Book Reviews

Book Review: Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

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Six Wakes

By: Mur Lafferty

Published: January 31, 2017 by Orbit

Page Count: 364 pages; paperback

The Rundown: “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 has 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 at 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…”

Don’t Get Strung Out by the Way I Look: In the center of the cover, a corpse floats through space.  In the book, the corpses weren’t floating in the vacuum; they were floating in the cloning bay.  Completely book inaccurate.  Zero stars.

What a Wonderful World: The Earth has been ravaged by centuries of war and pollution.  Thousands of humans and clones have booked passage on the ship the Dormire to colonize a pristine planet where they hope they can begin anew.  The clones, who comprise the majority of the colonists, want to live in a world free of religious persecution, rid of the strict cloning laws that dictate what they can do with their bodies.  But first, they need to get to this new world.  This seems unlikely, as while the passengers slept, the six crewmembers—all criminals—seem to have murdered each other.  Now, it is up to the crewmembers’ clones to figure out what happened, and reach their new world safely.

The Good Guy: There are six clones aboard the Dormire.  Though they are all given point-of-view sections, the protagonist is arguably Maria Arena.  She’s the cook and janitor of the expedition.  She’d imagined that life on a generation ship would be a glamorous adventure; she didn’t imagine it would involve cleaning blood and feces from the walls.  Maria is intelligent and resourceful, though she is a bit of a coward.  When faced with the threat of violence, she would sooner give in or run away than stand up for herself.  These are unlikely traits in a hero; indeed, they may have contributed to Maria’s unscrupulous past.  Don’t underestimate her, though.  There are things about Maria that no one knows about.  Unfortunately, the same can be said of the rest of the crew.

A+: All the bits about the ethics of cloning are many shades of gray.  On the black end we have the bathtub babies.  Parents will have a child with a trait they don’t like: say, brown eyes instead of blue, or boy instead of girl.  They’ll take a mind map of the baby—basically download the personality and genetic information—then have a hacker performed desired edits.  They kill the baby, then wake up the “perfected” clone.  On the white end we have edits to remove genetic diseases, or memories that cause metal disorders, or give transgender people their preferred gender.   As all edits are banned by cloning laws, if you’re born with a painful and crippling illness, you have to live with it across all your lifetimes.  All of the crew members have in some way been hurt or helped by cloning and the cloning laws.

F-:  The actual reveal of who the murderer was felt anticlimactic.  Who it was, and why they did what they did, was a bit too quick-and-easy, especially given how complex the rest of the novel was.

Does it Represent…

Women: Indeed it does!  Aboard the Dormire, we have: Maria, the junior maintenance officer; Katrina, the captain; and Joanna, the medical officer.  In flashbacks, there’s a sinister businesswoman named Sally, who strangely seems to have connections to every member of the crew.

People of Color: Maria and Katrina are Latina.  Hiro, the navigation officer, is Japanese.  There’s a minor character named Minoru, a translator who’s instrumental in forming the laws regarding cloning.  Sally is at least part African-American.

LGBT People: No.

The Disabled: Joanna has a genetic disorder causing her legs to be small and shriveled.  She gets around by using either a wheelchair or prosthetics.  There’s a brilliant bit of anti-ableism where she states that she had herself hacked in order to correct this disorder, but felt like this fundamentally changed who she was and had herself hacked back.  Hiro has a psychiatric disorder.  It was caused as a result of his cloning, but closely resembles a violent form of multiple personality disorder.

Memorable Quote: “Extremist individuals live inside every single group on the planet.  Devout followers from Christian to Muslim who kill in the name of God, down to people who perpetuate a cycle of abuse from parent to child.  And do you know at what point they’re labeled terrorists?…. When the news reports it.”

Recommended for: People who want to read a closed-room murder mystery set in space.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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