Verdict: Brilliant premise, clumsy execution.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Date read: April 20th, 2018
Published by Orbit, 2017
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…
I have complicated feelings on this and as is customary in such cases here are my thoughts, first in listform and then more elaborated (it feels like I haven’t done one of those reviews recently).
- That premise.
- The plot.
- The world.
- The characters.
- The narration.
I adore the premise of this: six clones who are crewing a spaceship filled to the brim with cryo-sleeping humans all wake up newly cloned with no memory of the last 26 years and a broken AI and have to figure out who killed them all and what is going on and why the space ship is turned around. I do love a good closed room mystery and the added sci-fi twist was wonderfully done. I found the plot exciting and the worldbuilding mostly wonderful. I loved the way this book created very specific rules and laws and stuck to them. I have many thoughts on the ethics of the technology described.
I was also never bored with this book and mostly sped through it (and I have been having the worst reading month). I found it in places funny and in others heartbreaking.
But. And this is a big but. The characters are dreadfully realized in such a way that for a good chunk of the book I thought this must surely be intentional (I had a whole elaborate theory that is kind of spoilery – especially because it turns out the opposite was true). It doesn’t seem to have been intentional though. Wolfgang in particular did not in the slightest resemble any human being I have ever met – and yes I understand why his backstory might give reasons for that, but it didn’t work for me. There is also a part fairly early on where Wolfgang challenges another clone to some sort of macho test of physical prowess, while they are starving and a murderer is among them. Which is weird in and of itself – but then the medical doctor on board has a thought along the lines of “knowing what she did about testosterone this seems to be normal behaviour” … and I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think that is normal behaviour.
The narration also did not work for me. We jump between the characters by way of a semi-omniscient narrator but still the information needed is hidden from the reader in a way that did not feel natural and got annoying pretty fast. I think I would have prefered to have stuck with one of the clones, Maria preferably, because she is by far the most interesting character and I think it would have worked a lot better for the story progression.
But, I did enjoy this a whole lot. It was just what I needed to get out of my reading funk and it kept me glued to the page, eagerly trying to find out what was going on. I thought the way the story was structured and the backstories integrated was wonderful. And the world IS brilliant.