Six Wakes – Mur Lafferty

About the Book

A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer — before they kill again.

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.

Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently.

364 pages (paperback)
Published on January 31, 2017
Published by Orbit Books
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I am ridiculously late with this review, but better late than never, right?

Six Wakes is a book I was dying to read as soon as I heard about it. Mur Lafferty is an incredible author, and I’ve absolutely loved the unique twist she puts on everything she writes. She’s one of those authors who has an incredibly unique perspective and she brings that to what she writes with flair and style.

Six Wakes also interested me because I love who-done-it stories, but I’m also finding myself increasingly interested in books that take place in closed systems. I’ve read a few good ones recently, and I find that, if done well, the world building in these sorts of stories can surpass just about anything else I run across as I read.

Everything I’ve read by Lafferty to this point has been thoughtful and well done, but also sort of light. Six Wakes is a different sort of beast. This book gets into your psyche pretty easily. The crew on this ship are out in the middle of nowhere. They wake up as clones of themselves, and soon discover their old bodies dead, scattered around the ship. On a ship full of criminals, each one capable of committing murder, and a closed system to boot, the drama can quickly get into your head.

In this respect, this who-done-it is masterful. Lafferty gets into her characters’ heads, and builds them all up with flashbacks of the past and other antidotes. While she’s doing this, she develops relationships and destroys trust all at once, until no one has a clue about what’s going on, least of all the reader, but you can’t stop because holy shit it’s addicting. She leads you on and keeps you guessing. The pacing, in this respect, is perfect, and the moral gray zone each of her characters inhabit is both an essential part of the plot, but can also be quite thought provoking.

So, on the one hand you have this murder mystery in space thing going on. On the other hand, Lafferty sort of throws a lot of deep thoughts at readers without readers realizing she’s doing it. In fact, once I finished the book, I thought about it a while and realized that the murder mystery thing is really just one aspect of the novel itself. This book also poses some pretty important questions as it tells its story.

For example, this book starts with each of the characters in the crew waking up in their tanks, in their cloned bodies. As the book winds on, Lafferty deftly plucks at themes and ideas surrounding cloning, laws, personhood, issues facing society, and more. It’s subtle, and well woven into the story, but I ended up thinking as much about the plot, as thinking about the inherent rights of humans themselves, and what an impact cloning would have on our society, as well as what makes a person count as a person.

Six Wakes works on multiple levels, and it does it so well. The murder mystery part is absolutely absorbing. The deeper issues circling around cloning and the problems this sort of science poses are just as riveting as the mystery, but a bit subtler. I enjoy books that work on numerous levels, and this absolutely is one of them. Coupled with fantastic writing, and a plot that won’t quit, Six Wakes was a fantastic book that exceeded every expectation I had for it.


4/5 stars


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