Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

The first Hugo-nominee novel that I've read knowing it is a nominated work. I have already read two novels from the ballot before. The story happens in a world where cloning is commonplace and it is used to extend life. One’s mind can be recorded, and in case of death, a new adult clone body can be easily grown and the recorded personality can be uploaded to it. There are strict regulations concerning cloning, almost all modifications are forbidden and only one copy of the same person is allowed to be alive at one time. There is a very illegal underground for these modifications, even the personality can be edited if desired.

Six people awake in a spaceship in new clone bodies. The gravity is off, and there appear to be multiple dead bodies floating around, all apparently brutally stabbed. When the newly awaken clones are able to break out of their cloning vats, they notice that the dead bodies are theirs. And apparently, it has been twenty years since they left for their several-decades-long trip to another solar system. They have no recollection at all of that time. The clones have been uploaded with a very old memory recording, which was done when they started their trip. And the ship seems to be following a new course. What has happened?

The setup is very good, but the book has a few problems - both in points of plot and in the point of writing. The characters are not supposed to know what has happened for twenty years, but they have intense suspicion of each other. Even if one of them is a murderer, he/she wouldn't know it, and the personality which is twenty years younger wouldn't essentially even be exactly the same anyway as the one who committed the murders. Why such strong suspicions? There was one, apparently fairly unimportant point, which was brought to readers' attention many times - so many times that it was very clear that this would have some special meaning later in the book. Perhaps one or two mentions, at most, would have been enough, especially when the point was so stupid and contrived (the food synthesizer is able to analyze from a saliva sample, what the food preferences of a person is - and one character (who has lost the memory of the last twenty years) is totally sure that she has a backup file of those preferences. Well, I really don’t believe that a genetic profile would explain one's food preferences: the favorite foods of identical twins, when one lived his childhood India eating curries and another in Germany eating pork chops and sauerkraut certainly wouldn't have been the same tastes. And wouldn’t it easier to choose foods from a menu anyway? That capability is mentioned at least three or four times; pretty clumsy foreshadowing. The food synthesizer is also able to synthesize _anything_, up to living tissue, but capsaicin (actually a fairly simple molecule) is hard to synthesize and the synthesizer really doesn’t manage THAT? Also, the author seems to imagine that spinning in space takes energy. The ship spins for gravity. After a power failure, the spinning starts to slow down, but doesn’t stop right away due to “inertia”? And candles readily available? In a spaceship? And in exactly the same place as twenty years ago? The ending of the book almost felt like a cheat; everything folded up nicely, thanks to miraculous technology which really wasn’t convincing. The book was a nice pastime, but the faults were also clear, and it won’t be among my top choices in the voting.

364 pp.

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