REVIEW: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer — before they kill again.
It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.
At least, Maria Arena 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.
Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently…
Dear Mur Lafferty,
Somebody mentioned your book at the File 770 blog, where I lurk on a regular basis. It sounded like a lot of fun and it was on sale, so I could not resist and one-clicked.
Before the actual story begins the readers are presented with the following summary:.
“International Law regarding the Codicils to govern the existence of clones.
Established October 9, 2282.
1. It is unlawful to create more than one clone of a person at a time. Each clone is one person. Cloning will be used for longevity of life, not for multiplication. If a clone is multiplied by their own hand or others, the most recent clone has claim to the identity, while the other( s) are extraneous.
2. It is unlawful for a clone to bear or father children. A clone is considered their own child for the rest of their life, including where it affects inheritance law. Clones must be sterilized upon rebirth.
3. It is unlawful to put a mindmap onto a body that does not bear the original DNA.
4. Clones must always have the most recent mindmap of their consciousness on a drive on their person. They and their mindmaps are subject to search by authorities at all times.
5. It is unlawful to modify any DNA or mindmap of any clone. (Codicil 2 being an exception.) Clones must continue with the DNA of their original bodies and their original mindmap.
6. The shells a clone leaves behind must be disposed of quickly, hygienically, and without ceremony or ritual.
7. It is unlawful for a clone to end their own current life in order to be reborn. (Exception one: A clone can sign a euthanasia agreement, if a qualified doctor agrees that death is imminent and they are suffering. Exception two: See Codicil 1.).
Science fiction readers know that when a writer is exploring the topic of cloning, especially the cloning of human beings, a lot of interesting issues could be explored and this story was no exception. But it also was just an entertaining story for me.
When the story begins on July 25, 2493, onboard the spaceship called “Dormire”. The disoriented crew members of the ship are waking up in their new clone bodies. It becomes apparent that all six members of the crew were murdered recently in a gruesome way. Crew member Maria Arena, who woke up first, managed to hit the resurrection switch before her death, allowing them to come back in their new bodies. What this also means is that all of them are missing a good twenty-five years of their lives, since that’s when their most recent mindmap took place.
The way I understood the mindmap is that it is a complete backup of your personality, and you are supposed to do this backup on a regular basis if you intend to be cloned when you die. Of course, after the first time people keep doing it and waking up in their new bodies. It seemed to me that most characters in this story had already lived a few hundred years by changing their bodies whenever the current one expired. It is apparently not that expensive to do at this point, one of the characters even says that life became cheap.
But let’s go back to the story. Maria Arena and other members of the crew wake up in various states of distress and try to come to terms with the situation – some better than others. Basically, while their mission is to deliver 2500 passengers to a new planet, the only person/s who could have murdered them is supposedly one of them. There is no other reasonable suspect since all the passengers are asleep and won’t wake up in their new clone bodies until they arrive at their destination.
This means that the crew is having a lot of trouble trusting one another and at least partially the story at this point becomes a “locked room mystery” or should I say “locked spaceship mystery”.
Having said that, it is only partially a “locked spaceship mystery” because the reasons and motivations for what took place lay in the time and places before this mission even started and we need to learn about that past. This was one of the problems I had with the narrative, because it felt a little clumsy. In order to deliver the information needed to solve the mystery the author chose to give us backstories of every crew member. It was not boring, precisely – I liked learning who these people were — but it broke the flow of the story for me, and it also revealed a little too much about who was behind it and what connected our crew members.
I am trying very hard not to reveal any spoilers here, but basically by the time everyone’s backstory is given you know who was pulling the strings without investigating anything, if that makes sense. What you *don’t know* is who did the actual murders, and I appreciated that everybody had very good reasons for that, but I kind of felt that the person/s pulling the strings were the real villains anyway.
I did not expect to enjoy the characterizations so much – most of them were really flawed people, and when I say flawed, I mean they had big ones, but by the end of the book I was pulling for all of them to survive.