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  • kjoannerixon

Six Wakes

I honestly expected SIX WAKES to be structured more like a murder mystery? But it isn't, really, at all. There is no 'detective' character-- in fact, there's hardly a main character at all (I know Maria is supposed to be the 'protagonist' but in fact all six/seven characters get pretty equal page time, backstory, and development, and up until the last act each character drives different parts of the plot on their own). And there also isn't a 'murderer' character in the sense of a classic murder mystery--murder is committed (sort of), but there is no character whose actions are driving the 'plot behind the plot,' the murder scheme. Most of the machination and plotting behind the scenes is done by a character who remains offscreen and uninvolved in the actual murders. She's only sparsely revealed in flashbacks. There's also no coverup, since all six clones lack memories of their deaths and theoretically have to consider their past selves murder suspects as well as everyone else.

There's also, technically, no murder. At least according the rules of cloning in this universe. Bodies are killed, certainly, but not permanently or even in a way that leaves much lasting trauma, so it's maybe, like, assault. Ish.

It's interesting, from a structural point of view, just how shifting and chaotic this book is. A 'locked-room murder mystery' with no murder, no murderer, no detective, and barely any investigation. I think if you tried to sit down and plot it out on scene cards or whatever, you would think that it could never be successful. And yet this was apparently under consideration for awards the year it came out.

I myself would not necessarily nominate SIX WAKES for an award. I think there was a huge novelty factor when it came out, because it does mash up genre between classic silly sci-fi and classic silly murder mystery. And I suppose it must have benefited from some lucky marketing that hit the right people at the right time. Personally, the cloning business with the mind-maps and the perfect bodies and the near-instantaneous creation of living, functioning people was all a bit much for me to swallow on a scientific basis (I literally had to keep telling myself, 'it's just magic, it's all just magic,' in order to keep reading, but then I have a literalism problem sometimes and it seems cloning is one technology that is just too foolish for me).

I also found that Lafferty uses some of the character development expectations from mystery genre books (which require very little in the way of change over time for their characters, and often lean on typecasting shorthands), and I don't know that that translates very well to the expectations I have of speculative fiction, which I generally find focuses more on change and growth.

Nevertheless, an instructive book, and an interesting story.


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