Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
Six Wakes is one of those books that’s been on the first shelf of my Goodreads TBR since the dawn of time. (Read: early 2017) I forget exactly when I fished it back out of the depths, but the premise looked interesting, so I figured I’d put it on hold at the library. Sadly, Six Wakes befell the same fate as most of the books that sit and wither in my TBR for too long: it didn’t live up to my expectations—average as they were—and ended up just being mediocre.
Enjoy this week’s review!
The spaceship Dormire is home to six clones. Each of them were convicted of crimes in their past lives, and by steering the Dormire to a new planet, they will be pardoned of all their past misdeeds. But when they wake up to find the corpses of their previous clones strewn around the spaceship, all six suspect foul play. But with their memories wiped and the Dormire’s AI malfunctioning, will they be able to find the perpetrator of the crime before they strike again?
TW/CW: murder, blood, gore, poisoning, descriptions of death/corpses
From the premise of Six Wakes, I expected a sci-fi thriller. The sci-fi box was ticked off, without question, but the further I progressed in the novel, I was more convinced that all I was reading was 50% fictional cloning history, 48% backstory, and 2% plot.
I’ll give Six Wakes one thing, though; the worldbuilding, at its best, was incredibly thorough and well thought-out. Mur Lafferty clearly spent so much time on creating a rich, century-spanning history of cloning and its ethics, as well as the effects it had on world governments and the criminal underworld. It’s the kind of worldbuilding that made me think, “wow, I doubt I could ever have the patience to create something that detailed.” It was fantastic, really. However, it ended up being a bit of a curse to the rest of the book.
This worldbuilding, extensive and detailed as it was, ended up being delivered in such long chunks that I found myself forgetting what the novel was supposed to be about in the first place. There was so much content shoved in that it distracted from the plot as a whole, leaving it suspended in time for so long that I had to go back and re-read just to remember where we left off before the clone rambling started.
Along with the blessing/curse of the worldbuilding, the other 48% (excluding the plot) that bogged down Six Wakes was the excessive backstory. I may not be a frequent mystery reader, but I’ve read enough to know that the whole point of figuring out the mystery is to very slowly realize key details of the characters. And yet, Six Wakes went and did the EXACT opposite. Almost half of the book consisted of multi-chapter sections of backstories for the characters. Not only were they the most inorganic way possible to learn about the characters, they dragged away from what was supposed to be the main plot, and contributed to my lack of enjoyment for the book.
Even with all that backstories, none of the characters really had much of a personality. At all. We got their stories, sure, but save for maybe Hiro (whose personality seemed to be solely for comic relief), I got no sense for what made any of them tick, or what any of them were like as people. I will say in Lafferty’s favor that at least the cast was diverse—two of the main characters were Latinx (Mexican and Cuban-American) and one character was Japanese, so that was a plus.
All of those lacking plot aspects ultimately numbed me to what could have been an inventive and chilling mystery. By the time I’d trudged through all of the backstory and clone history, the plot twists made me feel nothing. And I still don’t have a clear picture of how the book was even resolved. Maybe that’s because by then, I was just skimming, but it still felt so weak and lacking as a whole.
All in all, a sci-fi thriller that had the potential for greatness but got bogged down by excessive backstory and info-dumping. 2 stars.
Six Wakes is a standalone, but Mur Lafferty is also the author of the Afterlife series (Heaven, Hell, Earth, Wasteland, War, and Stones), the Shambling Guides series (The Shambling Guide to New York City and The Ghost Train to New Orleans), the novelization of Solo: A Star Wars Story, and several novels.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!