Replica builds on ideas explored in Ink, Inc., one of my all-time favorite single-issue sci-fi books. The story is told from the first-person perspective of a newly awakened and freshly printed person! She is a copy of her maker, but unlike her maker has no human rights legislation to protect her. As it turns out, that’s the least of her problems, as she’s being tracked by nefarious parties for reasons she doesn’t understand. She must not only dodge vastly superior forces out to get her but must do so as a stranger in a strange land and as someone who has yet to discover the intricate workings of her own mind. What’s more, it’s vitally important at all times to her survival that her true identity not be known, meaning she must past one Turing test after another on the fly as police, the real Chloe, her own “parents,” and best friends, all put poignant questions to her that could easily trip her up and betray her imposter status.
The author excels at the sci-fi thriller format, writing with an immediacy, an urgency, and a frenetic pacing that is non-stop. Anyone contemplating what it might be like to be scanned or uploaded into robot bodies in the days ahead, as Ray Kurzweil and others predict will be an option in the not too distant future, or is fascinated by the “print everything” economy many futurists also say is lurking around the corner, will enjoy this book nearly as much as its predecessor.
Young adults and teens will find much to enjoy here also, as the story follows a high-school aged girl (the replica is built to pass for.) The high school high jinks and teen psychology was as realistic as the forecasting of things to come. This is great futurism done in a highly enjoyable format; why be simply intrigued by insights into tomorrow-land when you can also be entertained by them?
Some ways in which this novel contrasts with Ink, Inc. is in the pervasive use of black humor. It’s by no means a comic thriller, but Chloe’s replica has some die-for snarky reactions to what’s going on around her that had me reeling on multiple occasions.
I also found myself fascinated by the humanizing process the replica underdoes and the author’s ability to keep such a difficult transformation highly believable at all times.
As to my nitpicks, the story starts as a promising psychological thriller slash sci-fi horror but wanders quickly into what feels more like a mystery thriller with more of a who-done-it format as the replica continues to investigate just what kind of intrigue she finds herself embroiled in, who is after her, and why. I personally think the author’s writing style fits the action-thriller format better than the mystery thriller, but you can’t blame a writer for wanting to stretch himself, and a reader for wanting something that isn’t entirely predictable from one story to the next. This is arguably not a flaw in the writing, just something to be mindful of depending on the reader’s preferences. Moreover, as the action thriller aspect of the story periodically dials back up as the mystery thriller aspect takes more of a backseat.