consciousness and the philosophical perils of simulated society.
To escape the hacker crimes of his youth, Raymond Quan has worked out a brilliant but extremely risky scheme. Taking advantage of his position on the University of Michigan’s Human Mind Upload Project, he plans to upload his consciousness into a computer, but make it look like it failed. It will appear to others that he died, while he secretly whisks his uploaded mind off to a remote computer, to live out his life in a virtual world of his own creation, free from society and the far-reaching eye of the law.
In the midst of all this, he works up the courage to reach out to Anya, an attractive and outgoing scientist on the upload research team, and much to his surprise he discovers the attraction is mutual. He finds himself entering the first meaningful relationship of his life, just as pressures force him to accelerate his already-dangerous upload plan.
To make matters worse, the technology he intends to use has not yet been tested on humans — he would be the first person to make the jump to a pure-digital mind."Upload" is ultimately a story of love and self-discovery, and the crucial role of connection-to-society in the ability of the individual to achieve fulfillment.
You say words like “virtual” and “reality” and I get pretty excited. The truth is that we all seek escapism in some way. Some exercise, some bake, some drink, some meditate and some read. But what if you could escape into an entire virtual world? A world where you could do anything, have anything and be anything? A world of your own making. Would you have any qualms about leaving your old life behind? For those of us who have loved ones, the decision wouldn’t be so cut & dried. For the loner MC of Upload, the decision was a fairly easy one.
Raymond is an orphan who grew up in state homes for boys. He learned early on that his best method for survival would be keeping to himself. Growing up without love and guidance has left Raymond a little.. cold. Indifferent. I find Raymond fascinating. He’s extremely well-disciplined and diligent. He’s seemingly a decent person, but he’s done some questionable things. He’s rationalized them, but that makes them no less questionable. I like that in an MC. I can’t say that I ever connected with Raymond, but I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. He is a hard person to connect with in and out of the book. Not very many get to know the real Raymond, but there is one person who delves a little deeper and puts a kink in his plans.
The love interest, Anya, is Raymond’s opposite. She’s fun and vibrant. She’s curious and lively. She’s quintessentially “normal”. For the most part, I find that their romance was done well. I also feel that their relationship progressed at a normal pace. I felt engaged in their interactions in the first half of the book. Later on, the only thing I wasn’t completely convinced of was View Spoiler »Anya’s commitment to Raymond. I understand why he would cling to her, but I didn’t understand why she would cling to him. I wasn’t made to believe wholeheartedly in their love, especially after his upload when some (conscious) time had passed for Anya. « Hide Spoiler Still, it was an interesting relationship to read.
I have to admit that after a pretty strong start, there was a short-lived lull for me. I started to get a little bored and I did put this down. However, I decided to forge on and I’m so glad I did. It quickly started to pick up and before I knew it, I couldn’t put it down. This is more than sci-fi. There’s mystery, romance, action and adventure – emphasis on adventure. The second half of this book was a trippy trip into a fantastic virtual world. It was pretty intense and I wanted to figure everything out so badly, that I was on the edge of my seat throughout.
A lot of people have likened this to Ready Player One, but I don’t see it. Yes, there are virtual worlds in both, but the stories are completely different. As much as I loved Ready Player One, Upload is more of a grown-up book. This felt, to me, like a mash-up of all the best parts of The Matrix, Sims and… Second Life. Yes, I totally played Second Life way back when. Don’t judge me. —_—
I do have a few complaints. Though I found the world-building to be believable and very well-explained, some passages were a little too technical (for me). I also feel like one very fascinating, dark part of Raymond’s virtual world should have been explored in a more in-depth way. I’m a glutton for darkness and depravity, though.. Lastly, I don’t know how I feel about the ending. This is seemingly a standalone, but this had a cliffhanger ending. For some books, that works. I seriously can’t gauge how I feel about it in this one, though. I would be ecstatic to find out that this is a first in a series. I will say that I can live with the ending, but I don’t love it.
Overall, this was a highly enjoyable read. I don’t think my review does it justice, actually. It’s a very thought-provoking story and there are other very interesting characters. Even taking into account my complaints, I can’t take away much from my rating. I just simply had a good time reading this. For a majority of the book, I was completely engaged and filled with that good anxiety that I love. I highly recommend this one.