I came across this book when I saw LurkeyTurkey‘s review back in December. Anything being described as “a kick in the teeth” is going to intrigue me, if nothing else. I’m so thankful that this review is spoiler-free, because I went into this book not really knowing anything about it, and I think that was the best way to experience this story. Thanks, LurkeyTurkey!
For what it’s worth, synopses I’ve seen of the book give much of it away. So be forewarned.
This book takes place in a vague, unknown future in which cloning exists. Evelyn is a world renown scientist on the leading edge of cloning, and she’s making great strides in creating indistinguishable replicas of people (used mainly for political body doubles, organ harvesting, and other purposes). Everything is going well for her, professionally.
Personally, on the other hand, her life is in shambles. Her marriage is falling apart and she has no significant relationships to speak of. Her father disappeared when she was a teenager, and her relationship with her mother is non-existent.
And….that’s pretty much all I can say about this book without giving up the entire plot – which I don’t want to do. The unfolding of this plot is important, and part of what makes this book so fascinating.
This is the kind of book that will probably stick with me for days or weeks. I finished it yesterday, and it’s taken up space in the back of my head. Just sitting there, asking to be felt. The author, Sarah Gailey, does an absolutely marvelous job understanding the motivations of these characters and explicating their behavior. So much of this novel takes place in Evelyn’s head, and it wouldn’t work so well if Gailey didn’t have such a firm grasp of the motivations of these characters. I’ve never read them before, but after looking through their bibliography – I want to read more.
Everything below this is going to be spoiler-y. If you don’t want the surprises of this book ruined for you, stop here.
So, no one in this book is all that likable. Normally, this would turn me off the book – but I think everything just works so well, here.
Evelyn is an asshole. Like, I would hate her in real life. She’s cold. She’s indifferent to the people around her. She’s obsessed with her work to the point that nothing else really seems to matter. She was damaged by an abusive father and a weak, cowardly mother whom she has no respect for. And she can be straight-up mean to the people around her. Her husband, Nathan, calls her a “hornet” because she likes to sting when she’s upset – and I think it’s a fairly apt description of their relationship.
Nathan, on the other hand, is an absolute fucking monster. He steals her research so that he can clone Evelyn without her knowledge. After doing so, he drops her and goes off to live his perfect life with his engineered fantasy wife-slave. He does all this because he wanted kids and Evelyn didn’t. And the clone he creates – Martine – isn’t a well-made clone. Evelyn’s work is so brilliant because she spends a lot of time and effort programming her clones, but Nathan is lazy and (frankly) uninterested in seeing Martine as an actual person. She’s just a vessel for his seed. An avatar for his fantasy.
And to top it all off – Martine wasn’t his first attempt at making a clone of Evelyn. She’s the thirteenth. What happened to the other twelve? He murdered them and buried them in shallow graves in his back yard.
Things get (even more) complicated when Nathan, dissatisfied with Martine, attempts to kill her. Even though she’s pregnant with his child. She fights him off and ends up killing him with a knife. She then calls Evelyn for help, and the two Nathan-wives end up creating a nicer clone of him to cover his disappearance.
What I found endlessly fascinating here is that Evelyn hates Martine because of her programming. She’s basically become Evelyn’s mother: pliant and cowardly. But throughout the novel, Evelyn herself is driven by the behaviors she learned from her father. She doesn’t see the similarity between her learned behavior and Martine’s programming. As different as they are, Evelyn and Martine are inherently the same. Their cages may be different, but their predicament is the same.
I think the author is aware, though. I think they’re saying something about identity, and free will, and what makes us who we are. It was a wonderfully well done juxtaposition.
I highly recommend this book, and think it’s a wonderful way to start CBR14.