Sunday, December 1, 2013

Virtually Real

In Upload by Mark McClelland, the main character, Raymond Quan, is a teenager living in a group home in 2060.  He has a job working for a wealthy 85 year old man, Nicholas Tate, who had made his money through insider trading tech stocks.  Tate, like many people, spends most of his time in a V Chamber, living in a virtual world of his own creation.  Some people, like Raymond's father, become so V addicted, that they can't live life in the real world.  Most people have a virtual presence, but still live a real world life, with a job and a family.

While exploring how to improve his own virtual world, something goes wrong, and Raymond is convinced that he could be charged with a serious real world crime.  We fast forward to 2069, and Raymond is working for a company working on an uploading project.  The company is attempting to upload a monkey into the virtual world.  The result would be that the monkey would die in the real world, but would live forever, and enjoy his life, if his brain was uploaded into the virtual world first.

McClelland drops the bombshells of Raymond's crime as though they were breadcrumbs.  He gives us details so shocking that you re-read to be sure that you have it right, and then he quickly moves on, as though those specifics are no big deal.  Soon, someone else is following the trail, and Raymond begins to consider whether he should upload his brain into the virtual world in order to escape a reality that is closing in fast.

Raymond is an odd, but well developed character.  He lacks social skills due to being raised in a group home and being so focused on his virtual world.  At his upload company, Raymond meets a woman and begins to fall in love, only to stumble on the intricacies of normal social interaction.  He tries to fill his virtual world with everything that he could possibly need in case he were ever to actually upload.  However he is so overconfident in his skills and naive that he overlooks the obvious.

Upload is a good book, exploring a really interesting concept.  If we could create a world and move into it, would it be better?  What would we forget?  What would we get sick of?  Do we need our bodies in order to live a fulfilling life?  If I was writing the story, I would have resolved a few of the issues differently, but McClelland also thought of things that I would never have considered.

I read Upload at the request of Mike at Sandpiper Publicity.  I received a free copy of the book, but other than that, no promises were made and no payments were received.  I would recommend this book to anyone who likes technology focused sci-fi, and especially to any sci-fi lovers who live in Ann Arbor or attended U of M.  McClelland is a U of M graduate, and much of the story is set in the Ann Arbor area.

You might remember that last month I said that I might do two Industry Requested Reviews in November.  Instead, I did none.  I just missed finishing Upload in November (better late than never), and I never got a copy of Melt:  The Art of Macaroni and Cheese.  I'm probably better off without that one!  My next IRR will be Perfect by Rachel Joyce.  I'm taking a chance on this one.  Joyce also wrote The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which I just started listening to.   If I can't stand Harold, I might not be so anxious to jump into Perfect.

Next Up:  Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese.

Still Listening to:  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

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