Review: Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty

What a genuinely great, fun book. Six Wakes was one of my most anticipated books for spring, and with good reason! In this future, humans have perfected cloning: with regular backups (called mindmaps) and a fresh computer, a clone can die as many times as it likes and wake up again in a brand new body. If you haven’t backed up your mind lately with a new mindmap, and you die, your clone will be missing some time.

Space janitor and chef Maria Elena wakes up in a new clone body to find that her last body is dead. The five other crew members aboard the generation ship Dormire are in the same situation. Their older bodies have clearly been in space for more than two decades, but they now can’t remember anything later than boarding the ship. Unable to trust anyone — even themselves — they have to get the ship’s AI back online and figure out how they got to this state, or the ship (and its thousands of sleeping colonists) is doomed.

Six Wakes

Despite (because of?) the high concept of Six Wakes, I was all in the way in from the jump. A manor house murder mystery is my favorite type of murder mystery, and Six Wakes is a manor house murder mystery in space. To make things even more fun, we soon learn that each of the six crew members is a criminal, undertaking this difficult journey with the promise that their records will be wiped clean at the other end. They are to be kept under control by the AI, who has ultimate command of the ship — but the AI is, at the time of their waking, offline and malfunctioning. Interstitial flashback chapters tell each of their stories, both how they came to commit their crimes and how they came to board this ship. Secrets abound, and it’s an absolute treat to watch the many pieces of the puzzle slowly come together.

The further you get into the book, the more Lafferty reveals about the history and mechanics of cloning, details that become more and more important as we gain more clues into what happened. I don’t want to spoil too much about the book — it’s fun learning as you go along! — but suffice it to say that the world has had a difficult time of it reaching the current legal and social detente between humans and clones.

If you’re a mystery person considering dipping a toe into SF, or an SF person considering dipping a toe into mystery, or an omnivore looking for something fun and meaty (a la, let’s say, a Lexicon or a The Rook), Six Wakes is your guy.

  • This sounds amazing; I need it stat.

  • ecnef

    It is a fun read isn’t it? Really enjoyed it, and the way it was told, letting the backstory come through as the main plot developed

    • Yes, me too! The backstory chapters were a ton of fun, and I loved that you could kind of start to guess how these characters were connected? But then there was still so much more to learn. So good.

  • Sold! (I’m pretty sure you had me at cloning, but then again, I am pretty easy when it comes to convincing me to read something.)

    • Excellent! There’s lots of stuff in there about the ethics and politics of cloning, but not in a boring way. In a super interesting way with really intense ramifications for what is happening on board the ship. 😀

  • This sounds like a lot of fun! It’s amazing what people can think up…

  • You had me at space janitor. (I wouldn’t pick the book up if it starred a captain or a mercenary or an ambassador or something.)(Okay, I might pick it up. But janitor is way more interesting!)

  • Citizen Reader

    You had ME at “manor house mystery.” I almost never read sci fi but am going to try this. Thanks for the review! Also: love the cover.

  • JeanPing

    OK, I’m in. This sounds super-fun!

  • OMG I LOVE manor house mysteries

  • Kristen M.

    Damn it!!! I literally just placed a Powell’s order and was going to include this one but then went for her second Shambling Guides book instead (which I still need to write about the first one – it was SO FUN!). I couldn’t remember if I had heard either way on this one but now … well, just damn it! 😉

  • Stefanie@SoManyBooks

    A manor house mystery in space – I love that description!

  • This sounds like a fantastic genre mash up! I’m a fan of manor house mysteries too 🙂