Title: Six Wakes
Author: Mur Lafferty
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: January 31 2017
Hardcover: 352 Pages
It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.
At least, Marie Shea iv had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died: from illness once and from injury once…
Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Pituitary, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. Apparently Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently…
How did we get this book: ARC from the publisher
Format (e- or p-): ebook
Thousands of years in the future, Earth is plagued by multiple disasters and corrupt governments. Technology has advanced to a point where colonising the moon and other planets is a reality. High on the list of tech breakthroughs though is cloning: not only humans are now capable of creating clones, but they can also download their own mindmaps from one body to another, retaining their memories and personality with each new transfer – thus effectively achieving immortality. There are laws of course, implemented after a long period of warring when genetic modifications were rampant: there can only be one clone of one person alive at any given time for example and hacking of a mindmap – i.e. changing one’s basic personality – is considered unethical and strictly forbidden. But of course, humans being humans – even clones – laws are still broken.
This is how six clones who committed crimes find themselves in a position where they can’t refuse a life-changing offer: to become the crew in a generation ship carrying thousands of sleeping humans toward another planet. The journey is to last hundreds of years and each crew member will die and be reborn into a new, younger clone multiple times before they reach their destination. When they do, their criminal records will be deleted and they can start anew. There is only one rule: they are not supposed to talk to each other about their past crimes so that they have a true chance of a new life. And IAN, the ship’s AI is to make sure they comply.
These are the voyages of the generation ship Dormire…
The six crew members of the Dormire wake up one day to find themselves floating in a room, surrounded by the murdered corpses of themselves. One of them poisoned, a few of them were stabbed, one committed suicide. Not only that, but they immediately notice that the bodies look much older than they should be and that’s when they realise that 25 years have gone past of which they have no memory of and clearly, clearly something went really, really wrong.
But that’s not all: the ship’s gravitational system is not working and they don’t seem to be on-course, the AI is not responding and one of the crew’s original body is not really dead: the captain is in a comma in the medical bay and it’s possible that she knows what happened but according to the laws, they now need to kill her because her clone has been awakened.
So to recap: their minds have been hacked, the ship is malfunctioning and off course, IAN is offline and at least one of them is a murderer. But who did it? Maria, the maintenance lady? Joanna, the Doctor? Wolfgang, the law enforcer? Paul, the IT guy? Katrina, the Captain? Or Hiro, the navigation pilot? And what about IAN, the AI? Could it know what happened if they manage to fix it?
A locked-room whodunit in space, with unreliable, memory-less characters, a malfunctioning AI and multiple clones, Six Wakes is FUNtastic. It works on many ways: as a whodunit, as a character exploration piece, as a science fictional piece, and it features multiple threads that examine ethics, morality, humanity and forgiveness. The book alternates between now and the past following each clone’s background and past history through the centuries in order to form a full picture of who they are: and the twists and red herrings keep on coming, fast and furious, as the building blocks fall into place to reveal whodunit. It’s not only brilliant in the way that the stories converge and how the author buried the clues deep into the storylines but it also raises really interesting questions about cloning, hacking, nature and nurture. It’s a deeply philosophical book as well as an incredibly fun one. I loved it.
OK. So here’s the thing–I really love science fiction novels that ask philosophical and provocative questions. I also love locked room mysteries. Six Wakes, from a premise level of promise, is essentially Thea-candy.
The time is the future, and on a generation ship in deep dark space, six crew members wake up in the worst possible conditions. They are resurrected clones–and it becomes very clear immediately that something on the good ship Dormire has gone terribly, terribly wrong. For one thing, there’s the floating blood. For another, there are the dead bodies of their previous iterations are bobbing about in zero-g.
Six clones wake up, missing memories, with their ship’s AI down, the clone tanks sabotaged, and their corpses as their only clues as to what happened. Six clones, six secrets, and one killer. It’s up to these very different characters to figure out what is going on–and save their skins before the killer strikes again.
So. Six Wakes. It’s smart, fast-paced, energetic, and has the bonus of asking big questions about ethics and cloning and what it means to be human. In addition to that goodness, Mur Lafferty pulls off a helluva whodunit–at least for the first three-quarters of the novel. (The book’s final act is a little transparent, and I was hoping for more.)
On the plus side: the characters are beautifully, slowly revealed (think: Season 1, Lost) and build on twists and revelations that are lovingly executed. I truly appreciated the setup, and loved the central conceit of the novel.
On the negative side: there are certain aspects of this particular world that don’t add up, and had me questioning the foundations of a society of ever-replicated clones. Perhaps this is unfair, but last year I finished reading a book with a similar conceit of immortality (Scythe by Neal Schusterman), which addressed these issues in a much more fulsome way. What happens when everyone can live forever? Beyond the divisions between human and clone, there are other strains on society–Six Wakes looks at these stress-fractures at a surface level, and it had the potential to do so much more.
Still, these issues voiced, I truly enjoyed this book very much–this is a scifi mystery worth checking out.
Ana: 8 – Excellent
Thea: 7 – Very Good
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