Completed 10/3/2018, Reviewed 10/7/2018
As I said in a post just about a week ago, I don’t read many mystery novels. However, here’s another. This time it’s set in the science fiction genre of a generations ship. It was an easy read, and very entertaining. It had a cool premise, that people could serially clone themselves and reload their full memories into their clone so they can achieve a sort of immortality, going from one life to the next as needed. And what better way to staff a generations ship than with such clones. But this one has a twist in the beginning. All the clones are murdered and their replacement clones are awakened, but with no memory of the time they were on the ship. So you have to find out who the murderer is with little or no clues. It was a good read, but in the end, it basically felt like fluff.
Now for more detail on the plot. Six clones awaken on a spaceship bound for the new world of Artemis. The ship carries 2500 passengers in cryosleep. The clones are only supposed to awaken when their previous clones have died. They wake up to a literal blood bath. All the previous clones are dead, several by stabbing wounds. They are floating around the clone bay because the ship’s AI has been set off-line as well, resulting in zero gravity on the ship as well a deviation in the ship’s flight path. Besides cleaning up the mess, they try to discover who the murderer is to prevent this from happening again. The clincher is that the crew of six are all criminals who were given the opportunity to redeem themselves by signing up for this mission, so they are all capable of murder. However, instead of having memories up to the point of their deaths, their memories only go up to the beginning of the flight. All other backups of themselves have been destroyed. And with the ship’s AI offline, they have no clues as to who the murderer might be.
I thought the form of the book was well done. The clones don’t know each other’s criminal pasts. In fact, they are not supposed to tell each other what their crimes were. We find out their pasts slowly in flashbacks interspersed throughout the book. Some of their pasts are very surprising, given how they act on the ship. I won’t go into more details because that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, Lafferty came up with some very interesting characters. Even the AI, called IAN, is interesting.
What I thought was lacking in the book was good prose. It’s almost all dialogue, which is what makes it such easy reading. While it was good for characterization (the dialogue and the flashbacks), it wasn’t great for overall effect of the book. It read like a screenplay for a movie. In fact, I think it would make a great movie, but it only made for a good book.
The science is pretty interesting. 3D printers are used to produce food from a product called Lyfe. 3D printers are also used to manufacture the clones from the same substance. This way, rather than having to be born as an infant and going through childhood and puberty again, the clone is created as an adult and the clones past lives are downloaded into its brain. And of course, there are hackers who can change the clones’ personalities and even rewrite the DNA to avoid serious long term illnesses, like MS for example. However, there are laws and codices regulating the manufacturing of clones and hacking is illegal. But that doesn’t mean it’s not done.
I give the book three stars out of five. It’s very entertaining, but left me wanting more. I think if there was a little more prose and it was a little more mature, I think I would have liked it better. But the concepts are great, and the characters interesting. Oh yeah, the book passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. There are at least two women (three actually, as well as one in the flashbacks), they talk to each other, and it’s about something other than a man.