One of the things science fiction does very well is to take the conventions of another genre and turn them around or twist them a little so you see them in a completely new light. One example of this is Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, which takes the classic whodunit format of a locked room murder mystery and, by moving it onto a spaceship, upends all our expectations of how to solve a murder.


Let’s start with clones, because this is where the book starts. Our protagonist, Maria Arena, wakes up in her cloning vat, streaked with blood.  She has no memory of her death or anything that happened before she woke up as this clone of the original Maria Arena.  This is a unique experience for her.  Usually when the clone awakes to her new life, the thing she remembers most clearly is the moment of her death in the last life.


There are seven crew members, and they take turns narrating the book, but all of them have secrets, all of them have great gaps in their memories, so all of them are unreliable narrators (always a fun literary device to keep readers guessing).  The characters themselves aren’t even sure of their innocence or guilt, and while they’re trying to figure out which one of them is the murderer, they discover that the ship itself is malfunctioning and there may no longer be the technology to recreate them as clones.


There’s a lot going on here, not just the mystery, which is suitably twisty and intricate, but also the deeper issues of what makes us human, how technology changes us and remakes our institutions and culture.  For a wild ride for mystery and science fiction fans, and people who are just curious, you could hardly do better than to pick up Six Wakes.


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