The Uploaded (Ferrett Steinmetz)

4 stars

In the near future, the elderly have moved online and now live within the computer network. But that doesn’t stop them interfering in the lives of the living, whose sole real purpose now is to maintain the vast servers which support digital Heaven. For one orphan that just isn’t enough – he wants more for himself and his sister than a life slaving away for the dead. It turns out that he’s not the only one who wants to reset the world…

‘The Uploaded’ is a dark book. I’m going to give you that warning for free now.

If said warning doesn’t put you off then please continue…

Amichai is an Upterlife orphan, a teenager whose parents died in one of the horrific genetically modified plagues that are accidentally set loose on the living world every now and then, and ‘ascended’ to a digital existence. Freed from the chains of reality, pain and suffering, they’ve all but forgotten that they left two children behind, spending their days fighting dragons with their pain receptors turned off and sipping piña coladas alongside an artificial sunset.

Amichai is left in the physical world, full of bleak crumbling sky scrapers, questionable protein sludge and glistening servers, whose upkeep is all that he’s considered good for. A trickster at heart and someone who is just terrible at following rules, Amichai lives under the constant burden of the shrive, a ‘save point’ where his memories and experiences are periodically uploaded to the servers and judged by the living dead. Tip too far into ‘criminal’ and he will not be allowed to enter the upterlife, instead dying a horrifying ‘meat death’, his existence erased.

Following the effects of the Bubbler Plague, which annihilated much of the living population, kids like Amichai are a dying breed, both needed and treated with disdain by their ‘ancestors’. Amichai would probably care less if it wasn’t for the existence of his sister, a survivor of the plague, no longer considered fit to wear the badge of the LifeGuard, the proxy officers by which the dead ‘police’ the living. Surviving ‘robbed’ her of the chance to ascend to the servers early, instead forcing her to take on menial work in microchip factories until the end of her natural lifespan.

Life on Earth is hopelessly grim with some foregoing the promise of a digital afterlife altogether, instead choosing ‘meat death’ and the dream of Heaven, trashing the servers that they consider ungodly. Caught between the dead, who do not value his existence and the ‘NeoChristians’ who wish to rob him of his digital future, Amichai is in a bit of a bind. All he knows for sure is that, life cannot continue this way.

Something has to change.

This was a very clever book. It’s been a while since I’ve had a book make me think so much. It’s also a strangely apt book for our current political situation, with the older generations entangling our futures in the chains of their poorly thought out decisions.

It’s definitely more about the concept than the characters. The worldbuilding is astounding, every little detail meticulously thought out for maximum weight and horror. Although the story is very different, I got a real ‘Fallout’ vibe from the book. It’s a bleak horrible world, with people banding together the best they can just to deal with the hideousness of their lives. A dangerous job is no longer considered something worth avoiding, but something that could potentially lead to a quicker upload to the Upterlife.

It’s not a book for the faint hearted, it is relentlessly dark and relentlessly hopeless. I’d also put a big warning on the book for anyone who’s currently having suicidal thoughts. Although the book is, obviously, NOT advocating suicide, the way that characters talk about death and how much they are looking forward to it could be seriously triggering for some readers!

In the afterword, Steinmetz speaks about the fact that he’s been writing this book for years. You can really see it in the story through the attention to detail and the planning of each of the twists and turns. It’s a story that I really enjoyed just letting it take me where it went. I stopped guessing what Amichai would do next, instead accepting that I would probably just be wrong.

In comparison with the world, the characters are a little bit forgettable. I don’t think that’s necessarily a flaw, it’s definitely a story more about deeds than the people behind them, but I found myself forgetting some of the side characters names or losing track of their relevance to the story. Amichai is, however, a great lead. When I was reading, the image in my head was Robert Sheehan as Nathan in ‘Misfits’, irreverent, extraverted, but, under it all, caring and more than a little afraid.

It’s a book that makes you feel a little hollow inside. You’d like to think that those living a digital existence wouldn’t forget the needs of those that they leave behind, but you also know that it’s entirely likely. The dead in this world have the ultimate privilege, they do not fear for anything, not hunger, poverty or pain, for they have already triumphed humanity’s greatest fear, death itself.

So, all in all, a great standalone with exceptional world building. Books like this are why I read science fiction: huge ethical questions, dark not entirely unfamiliar worlds and massive concepts. A great book, and definitely one that will have me searching out Steinmetz’s back catalogue.

(Also, look at this stunning cover…)

TheUploaded_144dpi

Many thanks to Angry Robot books for a copy in return for an honest review!

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Post YALC Haul

Hello guys, it has been far too long since I last updated here. Mainly because I just started working, the culmination of six years of medical school. Do not fear, I have still been reading and just over a week ago I attended YALC, which if you’re not a book fiend from Britain, is a Young Adult Literature festival held during London Film and Comic Con.

I was only able to attend on the Saturday due to work obligations, but, honestly, it was probably best for my bank balance that it only was one day. So, for uninitiated, YALC is a three day event with lots of author talks, signings, publisher stalls and general book tomfoolery. There’s competitions and ARC giveaways and opportunities for industry workshops. Basically, if you enjoy Young Adult fiction, it’s your dream come true.

In my last post I talked about the books that I wanted to read before YALC. I didn’t quite manage to read all of them, but those I did I really truly adored. Expect a full length review of ‘Sorcerer to the Crown’ by Zen Cho at a later date, but for now I’ll say it will meet all your Jonathan Strange cravings but actually has women and people of colour in the story too (aka, both the protagonists). It’s wild and fun and has more than a hint of Austen, with a fiery heroine who won’t settle for less, and her quietly suffering, and somewhat reluctant Master.

The other books I managed to read before attending were Samantha Shannon’s ‘The Bone Season’ and ‘The Mime Order’. Now, the first time I read TBS, several years ago now, I really was not a fan. I couldn’t really tell you why, but I did feel it was slightly overhyped and I wasn’t reading a lot of young adult fiction at the time. However, on this read through I found I enjoyed it a lot, like, a lot a lot. I don’t know whether that’s because I’ve read more YA or my tastes as a reader have slightly changed, but it feels quite bizarre to have such a U-turn in feelings about a book. I think it definitely proves how time and environment specific a reading experience can be!

I hauled a couple of books to London to get signed and came back with a WHOLE lot more!

See any there that you’ve been meaning to read? I’m currently reading an ARC of ‘Invictus’ by Ryan Graudin (which is glorious, by the way), but I have both my eyes on ‘The Hazel Wood’ for afterwards.

The second amazing thing about YALC, apart from the books, was getting to meet Mona, who I’d talked to on twitter but never met! She’s an absolutely adorable artist, with great style, even greater hair and amazing art. You can find a link to her twitter below, she does a lot of fanart for the same books that I love, so you should love what you see 💜🌙

So, night for now my dears. Happy reading!