Six Wakes

Mur Lafferty
Six Wakes Cover

Ethically interesting, action packed space mystery.


The Short Version: Six clones wake up on a generation ship with twenty-five years of memory missing and their own dead bodies floating around, and things only get more interesting from there. Six Wakes is extremely readable and uses its premise to great effect to build a great story and explore the moral implications of technology and the ways we choose to control it.

Rating: 9 illicit personality modifications out of 10


Things have obviously gone wrong by page one of Six Wakes, when our nominal protagonist Maria wakes up in the clone bay of generation ship Dormire. She and the five other clone crew members all find themselves in new clone forms, looking at the murdered bodies of their past iterations. Moreover, as far as their memories are concerned, they have only just started their voyage; the ship's date, on the other hand, makes it clear they are already twenty-five years into the voyage. The gravity is off, the AI is malfunctioning, the ship is significantly off course and the 3D printer which synthesises the crew's meals refuses to print anything but hemlock. It's up to the crew to get themselves back on track for the sake of the hundreds of humans and clones frozen in cargo, as well as piecing together what went wrong and who is responsible for the carnage they all woke up to.

As in any good mystery, it soon becomes clear that there are shady things lurking in the past of each and every crew member, as well as the traditional untrustworthy AI. Six Wakes builds its narrative through an omniscient third person narrator which switches between character viewpoints, as well as flashbacks to the crews' lives in the lead up to being selected for the ship. Each crew member knows the others have volunteered for the mission because they are convicted criminals who will be pardoned upon arrival, but they have been told their crimes must remain confidential. From the ship's doctor who was one of the original people cloned when the technology began, to the AI tech who has been on the verge of a breakdown since waking, to the shady machinations of the captain and the security officer, Six Wakes uses a small cast to great effect, with the world of the clones coming across as claustrophobic and restrictive even in background chapters set on Earth, thanks to both the Codicls as well as the inequalities and power struggles that arise from a society of functionally immortal beings. Six Wakes' characters aren't likeable in a traditional sense but I found them generally sympathetic, and the backgrounds go a long way towards making that balance work.

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