by Ezra Claytan Daniels
Published by Lion Forge • September 18, 2018
272 Pages • ISBN 978-1549302923 • Paperback
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"Thoughtful and beautifully illustrated science fiction. A masterful comic book experience." - Farel Dalrymple, The Wrenchies, Pop Gun War, Omega Man
For their 45th anniversary, Hank and Molly Nonnar decide to undergo an experimental rejuvenation procedure, but their hopes for youth are dashed when the couple is faced with the results: severely disfigured yet intellectually and physically superior duplicates of themselves. Can the original Hank and Molly coexist in the same world as their clones? In Upgrade Soul, McDuffie Award-winning creator Ezra Claytan Daniels asks probing questions about what shapes our identity-Is it the capability of our minds or the physicality of our bodies? Is a newer, better version of yourself still you? This page-turning graphic novel follows the lives of Hank and Molly as they discover the harsh truth that only one version of themselves is fated to survive.
To be honest, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about Ezra Claytan Daniels' Upgrade Soul; on the one hand it's a brilliant, challenging, and dark cautionary tale about the dangers of immorality in science, and on the other it's a slow and sometimes confusing study of individuality and what makes a person a person, the body, soul, or mind. I think some could categorize this as a science fiction story, while others could see it as horror; it does meet somewhere in the middle of these genres.
For their 45th anniversary, the Fred and Molly Nonnar decide to finance and undergo an experimental procedure that in theory will rejuvenate their cells and make them younger, stronger, smarter, and better in every way so that they can live an even longer and more fulfilled life than the one they have now. However, the scientists behind the procedure are not completely upfront about what the procedure will actually do, and instead of rejuvenating their own bodies, the Nonnars discover that they were to be cloned into a new body, with their memories and life experiences uploaded into these new bodies. However, something goes horribly wrong, and the clones come out of the procedure wildly disfigured, but better than their original bodies in every other way, while the Nonnars are left weaker and more feeble than before. What comes of this is back and forth tension about which pair is more "qualified" to live, the originals who are left lesser than they were before, or the clones, who are now superior, but ultimately incapable of living a "normal" life due to their disfigurations. There are several side plots concerning the actually motivation of the scientist heading up the program, a love story or two, and the families thoughts on what has happened to the Nonnars, but at the end of the day, this book is ultimately their story. I think it is a challenging book and pushes you to think about what makes you an individual, but it just didn't resonate with me as much as I would have liked. The story was sometimes too slow, the art sometimes too sparse, the timeline sometimes too confusing. Still, I'm glad that I read it. This book will have its audience and I think that it's going to start conversations about what it implies.
I received an eARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.