This is a very cool locked room murder mystery in space. As such, anything I really want to say about it will be a spoiler.
I enjoyed Mur Lafferty’s Shambling Guide to New York City earlier this year, but that in no way prepared me for Six Wakes, which is in a whole different league – tense, fast-paced and un-put-down-able. Whereas upon finishing Shambling Guide I was feeling both impressed and a little disappointed, after reading Six Wakes I am nothing but captivated.
The basic set up is as follows: The six clones that make up the crew of the generational starship Dormire (an Italian word meaning ‘to sleep’ – d’you see what she did there?) awake simultaneously in their vats to find their previous selves have all died in violent ways. The ships logs have been wiped and the clones have no memories beyond their initial launch, which they soon discover was twenty-five years ago. All that is really obvious to them is that one of them must be the killer. But who? And how? And what on earth for?
The story is then structured around six ‘awakenings’, as Maria, Katrina, Joanna, Hiro, Wolfgang and Paul try to piece together what has happened to them, both in their present situation and in their past lives. As you’d expect from any murder mystery lots of secrets are revealed and opinions and allegiances change as discoveries are made, but all the characters are brilliantly written and the plot is very satisfying. Cloning and how it has both divided and changed society is at the crux of the story, and I would have read this for Lafferty’s vision of that future alone even without its gooey mystery centre, (I’ve made a note-to-self to seek out more scifi dealing with cloning, so if anyone has any suggestions please let me know).
And having reached the limit of what I can say without giving any of the good stuff away, here, instead, is a blow-by-blow account of how reading this book went for me:
Pages 1 to 22 – dead bodies in zero-g messy and gross, but I like Hiro from the get go
Page 59 – Maria keeps an old kettle, tea and honey for emergencies now I like Maria too
Page 76 – Maria finds her video uh-oh
Page 78 – Hiro finds his video double uh-oh
Page 84 – Paul I’m watching you Paul. I don’t like you Paul.
Page 112 – IAN Hmmm, are you a HAL? Or a GERTY?
Page 151 – Aunt Lucia WTF???
Page 179 – Hiro has some sort of mental break No, no! I like Hiro! Also, it can’t be that simple can it? We’re not even halfway yet
Page 228 – Paul Boo! Hiss!
Page 240 – Wolfgang’s backstory Oh man! That is f***ed up!
Page 271 to 287 – Maria And it’s all starting to make sense now – this is bad bad bad *rocking back and forth* But also the Mrs Perkins thing is pretty AWESOME
Page 298 Oh crap!
Page 302 Oh double crap!
Page 314 crapcrapcrapcrapcrap…
Page 344 …crapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrap
Page 353 – Bebe and breathe again *lying down on floor while heartrate returns to baseline*
In conclusion, read this book. It’ll only take a couple of hours of your life. If you hate it, fine, that’s just a couple of hours lost and it’ll make you a better person (adversity is supposed to do that). But if you love it … well, then we can grab a cuppa and some cake and have a chat about cloning as a method of attaining immortality, and the limits of culpability. And you’re welcome!