Man, this is the year for really interesting SF murder mysteries getting nominated for the Hugo awards. In The Best Novella category there’s “Then There Was (N-One)” – and in Best Novel, we have Six Wakes from Mur Lafferty.
The book is set on a slow-boat colony ship. At this point in human history, humanity has developed Human Cloning, and a whole bunch of various ethical laws has come up in relation to it, with in turn a lot of growing pains leading up to, and caused by, the development of those laws.
Consequently, as part of the plan for this mission, the ship’s “awake” crew – who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the ship as it travels to its destination, is made up of six clones. The remainder of the ship’s passengers will be in cryo-sleep, or with their consciousnesses, or mind-maps, stored in the ship’s computers for them to be cloned into new host bodies on arrival at their destination.
However, things go wrong. At the start of the book, the six crew members wake up in their cloning tubes and see a grisly sight – their own bodies. Somehow, something happened to lead to all of their deaths, apparently all through foul play. However, due to a series of incidences of computer malfunction and sabotage – they have no way to tell what happened. Further, the mind-maps they were cloned from was their ones from the start of the voyage, not from any point after departure. So they have no information on what happened during the voyage to cause this.
The six members of the ship now find themselves in the awkward situation of trying to answer the questions “Who killed us?”, “Why did they want to kill us?”, “Will they try to kill us again?”, and “How do we stop this from happening again?”
The book handles this through two main tacks. The first is with the events on the ship as the crew tries to get to the bottom of things. The second is through flashbacks to their lives back on Earth, as we see what happened to cause them to end up on this voyage.
The flashback portion of the story provides for an interesting snapshot of how life on Earth has changed. It fits in with what I’ve described on a few occasions as “Transhumanist Cyberpunk” – fiction that takes a look at some of the ideas behind Transhumanism and Transhumanist society and says “Yeah… no, it’s not going to be that easy. Getting there is going to be difficult, messy, and hard, and the world we reach may not look like that at all.” Further, the events of that part of the story fit into the murder mystery plot in interesting ways, ways which I can’t really get into without spoilers.
I really enjoyed making my way through this book, and I absolutely consider this worthy of a recommendation for the Hugo awards this year – though I admit I have several more books to go through – including several series that I’m behind on.
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