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Six Wakes
by Mur Lafferty

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

Six Wakes was a Nebula and PKD Award finalist, winning neither, but it's also up for a Hugo, winners of which will be announced next month at WorldCon76. It is set on an extra-solar space ship expedition crewed by six clones, with the rest of the future planetary explorers in cryonic suspension. There is also an AI computer called IAN, for Intelligent Artificial Network. The story begins about twenty-five years into the voyage, as six newly generated clones wake to scenes of violence, the deaths of their previous bodies. If one of them is the killer the most logical suspect is the pilot, Akihiro (Hiro) Sato, since his body is found hanging in the helm. Normally a new clone received an updated mindmap of its consciousness and memories, but in this case the new clones wake with only the memories they had from the beginning of the mission. All the later mindmap files had been wiped, and many of IAN's systems are compromised. The Codicils governing clones included the stipulation that no two clones of the same person could exist at the same time, so when it is discovered that the previous clone of Captain Katrina de la Cruz is still alive, albeit unconscious in the medbay, the question arises as to which should be allowed to live. If she recovers, the older Captain may be able to shed light on the investigation.

Since I usually don't seek out too much information about a book beforehand, I had a mistaken notion as to what the title meant. Section headings are "Wake One," "Wake Two," etc, so I thought new clones would be waking multiple times, with their memories wiped each time, so any progress in discovering the killer would be lost each time. That is not how it goes. Then I felt the term was used to indicate six different days after the initial incident, as the clones woke normally day to day, while continuing their investigation. But several of them don't sleep in a regular pattern, instead staying awake for long periods as they follow different leads in the investigation, so that wasn't it either. I finally decided wake was used in the sense of memorializing someone. There are flashbacks to each clone's life on Earth, and we learn several had a connection to each other and to the person responsible for financing the expedition. All but one of them had a criminal past, which was going to be forgiven if they agreed to take the mission. Thus each 'wake' was saying goodbye to their former selves, ready to create a new life on the new planet. If they live through the journey that is, however many clone generations that would take. Unfortunately, even the clone body generators are down, they may only have this one life left.

I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads, slightly higher for some aspects, but not enough to boost it to 3.5 or to round up to 4. It took maybe two actual days to read, which does not include the two days I set it aside and didn't read at all. The mystery is initially intriguing, although information that helped me guess the culprit was revealed much too early. It also didn't help that I didn't care for any of the characters. They all had done despicable things in the past, not sure any deserved being absolved of their crimes. All but the one who wasn't initially a criminal that is, although if they had not been redirected in their search for revenge they would likely have done things just as bad back on Earth. All of that is mitigated somewhat by another factor, which I won't reveal due to spoilers. If I was voting for the Hugos this year, out of the six novel nominees this would place no higher than #4 on my ballot, but more likely #5.


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Mur Lafferty


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