Six Wakes is an interesting SF-novel. Not because the story is particularly special. Basically, it’s a detective story in space, and space is not something you feel in this book. It’s just a place - like the many other places in the book: Earth in the future’s past and present, the Moon, and a destiny we won’t see, called Artemis.
It’s not special because there are clones in the book. This has been done to death in other SF-books. Six interstellar travelers wake up from their clone bays. They have been awakened by one of their former selves, who, with the other five former selves, are dead on awakening. Dead, murdered, as it soon turns out. In deep space, with thousand of frozen emigrants for the planet Artemis, they act as the crew on the decades long mission of the space ship Dormire.
Now comes the big question: who of the six is the killer, and why? The book then starts to meander around the story of the six. They have all one or more crimes in their past and this space ship commission was their way out, starting with a clean slate on Artemis. I hesitate to add “but not all is what it seems”. You can find out yourself. It’s not a particular ingenious plot. Entertaining, yes, ingenious, no.
And it can be a bloody story at places - many places. A sprained ankle might be considered a tiny band aid compared with the other wounds inflicted. Everyone stabs each other, maims, tortures, and all in some detail. Well, as everyone can clone him- or herself in a jiffy and replant memory files like yer ole computer restore from a previous backup , all these wounds don’t seem a very big deal. The message about those backups is as valid in the future as it is now: backup regularly, kids!
So: a fairly standard story, not much outer space or SF-feeling, quite a lot of gore, then why do I find this book interesting?
The cloning. The way people treat each other and themselves in the process is much more interesting. When I read the book I wandered off in thoughts about something that has bothered me in more cases than only this one: what would happen if we became immortal? Would that be preferable?
It’s not as much the technical aspects that make me wonder like “can a memory ever fill up?” Would I like to witness generation after generation of humankind demolish each other and the world around them? Would people’s attitude change if they had to be confronted with the decisions they now so often loud-mouthed avoid?
What’s really troubling me is how people would behave towards each other. The ruthless could become more ruthless. If you want to abuse someone, kidnap him or her, force them to do slave work for you, and kill them off. Someone else will start up another clone of them, eventually. And what should be the rules? What if you wake up a clone to find yourself arrested for crimes you committed in an earlier incarnation - or by an illegal, duplicate clone?
These questions made me wonder why people would want (or should need) to live longer. In an interview with the author at the end of the book this point is hardly raised by herself, but for me it’s the most interesting element of the story. The rest is just a nice backdrop for a not so nice story about the ramifications of cloning. Sometimes a book does more than its author intended.