Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. ★★★★
I’ve always loved science fiction mysteries, and Six Wakes did not disappoint.
Maria Arena is a clone. Whenever she dies, she wakes up in a new body with memories from whenever she last downloaded them. But now Maria has awaken in a new body where her old one is still floating dead — the entire six person crew of the spaceship Dormire are clones, and all of them have woken up with no memories of the last twenty years after they’ve apparently been murdered. Not only that, but the cloning machine is broken. If the killer strikes again, there will be no more second chances.
Going into Six Wakes, all I knew was that it was a locked room mystery in space with clones. Basically, a sci-fi version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. And that turned out to be true! But Six Wakes also had the inventive idea of the cloning itself and a glorious tangle of character backstories and motives.
The entire crew of the Dormire is criminals who agreed to spend hundreds of years running a colonization ship in exchange for having their records wiped clean upon arrival. Their records are sealed, and none of the crew is supposed to know what crimes lead to their fellow crew mates serving alongside them. Obviously, the mysteries of the character backstories and the mystery of the murders are not entirely unrelated. Six Wakes is a brilliantly plotted story with plenty of twists and turns. I devoured it in short order.
While Maria Arena is the viewpoint character for the first chapter, Six Wakes delves into the viewpoints of each of the six crew members. The story also contains flashbacks revealing the past lives of the crew. This could have taken away from the story and thrown off the pace, but I never felt like skipping over any of these sections to get back to the current timeline.
As for the cloning technology itself, how imaginative! Between technology capable of printing a fully grown human body and mind mapping tech that can save and imprint a memories and personality, clones are practically immortal. Yet not all humans have chosen to become clones, and much enmity exists between the two groups. Long before the start of the story, a peace accord laid out laws to regulate cloning, making any modification of DNA or personality illegal. Yet criminal hackers are still willing to change a person’s mind or DNA for the right price.
Six Wakes is a great story, one I had a lot of fun with. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.