Book : Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Andrew Stephens, Sunday the 16th of June, 2019 in Books, Science Fiction

Six Wakes Cover
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
Published 2017 by Orbit
ISBN: 978-0316389686
Finalist for a bunch of awards:
2017 BSFA Award for Best Novel
2018 Philip K. Dick Award
2018 Hugo Award for Best Novel
2018 Nebula Award for Best Novel

The starship Dormire is decades into its journey, deep in interstellar space. The six crew members (plus the ship's computer) run the whole ship. If one of crew dies then they can be easily cloned from their last weekly memory backup. It is almost foolproof.

So you can imagine their dismay when all six crew members wake up in the cloning bay to find their old selves brutally murdered and with no memory of the 25 years since they left Earth. Somebody among them has killed everyone, sabotaged the ship, wiped their memory backups, and messed with the ship's computer.

But who and why?

And are they going to try again, this time for good?

It is hard to imagine a more solid sci-fi mystery/thriller premise. Six Wakes hits the ground running and charges straight into its twisty plot. All the characters have something to hide and the revelations come thick and fast. Much of the plot is told in flashback and we get to see how society on Earth has adapted to commonplace cloning technology, with all the legal and ethical implications that copying people entails.

In a novel filled with strong ideas, I was a little disappointed with the writing. The narrative juggles the six characters well but they all seem a little samey despite their widely different backgrounds. This is a real problem in a mystery where remembering details about everyone is vital to figuring out what is going on.

The story is good but relies heavily on huge twists to drive itself forward. These tend to produce mental whiplash instead of that a-ha feeling that a really good mystery should supply. Having said that, the mystery aspect does play fair and everything does come to a fairly logical conclusion.

In conclusion, Six Wakes is a perfectly good (and quick) read. The worst I can say about it is that it is one of those novels where the best ideas are in the intricately designed back story rather than the slightly duller main narrative. But that only dampens the clone-murder fun slightly.