Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,
Inverarity
inverarity

Book Review: Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

A murder mystery in spaaaaaaaaace!


Six Wakes

Orbit, 2017, 400 pages



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....




Mur Lafferty, whom I knew only from some garishly cartoonish book covers, writes a surprisingly complex science fiction novel exploring such topics as clone rights, uploaded and "hacked" personalities, and how to pull off a locked room murder mystery in space in which we get first-person POV narration from all six suspects.

The starship Dormire is carrying a cargo of cryogenically frozen colonists, and crewed by six clones. Each clone will serve an entire lifetime aboard the Dormire, before dying and awakening its next clone, who emerges with a new, young body and all the memories of all previous clones. So it's a form of immortality, but as we learn from each clone in turn, there are ethical, philosophical, and spiritual questions that continue to plague humanity even after they go into space. Cloning caused riots and wars back on Earth, and apparently some very strange and sometimes brutal laws about the legality of killing clones.

This all boils into simmering paranoia when the latest batch of clones all wakes up to find out that one of them murdered everyone else's previous incarnation. Memories have been suspiciously edited, the ship's AI is only partly functional, and it also turns out that all these clones "earned" their berth aboard the Dormire by being criminals back on Earth with a choice of death, life in prison, or spending the rest of several lifetimes aboard a colony ship. None of them have reason to trust one another, most have good reasons to hate each other, and everyone has deep, dark secrets.

Six Wakes was a clever little sci-fi murder mystery that keeps you guessing partly by author cheats - withholding information until crucial moments - but the parts more or less fit together and the ending resolved things satisfactorily. It's not the sort of mystery where you can "guess whodunnit" or even figure out what the real story is, because the real story is gradually parsed out to you, chapter by chapter.





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