Maria Arena wakes up in her cloning vat on the generation starship Dormire, which is not unusual in itself, but the floating droplets of blood are. She has no memory of the past 25 years or how her previous incarnation died, and neither do the six other clone crew members, but their brutally murdered bodies floating around the ship are evidence of their violent deaths, and all six of them of are suspect. Six plus the ship’s computer artificial intelligence IAN, currently offline.
Each of these clones has secrets of which not even they are fully aware, secrets unearthed only through delving into buried memories of their prior incarnations. Captain Katrina de la Cruz, security chief Wolfgang, engineer Paul, Dr. Joanna Glass, pilot Akihiro Sato, and cook/cleanup crew Maria compose the crew. Although Maria is at the center of the story, the structure gives backstory from each character, slowly revealing their sordid pasts and why each agreed to serve a multiple-life sentence aboard the Dormire to wipe the slate clean.
The plot is definitely character-driven, but my favorite parts of the book are the hard scifi exploration of gene hacking, mindmaps, and clone politics. If clones are imprinted with mindmaps of their previous selves, how much of their previous lives are they personally responsible for? If clones can be re-cloned and re-printed at any time, how does murder fit within a moral truth? And when mindmaps are represented by lines of code, memories and personality are as easily hacked and removed as physical deformities and disease.
The set up for the murder mystery is intriguing. Five dead bodies, variously stabbed, poisoned, or hanged, and one unconscious survivor. Unfortunately, the mystery falters for me. On the one hand I enjoy the light humor in the character interactions, but it also lessens the tension. Because all the clones are suspect, I am never sure who to identify with or root for, so my emotional investment is low. When the pieces finally come together, they are neat but also far-fetched.
Recommended as a cloning scifi CLUE thriller!
“Get a degree in mechanical engineering, Hiro. Get a pilot’s license, Hiro. Learn meditation and hypnosis, Hiro. Slip your roommate out of prison, Hiro. Drive thousands of clones and humans around in space, Hiro. Sit on your butt for four hundred years, Hiro.’
That’s what they told me. Not once did they say, Get shot and chased and stabbed by crazed crewmates, Hiro!”
“To be fair, you were one of the people doing the chasing, crazed at the time too,” Maria said.
“Semantics,” he said.”