This post of Upgrade Soul by author Ezra Clayton Daniels has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review, followed by the spoiler full review and summary.
Spoiler Free Review
I get really excited when I can write a 5 star review that turns into just a gushing ramble of love and admiration for the work of art I just read. This is one of those.
Upgrade Soul has a lot of spoilers so this review will be fairly vague in plot and character points. But I can tell you that it has a level of twists and surprises and unbridled conflict that you haven’t seen since you read Hamlet back in school.
The general premise of the graphic novel is that an elderly couple has agreed to take part in a risky and experimental procedure to expand their lifespan and make them feel even better than they did in their primes.
As can be guessed, things quickly go awry. The rest of the story deals with the consequences of going against the natural order of things as well as the actions of a scientist who has zero regard for ethical behavior.
This is not only one of the greatest modern philosophy books I’ve ever read but one of the most twisted mad scientist tales I’ve seen as well.
You can read this book in several ways:
As a sci fi thriller it will scare and intrigue you.
As an emotional drama about an elderly couple it will make you cry.
As a modern philosophy it will keep you up all night deep in thought and itching to discuss the greatest questions of existence.
And as a romance it will… well one couple will uplift your spirits and another will disturb you to your very core.
Combine all of that into one of the deepest and most complex yet still impeccably written books I’ve ever picked up.
Additionally, it lends itself well to the graphic novel format. The images of the couple post experiment enhance the story greatly. The pictures lift the whole book to the next level and take any guess work out of how your imagination could tone down what’s happening.
It would be very easy for our minds to dilute the horror and sadness contained in these pages but the images put it front and center. You’re not allowed to turn away.
Upgrade Soul is one to buy just so that you can lend it out. It cries out to be discussed with friends and family. Everyone is likely to take a slightly different stance on what they think is right and a healthy philosophical debate shall be had by all!
Please do yourself a favor and get a copy of this one for yourself and everyone you enjoy conversing with. Stay up until dawn discussing what it means to be human, what makes an individual, and what is ethical responsibility when dealing with human subjects.
All of that plus human interest drama for days!
Upgrade Soul Summary
Upgrade Soul is an incredibly impressive work of science fiction. It will shock and terrify you as well as make you question everything you think you know about identity and what makes a human life valuable.
It also takes full advantage of its graphic novel format and has amazing character design that enhances it every step along the way.
Upgrade Soul starts with an elderly married couple, Molly and Hank, discussing a procedure they have signed up for. They have decided to partake in a very risky trial for a medical process that will vastly increase their life span.
I think we can all relate to at least considering something like this. If offered eternal youth don’t you think you’d take it?
We see them post procedure but something has gone wrong. They appear to have turned into some kind of monstrous fetus creatures. Hank is even worse off and is in an incubator.
But then we pan away to the other side of the facility where we see Hank and Molly in their original elderly bodies. What’s going on here?
The graphic novel slowly gives the reader more information about what kind of procedure actually took place and where things went really wrong. The doctor in charge of the experiment actually cloned the couple and intended to dispose of the extra bodies after they were fully developed and rejuvenated but the clones became sentient far quicker than expected.
We learn that the couple helped to fund this experiment not knowing these hidden details. Molly was a geneticist and thought she was informed about the procedures but she was very intentionally misled.
Now we have the original couple with their frail forms, quickly becoming more and more frail. And then we have the deformed clones. The clones, now named Manuela and Henry, have all of the memories of Molly and Hank and are proving to be quite intelligent.
Molly and Hank begin experiencing memory loss and severe headaches that can only be alleviated by being near their clones.
While the two couples are having play dates to see each other and maintain sanity while everyone figures out what to do we learn that the evil doctor in charge has a deformed sister that he has been trying to help with his scientific advances.
The clones begin to get to know each other. Manuela has progressed greatly in intellect. She also does not feel any attraction to her clone counterpart, Henry. Molly and Manuela become quite close while Hank grows to dislike Henry in the extreme.
We then find Manuela’s dead body. It would appear that she sacrificed herself to save Molly. The two cannot live on the same earth and maintain health. One will drain from the other. However, the shock of this sudden loss causes Molly to go comatose.
Henry, begins to take up an affair with the doctor’s deformed sister, Lina. At least an emotional one, for now. Henry asks the doctor for genitals so that he can consummate the relationship. Awkward…
If this wasn’t complicated and dramatic enough for you things are about to get positively Shakespearean!
Lina gets told by a disgruntled assistant of the doctor that since he’s an evil mad scientist and has no respect for any of his subjects he performed some bonus procedures on her while she was under anesthetic.
Turns out that in order to proceed with the cloning he needed some eggs. So he helped himself into Lina’s ovaries without her consent. Which means that she’s biologically Henry’s mother! Twist! Gross surprising twist!
Hank has been deteriorating more and more. He needs Henry or he’ll die but Henry believes that Hank is obsolete. The old and weak Hank falls down the stairs and Henry leaves him injured to die.
Hank’s brother has been suspicious of this whole procedure from the get go so he decides to finally come and take his brother home. He throws an absolute fit when the doctor says he can’t see Hank so they end up sedating him and putting him in a hospital bed until they can come up with a plan.
Lina has decided that she’s so in love with Henry that she doesn’t care about their very taboo situation and needs to eliminate all obstacles to their love.
She is going to kill Hank in order to allow Henry to reach his full potential. Problem is that she’s never actually seen or met Hank so she just kills the first black man in a hospital bed she sees, Hank’s brother.
Thinking she killed Hank she gets Henry and they intend to drive off into the sunset together. However, with Hank still alive Henry starts to stroke out the further away they get and he ends up crashing the car they’re escaping in. Henry dies in the accident and Lina crawls back home.
Lina pins the whole mess on her brother and takes over the evil operation for herself.
Hank crawls from the stairs to Molly’s room intending to die by her side. With the doppelgangers now both dead though they are both able to recover and live out the rest of their natural lives together.
Oh my freaking goodness what a story!
I was in awe of Upgrade Soul the whole time. It’s an absolutely twisted thrill ride that covers the most intense of modern philosophy with elegance and emotion.
I really need some of you to read this one so I can discuss it at length. What it means to be human, who you would pick to live or die, when is life most valuable, all of these and many more questions!
It is rare that a book can be this smart, this insightful, this thought provoking, and still this entertaining. This is what thought experiments look like at this advanced state of scientific progress. And as I said before, it’s positively Shakespearean in its conflict and drama. I cannot give enough praise to Upgrade Soul!
5/5 mad scientists 👨🔬👨🔬👨🔬👨🔬👨🔬
For another great sci fi graphic novel check out Alex and Ada.
in order to keep me up to my ears in books please consider using the following amazon affiliate link to purchase this product. it’s at no extra cost to you and would really help me out, thank you and happy reading!
Buy it here: Upgrade Soul