The Uploaded by Ferrett Steinmetz

Rating: 3.5 (out of 10)

I seem to have some sort of built-in resistance to the writing of Ferrett Steinmetz, an auto-immune response that defies explanation. Authors I admire praise him; friends of mine gush about his books. Sadly, I find that I can’t tolerate his fiction for too long without needing to put it down, or disengaging to a degree that makes it hard to retain what I’ve read. There may be a physical allergy as well. I developed a weird rash on my hand while reading The Uploaded that didn’t go away until I was finished, no matter how much cortisone and aloe I slathered on it. I know, I know, correlation does not equal causation. But I still think it’s kind of fishy.
I had pretty much the same reaction to this novel as I did to Steinmetz’s first novel, Flex. I don’t find his characters believable or likeable, his worldbuilding plausible, or his stories at all engaging. The Uploaded is set in a future where those deemed worthy can be uploaded upon death to a VR haven awkwardly named “The Upterlife” (also, the most popular mobile devices are called “earputers”, as if one artlessly rendered phrase per book was not enough for the author). The protagonist is Amichai, a malcontented teenage boy who makes dumb choices for no discernable reason other than to mess up his, and apparently somehow also his sister’s, chances of getting into The Upterlife (I really, truly hate that term). Until, of course, he decides to reverse course and stop being such an underwhelmingly petty human. I think. For me, he never actually stops sucking at being a person. But that could just be me.
Steinmetz does not appear to be a technically bad writer, just one whose works hold little interest for me. I picked this one up thinking there was a chance I was wrong about Flex, and that I would finally “get it” with The Uploaded. Alas, I still don’t get it. I don’t think I’ll make the same mistake again.

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