Upgrade By Blake Crouch: A Thrilling Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Upgrade By Blake Crouch: A Thrilling Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Upgrade by Blake Crouch: a thrilling sci-fi masterpiece details a near future where examining what it is to be human is vital for survival.

In Upgrade, the writing flows smoothly and efficiently as the story hits the reader impactfully.

The world building, character creation, and science are all too real.

The pace is tremendous – Upgrade does not let up!

And the ending is both moving and realistic, painful in its beauty.

The Following Review of Upgrade by Blake Crouch Spoiler Warning.

Imagine sharing a last name with your mother who was solely responsible for killing millions, unleashing an unrelenting pandemic of genetic mutation in the world, and who also made so many geneticists and biologists very training an illegal act deemed so by the Gene Protection Agency.

Logan Ramsay is an extremely intelligent man, but one who grew up dreaming of being his mother’s equal of off-the-charts genius.

And then he stands trial for her crimes against humanity and goes to jail.

The jealousy is gone.

Once freed he starts a family, and Logan enjoys nothing more than playing chess with his daughter and being a family man, when he is not paying a personal penance for the blood his mother spilt.

Out of jail, Logan is working for the GPA to bust illegal gene labs and dealers of illicit genetic material.

This is a world where lower Manhattan is under water, and a Las Vegas confidential informant has his own lab where he makes new species for the wealthiest of collectors, including a new dragon, and he is allowed to, by the GPA, because he hands over those illegal scientists that come to him with more nefarious intent for material and supplies.

When a lab bust becomes a trap and an explosion of an ice bomb sends shards of genetic altering virus irrevocably into Logan’s system, he receives one of the first human DNA upgrades.

Logan learns how to dial down the emotional parts of his brain in order to think more rationally, or work less distracted.

He can read heart rates, blood pressure, and faces so well that he can discern the truth and lies and anticipate many actions before someone does it.

He is stronger than he has ever been.

He can remember every detail of everything he has ever read or seen in his entire life.

His sister is upgraded as well. The two of them learn that from beyond the grave their mother infected them with a Scythe program to alter hundreds of parts of their DNA and improve their overall state so that they will act to save the dying world.

It is Miriam Ramsey’s dying wish. Before humanity dies as a species in a hundred years, she has gifted it with the means to save it from itself.

But will humans remain humans when they are all upgraded, or will they be something else?

And what could go wrong trying to infect and convert billions of people?

Logan sees the need for the world to change but not at such a cost as homo sapiens becoming something else at his mother’s whim, and then his sister tries to kill him.

She takes their mother’s research and flees.

The only two upgraded humans on the planet nearly kill each other over their ideals, a point that is not lost on Logan as he does not see the upgrade as a final solution to the doomsday clock.

End of Spoiler Warning.

Crouch’s research into genetic markers, DNA, and myriad aspects of the human brain and its actions is truly remarkable, and he writes with ease, inserting the research in a way that is accessible to those who are not scientists and also in a way that is natural as it is shared by the characters in the story.

And the messages are not lost in the science or the riveting plot.

This is one of those things that great science fiction authors, like Isaac Asimov or Michael Crichton often achieve in their works.

You invest deeply in Logan’s character and those around him, while the story whips into a frenzy and all the while science is at the center of what is happening.

With Upgrade, Crouch has written a brilliant tale that goes deep into what it means to be human and whether or not being human at a genetic level can or should save the species.


The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)

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“Upgrade By Blake Crouch: A Thrilling Sci-Fi Masterpiece!” was written by R.J. Huneke.


Karel Capek’s The Absolute at Large (1922) – God is in the Machine

Karel Capek’s The Absolute at Large (1922) – God is in the Machine

Karel Capek’s The Absolute at Large (1922) – God is in the Machine: Capek may not be a name everyone is familiar with, but his inclusion into science fiction is undeniable with his introduction of the word ‘robot’ into common language through his 1920 play R.U.R. Yet, the Czech playwright and novelist is far from being a household name in the annals of modern discussion on science fiction greats.

In fact, “The Absolute at large” has been noted by R.D. Mullen from Science Fiction Studies as being “one of the genuine masterpieces of SF”, but noted that “it has surely had no great influence on popular SF”. This is something important to note when diving into this particular release, as one can argue it is more successful as a satirical look at consumerism and religion over a science-fiction story. However, there is still appeal to be found in the work by fans of classic European literature and sci-fi enthusiasts.


The novel chronicles the invention of the “Karburator”, a device that allows unlimited energy production generated from minute resources–a single chunk of coal can keep it running for years. However, the machine emits a peculiar byproduct of religious fervor that causes people in the vicinity to both hallucinate and perform actual miracles after prolonged exposure. Even more troubling, the machines which evoke the ‘absolute’ (God) are able to produce their own goods and sway the commercial landscape with charity over profitability. Picture corporations owned by religious communes and never-ending production chains making mounds of useless materials.

As such, the downfall of mankind becomes inevitable from the very conception of the ‘absolute’ and the reader is given both first-hand accounts from the author, as well as stories of isolated madness across the world, as the ‘Karburator’ penetrates every corner of humanity.

The manner of delivery is one that jumps between reflections on society, morality, and religion with a playful wit that can be extremely entertaining. Consequently, the message behind the work can be elusive to pin down, and even for myself coming back to this novel a decade later, I found my own perspective of it altered. Notably, it is easy to say that the work is opposed to religion, but there is room to interpret it as pro-human first and foremost.

Essentially, the book seems to claim there is a place for religion, but that the man-made concepts are something beyond the power of even God– he did not invent commerce or politics and has no place in it. There are even moments in the novel where the author admits his words are not meant to be blasphemous. At the same time, Capek’s views in this book are certainly up for debate but make for a wonderful talking point about the book nonetheless.

Its views on commercialism and fanaticism are approached in a method that is still applicable today. Certainly, a modern audience won’t find much value in outdated industrial industries, but the way the production of goods is discussed is still relevant. Replace the idea of religious worship with celebrity worship, and the production of clocks with phones and the text is easy to navigate in a modern context. Mind you, these may not be the best examples but rough ones that convey how easy it is to take the words of Capek and apply them to the modern era–the age of the work does not make it archaic beyond comprehension.

However, the most enjoyable aspect of the book has to come from the humor within.

*Slight spoilers ahead for Karel Capek’s The Absolute at Large

Capek gives some glorious visions of absurdity, from a tack factory that produces an endless number of the commodity to the point that there is an industry around hauling and hiding them away, to the tale of a carousel owner who starts a religion based around his machine as it begins to float across the land to recruit new followers.

Furthermore, the dialogue between people can be humorously witty: when one man is overcoming the effect of the ‘absolute’ his friend asks him what symptoms he felt, and he retorts “The love of thy neighbor” expanding that “I never knew it was possible to feel so much love”.

*Slight spoilers end

The book is full of many witty comedic moments that make it easily accessible to enjoy just as a satirical piece without trying to dig deeper into the meaning. Furthermore, the way that Capek describes the effect of the ‘Karburator’ and how it begins to affect different people based on region, occupation, and cultural beliefs makes for a deceptively grandiose read across 240 pages.

There is a lot that can be broken down, assessed, and discussed in The Absolute at Large, or you can just approach it strictly as a work of satire from one of the greatest, and less celebrated, minds in science fiction. Regardless, the book is a true gem and one that deserves to be checked out or revisited.

I got my copy of The Absolute at Large through the University of Nebraska Press as part of their Bison Frontiers of Imagination Series.

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)

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“Karel Capek’s The Absolute at Large (1922) – God is in the Machine” was written by Adam Symchuk.



H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau’s 125th By Suntup

H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau’s 125th By Suntup

H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau’s 125th By Suntup Editions is celebrating the shocking and classic work of early horror and science-fiction in deservedly grandiose fashion 125 years after its initial release.

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To say the art, designs, bonus content give this novel the proper anniversary treatment is a big understatement.

The following Preview Review of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau’s By Suntup Editions will have mild plot/events *Spoilers* in the story review and then get into a perusal of the fine press editions themselves, which will be examined more thoroughly after the books arrive.

The lone survivor of a deadly shipwreck that claimed two ships, Edward Prendick washes ashore on the elusive Noble’s Isle claimed by the infamous Dr. Moreau.

The novel brings in mystery, adventure and exploration themes, as well as good old-fashioned shock-horror and sci-fi.

The science and exploration of the 19th Century, and the preceding years, birthed interesting thoughts on the wings of Darwin and Mary Shelley’s publications: that of man playing god by merging animal and man into living chimera.

H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau is disturbing, suspenseful and has many unexpected twists along the island’s paths.

H.G. Wells took a character in Edward that is grateful for being nursed to health and through his uniquely thankful perspective examines the mysterious noises and shadowy visages that send shivers down his spine and lead him to delve deeper into the mysteries Dr. Moreau seems to have hidden on his island.

For those that enjoy stories of the monster within, the monster that we as humans carry and sometimes unleash, and the monsters out in the world, The Island Of Dr. Moreau is a stark reminder that repulsion can shift its allegiances, despite appearances.

Science fiction writers have used human-animal chimera experiments as the inspiration for creating characters that challenge us to consider what is quintessentially human and what is animal. Since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) created a manufactured man from parts of dead animals and humans combined.

[“Boundary Transgressions: the Human-Animal Chimera in Science Fiction” by Evelyn Tsitas]

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To have the ethics of bioengineering examined in such an evocative manner by Wells in 1896 is incredible.

And Suntup Editions have outdone themselves again with their treatment of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau made into three limited edition states.

  • Suntup’s Artist Edition is limited to 1000 copies and is the only state with a dust jacket illustrated by Benz and Chang. The book is a full cloth, smyth sewn binding, is printed offset, has two-hits of foil stamping, and is signed by the artist.
  • The Numbered Edition of 350 copies is a quarter cloth binding with Japanese cloth boards, a cover foil stamped in gold and endsheets are custom designed for this state. It is printed letterpress on Mohawk Via and is signed by Megan Shepherd, Adam Roberts & Benz and Chang.
  • The Lettered edition is 26 copies with a full goatskin binding and a letterpress-printed spine label. The cover features a letterpress printed, die cut map of Noble’s Isle that looks amazing and the endsheets are hand marbled, while the pages are printed letterpress on Mohawk Via, and it comes in a clamshell enclosure covered in Japanese cloth with marbled paper floors. It is also signed by Megan Shepherd, Adam Roberts & Benz and Chang.

The books all look fantastic with six stand-out full color illustrations by Benz and Chang!

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But as is befitting such an entertaining and historic work of fiction, Suntup has also included a bevy of bonus material, including a new exclusive foreword by Megan Shepherd and an afterword by Adam Roberts, who sign both the numbered and lettered states, and three Appendixes:

Bonus Content

Included in all editions is the following bonus content:

Appendix A: Wells Explains: Two Essays Relating to Moreau’s Argument.
H.G. Wells, The Province of Pain (1894)
H.G. Wells, The Limits of Individual Plasticity (1895)

Appendix B: ‘The Terrible Medusa Case’: An Historical Source for Prendick’s Shipwreck.
A narrative account of the infamous shipwreck Méduse (1818).
Reproduction of Théodore Géricault’s masterpiece painting The Raft of the Medusa (c.1819).

Appendix C: Wells’s First Draft of Moreau.
A study and excerpt from H.G. Wells’s original draft of Moreau.


We will thoroughly review the physical books themselves, the numbered and artist editions, after they arrive.

But seeing such trippy and befitting art, along with two letterpress editions, designed with bite for our inner explorer, the wait to see these in person is a difficult one.

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Letterpress will make reading and rereading the numbered edition a sensational experience.

I do have one critique: I would have loved the numbered edition to match the previous Wells installments in the book’s outer design – but I understand and am very happy with the incredible design of the editions that have been created here (I love the images on the covers and I love Japanese cloth) and since this brought in Artist Editions and a wild lettered edition (what a MAP!) I feel my OCD inner-Sheldon Cooper can be quieted and content – but I still cannot wait to put this on the shelf!

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In between my H.G. Wells trilogy and Robert Heinlein set on my shelf in the “Pillars of Sci-fi Suntup Section” The Island Of Dr. Moreau will go and continue to be an inspiration.

The Artist Edition of The Island Of Dr. Moreau is still available at Suntup’s site here!


The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it! buy it!)

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“H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau’s 125th By Suntup” was written by R.J. Huneke; Illustrations © 2021 by Benz and Chang and the Backdrop photography by Yegor Malinovskii for Suntup Editions.


I, ROBOT By Isaac Asimov: Book Review Of Science Fiction Classic

I, ROBOT By Isaac Asimov: Book Review Of Science Fiction Classic

I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov: book review of science fiction classic highlights the prose, storytelling, and stark differences in views regarding this premiere work about robots and AI, aka artificial intelligence.

In Asimov’s I, Robot, Dr. Susan Calvin (robo-pyschologist for U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Inc.) describes the development of robots, through nine short stories, to a reporter in the 21st century.

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The Following book review of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is a Spoiler-ful WARNING Level YELLOW: it contains mild spoilers for the novel, but not detailed plot.

When read from beginning to end I, Robot can be seen as an evolution of Asimov’s Robots. Each story shares an interaction between humans and robots and often hints upon the unease of a growing artificial intelligence.

Here is the story synopsis, and the review continues below it.

From penguinrandomhouse.com:

Released April 29, 2008 | ISBN 9780553382563

Each story in the book shares an interaction between humans and robots and often hints upon the unease of a growing artificial intelligence.

Asimov’s future (actually our past as his first short story is set in 2015) includes mining stations on asteroids and Mercury, spaceships with hyperdrive, and super computers along with robots taking over simple jobs like farming, while also running for office and even secretly running the world.

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Although nine stories follow Asimov Three Laws of Robotics, many stories describe robots having difficulty with these laws (either by manufacturing defect or meta-cognitive awareness) leading to their eventual interpretation of them – even a so called religion. His infamous laws governing robotic behavior have changed our perception of robots forever.

The three laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Despite the name Hollywood gave the film, I, Robot, starring Will Smith, the book is far from the film in terms of actual story elements, though the film is fun and captures some of the spirit, as well as a couple specific uses of the book.

Spoiler Alert: If you were a fan of the 2004 science fiction action film I, Robot directed by Alex Proyas do not expect many similarities with Isaac Asimov’s 1940-1950 short story collection of the same name. The 2004 film is much more closely based on Jeff Vintar’s original screenplay Hardwired. That film adopts Asimov’s creation of “the three laws of robotics,” shares two similar characters, and borrows one scene from his works.

Overall I, Robot is a thought provoking read, blended well with science-fact and science fiction.

If you have not read the novel, expect a vastly different story than the film with the exception of the chapter titled “Little Lost Rabbit.”

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)

About The Author From Goodreads.com:

Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He has works published in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (lacking only an entry in the 100s category of Philosophy).

Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the “Big Three” science-fiction writers during his lifetime.


P.S. If You Want To Know A Little More About How The Forgotten Fiction Is Different & Our Mission . . .

We are really trying to achieve two main goals here:

  1. To bolster every author who puts out a work of fiction long after the initial buzz that accompanied its release. This is something that is usually left to an expensive public relations manager or company and even with all of their powers of marketing / PR are limited in where they can place the book months after its launch. This includes limited edition and small press publications, like Suntup Editions, that are also reviewed for their physical beauty, as well as the work’s literary art and often illustrations, so long as the initial work has been out 60 days.
  2. We love books of fiction! And as readers we have too little time to read ALL of the books that fall onto our tentative To-Read List. The Forgotten Fiction hopes that with our Yea or Nay stamp, we can definitively give our unbiased opinion to you as a recommendation that may or may not move a book from the stack to your Must-Read List.

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“I, ROBOT By Isaac Asimov: Book Review Of Science Fiction Classic” was written by Peter Maisano.