*Spoiler clearly tagged.
You say words like “virtual” and “reality” and I get pretty excited. The truth is that we all seek escapism in some way. Some exercise, some bake, some drink, some meditate and some read. But what if you could escape into an entire virtual world? A world where you could do anything, have anything and be anything? A world of your own making. Would you have any qualms about leaving your old life behind? For those of us who have loved ones, the decision wouldn’t be so cut & dried. For the loner MC of Upload, the decision was a fairly easy one.
Raymond is an orphan who grew up in state homes for boys. He learned early on that his best method for survival would be keeping to himself. Growing up without love and guidance has left Raymond a little.. cold. Indifferent. I find Raymond fascinating. He's extremely well-disciplined and diligent. He's seemingly a decent person, but he's done some questionable things. He's rationalized them, but that makes them no less questionable. I like that in a MC. I can't say that I ever connected with Raymond, but I think that's how it's supposed to be. He is a hard person to connect with in and out of the book. Not very many get to know the real Raymond, but there is one person who delves a little deeper and puts a kink in his plans.
The love interest, Anya, is Raymond's opposite. She's fun and vibrant. She's curious and lively. She's quintessentially "normal". For the most part, I find that their romance was done well. I also feel that their relationship progressed at a normal pace. I felt engaged in their interactions in the first half of the book. Later on, the only thing I wasn't completely convinced of (view spoiler)[was Anya's commitment to Raymond. I understand why he would cling to her, but I didn't understand why she would cling to him. I wasn't made to believe wholeheartedly in their love, especially after his upload when some (conscious) time had passed for Anya. (hide spoiler)] Still, it was an interesting relationship to read.
I have to admit that after a pretty strong start, there was a short-lived lull for me. I started to get a little bored and I did put this down. However, I decided to forge on and I'm so glad I did. It quickly started to pick up and before I knew it, I couldn't put it down. This is more than sci-fi. There's mystery, romance, action and adventure - emphasis on adventure. The second half of this book was a trippy trip into a fantastic virtual world. It was pretty intense and I wanted to figure everything out so badly, that I was on the edge of my seat throughout.
A lot of people have likened this to Ready Player One, but I don't see it. Yes, there are virtual worlds in both, but the stories are completely different. As much as I loved Ready Player One, Upload is more of a grown-up book. This felt, to me, like a mashup of all the best parts of The Matrix, Sims and... Second Life. Yes, I totally played Second Life way back when. Don't judge me. -_-
I have a few complaints. Though I found the world-building to be believable and very well-explained, some passages were a little too technical. I also feel like one very fascinating, dark part of Raymond's virtual world should have been explored in a more in-depth way. I'm a glutton for darkness and depravity, though.. Lastly, I don't know how I feel about the ending. This is seemingly a standalone, but this had a cliffhanger ending. For some books, that works. I seriously can't gauge how I feel about it in this one, though. I would be ecstatic to find out that this is a first in a series. I will say that I can live with that ending, but I don't love it.
Overall, this was a highly enjoyable read. I don't think my review does it justice, actually. It's a very thought-provoking story and there are other very interesting characters. Even taking into account my complaints, I can't take away much from my rating. I just simply had a good time reading this. For a majority of the book, I was completely engaged and filled with that good anxiety that I love. I highly recommend this one.