I first heard about Six Wakes on Kameron Hurley’s blog. And then on John Scalzi’s Big Idea, and I thought it sounded intriguing. So I went ahead and ordered it. And then I read about it on The Book Smugglers, and I thought, right I’d better read this one. And then it arrived in the post, which confused me a little as I thought I’d ordered the ebook, but obviously not, but even better because I didn’t have my kindle with me at work but that’s where the parcel got delivered to so I was able to start reading it on my lunch break.
It is the story of a spaceship, crewed by clones, but not multiple clones of the same person. These clones are their own clones. So when one dies a new body is gotten ready for them and their mindmap, a copy of their brain, memories and emotions etc., is uploaded into the new body. So cloning is a way of achieving immortality of sorts.
It is also the perfect way for people to crew a ship that will be travelling across space to a new planet for generations. All the passengers are asleep in cryo, only the 6 clones are awake and active.
So when they all awake, surrounded by their previous selves’ dead bodies they know they have a problem. Added to the murder issue they are all missing huge chunks of memory, and the ships’ data logs have been erased. They’ve lost years. How can they figure out who is responsible before the killer strikes again…
I’ll admit that when I first started reading it the jumps from one narrator to the next through me, I wasn’t sure what point of view I was supposed to be in. But after a chapter or two I got my head in the right space and was able to enjoy it much more. That may not be an issue for other people, and maybe it is because I wasn’t concentrating properly.
The characters have to get know one another all over again, they have no memory of the time they spent together, and as they are all criminals who took on the job in order to get a fresh start, none of them trust one another. They don’t know what the crimes that the others committed and so figuring out who might have a motive to murder them all is a tad on the difficult side.
I really enjoyed the book. It alternates between the characters past lives, the secrets they keep and the secrets they don’t even know they have, and the post-wake up timeline, so the reader gets to learn more about them all. As well as learning about the society that they come from. The problems it has, some of the issues that cloning has created as well as how society has attempted to solve these problems. It is a fascinating look at some of the questions that cloning brings about. It is immortality if one body dies? And if you believe in a soul then what happens that when your body dies but your mind lives on?
Is it right to correct your bodies imperfections for the next clone, and if so, who gets to decide what is an imperfection and what is a personality trait?
Lafferty manages to raise all these questions while telling and entertaining and intriguing story. It never gets bogged down in the ethics, but raises them in service of the story and the character, as good science fiction should.