I’ll start with the setup: This book has a really fascinating premise. Humans have figured out cloning technology and its use is now fairly widespread. There has been unceasing civil unrest over the idea, and there are now certain rules that clones (or those looking to become clones) have to abide by, but human clones are now more or less ubiquitous. Basically when you die, a new you, at the peak of your physical form, is woken up and downloads all the memories of your previous clones. Only one of you can exist at a time, but you get all the knowledge and experience of your previous lives in a shiny new body when the previous you dies. Kind of reincarnation without having to go through childhood or puberty. Clones can’t reproduce, and they pass any property or wealth straight down their clone line.
Of course, there are issues. Because your experiences and memories have to continuously be backed up and stored in the form of mindmaps in order to pass on to your next clone, there are of course hackers who can futz with those. Hackers got started as sort of genetic engineers — when human cloning began, it was essentially that movie Gattaca and parents created bespoke infants. When that was eventually outlawed, the programmers went underground and became hackers, and some figured out how to do some pretty bad things with people’s genetic codes and mindmaps.
So with that premise, we begin on a long-haul colony ship in deep space with a newly awakened clone named Maria. Maria, and the rest of her crew, find out pretty quickly that the reason they’ve all woken up at the same time in the middle of space is because they (their previous clones) have all been murdered. Somebody, presumably aboard the ship, killed the entire crew of six — the old bodies are still floating around — and the new crew have awoken with incomplete memories so that nobody remembers anything after launch. So now they have to figure out what happened and who is the killer.
So that’s a really interesting setup, right? Clones! Mind hacking! Space murder! And it’s not a bad book! But it’s not a great book, which is really frustrating. Now, fair warning: I’m fairly sure part of the reason this fell flat for me in particular is because I read it immediately after The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. And after the characters in that book, which are just the most fantastic group of deep space companions you could ask for, this lot is…not going to measure up. There’s just no chance. And honestly, they’re not supposed to. But I found myself struggling to find anybody to like among the crew and kept coming up short. They’re either weirdly flat, or just plain unlikable.
I’ll add a spoiler warning here for some minor plot discussion, but it’s honestly nothing you won’t see fairly quickly. (If I ever figure out how to add spoiler tags on here, I’ll do that. Otherwise, avert your eyes for the next paragraph.)
Also, a major plot point made clear early on is that everyone crewing the Dormire is a criminal, working to clear their record and have a fresh start in the new colony on the other side of the trip. Not everyone is a violent criminal, and nobody knows each other’s crimes, so that is also part of the mystery. You eventually learn about each character’s history, what they did, how and why they ended up on the Dormire, as the story unfolds and the crew tries to piece together what happened as well as continue their original mission. But I started figuring things out a lot sooner than I think you’re maybe supposed to, so by the time *gasp* this person is revealed to be this I was like, “No kidding.” This is basically a closed circle mystery with six suspects and there just aren’t enough major characters mentioned in other people’s backstories to do anything put start putting name tags on the rest of the crew, often chapters before a reveal.
I’ll say if you like mysteries and sci-fi and you want a pretty quick read that has some interesting conceits if maybe a sloppy execution, you could do worse. This is definitely a universe that could have some more interesting things done in it. I’ve read several complaints about the dialogue, but I didn’t find it notably bad. There are some good bits, and a couple of times I didn’t see something coming, but for the most part there’s nothing really mindblowing here.