Upload by Mark McClelland

Posted November 23, 2013 in Book Review / 3 Comments

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I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 16 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug use, alcohol use, language, and/or violence.
Upload by Mark McClellandUpload by Mark McClelland
on October 24th 2012
Genres: Adult fiction, Science fiction
Pages: 279
Format: ARC
Source: ARC from publisher
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three-stars

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.

Main Points

Writing Style
The style is sophisticated. He uses a lot of scientific terminology, and that for me was a big issue with the book. It was the first time that I thought my age might have something to do with not understanding it, but that wasn’t it. This isn’t a book for your average Joe to pick up and understand. This is about as science fiction as you can get. It had a lot to do with understanding what was going on in the last third of the book (I’ll discuss later). But as for the non-scientific parts, the wording was descriptive and above average. Those parts were enjoyable to read.
Story (some spoilers)
This story had a REALLY GOOD PREMISE. And it seemed really realistic, too. For the first 2/3 of the book, I was like, yeah, in the year 2070 if they had all this possible, this is probably a likely scenario. But then the last third of the book hit…..
Ok, I feel like I have to explain a bit. This may contain some spoilers, so read on if you dare.
The book starts with a kid years in the future who has access to all this amazing technology mainly revolving around v-worlds, or virtual worlds, where the possibilities are nearly endless if you are like him and have all the hacks. All of them. But the kid’s in a state home, ditched by his family, and so his childhood isn’t what you’d call normal. Then he goes to live/work for with this guy who is a v-world addict, and he basically gets tons of money from the guy to build whatever he wants. But then the guy dies and Raymond (the kid) is scared of getting blamed so he does a lot of cover-up stuff and everything is fine.
Fast-forward to adult Raymond, who is working at a company who is working on the ability to upload animals/humans to v-worlds, so they don’t need their bodies anymore but their minds can exist in v-worlds of their creation via avatars. They test these with sick animals who would die anyway, and are pretty successful, but several companies are against the idea of uploading humans because of the usual ethics issues. Raymond has this idea that he will eventually upload himself one day, in secret, as long as he can be sure of being successful. He meets Anya, and they start going out a bit. Raymond is not a social person, but she gets him to open up a bit. Happy happy.
But then his past comes back to haunt him, and uploading becomes even more important. Then a lot of other stuff happens and his plan nearly fails.
But obviously he does eventually upload. Welcome to part II.
He appears in the v-world he had prepared but everything is not going the way he planned. He spends the first half of part II trying to figure out what went wrong. Turns out he does not have god-mode instantly like he thought he would, so he does have to worry about dying and things. ALSO turns out that there was a Raymond before him, for whom things went perfectly but he was a monster and did a lot of bad things. So Raymond has to find out what happened with previous Raymond. THEN all the confusing stuff happens. People appear that we’ve never heard of, the fancy science jargon amplifies by 1,000, and the plot turns in a million directions we could never have guessed, so I didn’t know what was going on AT ALL for most of it. It just happened so fast, and there was so much, and a lot of it wasn’t even explained. I felt like if McClelland had simply slowed down, offered clearer information (and in simpler language), and perhaps even simplified the plot itself, it would go a lot smoother and I wouldn’t feel like I had just been hit by a meteor (haha story reference).
Characters 
Raymond: I…I felt like we did get to see what Raymond was all about, throughout the entire book. It just got confusing with all the ‘instances’ of him, being so different from each other. Who was the real Raymond? And who was he really? Was he a monster? Or was he just a man? I think, in the end, he was just a normal man, with both light and dark inside him, and a special knack for technology. Perhaps any man in his place would do what he did. But I felt like the Raymond in the second part (you’d have to read the book to know what I mean) was more in line with the pre-upload Raymond (I’m not going to put this as a spoiler because it’s pretty easy to guess that he DID upload eventually) and therefore was more normal and reasonable. The god-mode Raymond was more of the darker side of man and, because he was god-mode, probably not as realistic. But we never see things from his perspective, so I can’t be sure. We only hear bad things about him. But a character later says something that makes us think maybe he was not the evil Raymond we assumed him to be. I don’t know. It isn’t all explained.
Anya: She was a pretty good heroine, and that’s actually saying a lot considering how much of a character(s) RAYMOND was in the book. He took up like, all the character depth. It was hard to focus on anyone else. But McClelland did a pretty good job with what we did see of her. She was immensely helpful, and completely devoted. At the beginning she seemed a bit…off, maybe, and some of her interactions with Raymond were perhaps a bit unrealistic, but then post-upload she makes a lot more sense and I can see why he likes her so much.
Personas: I just love the concept of being able to create a person that is mostly real but then so obviously fake. They’re like little robots that do whatever you want and you can forget sometimes that they aren’t real. But I can also see how it would get lonely and frustrating to be with them. The human being is such a degree of complexity that I doubt ANY machine could be able to replicate it, but perhaps host it (like uploading).
Ending
The ending was pretty much a mixture of:
a) WHAT?
b) Is there more? Is there a sequel? Where’s the epilogue? What just happened?
c) Yeah, it was about time for this book to end. Went on a bit long and just got more confusing. But it’s still a little unsatisfying….anyway, glad it’s finally wrapped up one way or another.

Good vs. Bad

Good:

  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Writing style
  • Premise
Less than perfect:
  • Plot in last third of book
  • Length

Bottom Line

The writing was really well done, if a bit confusing at times (the scientific jargon was plentiful). The character depth was admirable. The premise and plot of the first part of the book were really engaging. The last third was extremely confusing, however. It was difficult to tell what was going on. But it seemed mostly realistic, and the setting was amazingly done. Would I read more by Mark McClelland? Perhaps I would be willing to give him another chance. Would I recommend this book to others? If they were science geeks or otherwise smart enough to understand the scientific language.

About Mark McClelland

Mark McClelland studied Computer Science and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan’s Residential College, where he won a Hopwood Award for poetry. After graduating in 1994, he promptly sold his soul to his software career, and recently entered into a contractual obligation to a Karma Faerie with the hope of winning it back. He writes in search of truths that defy simple, direct expression, and publishes to share his discoveries with others. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Nancy, and two cats, and is currently working on his second book. He also writes poetry for his wife, sole member of the Poem-of-the-Month Club.

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3 Comments on "Upload by Mark McClelland"

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Mark McClelland
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Great review. Naturally, I disagree on some points — especially the ending, which was intentionally abrupt — but it’s valuable to me as a writer to have such a nice long going-over from someone who clearly read the book closely and enjoyed it… except for the parts you didn’t. And you do a nice job of explaining your beefs. I really struggled with Part II, and I see where you’re coming from; I ended up with a plot that some readers love and others find utterly confusing. I do hope you give me another chance with my future writing. In Upload, I chose to adhere strictly to the vantage point of a single character — one who has an outsider complex and a not-very-nuanced experience of the social world. This turned out to be a limiting choice in many respects, and, while I’m proud of the artistic accomplishment, I’ll definitely… Read more »
Alicia the Awesome
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Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book, and clearly there was a lot more good stuff than confusing stuff. And I’ll definitely give you another chance (but that depends on what the book’s about). (:

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