Books : reviews

Mur Lafferty.
Six Wakes.
Orbit. 2017

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 18 April 2021

A lone ship, a murdered crew, and a clone who must find her own—before they strike again.

In the depths of space it’s pretty normal to wake up in a cloning vat. The streaks of blood, however? Not so normal.

Maria Arena has been cloned before. Usually when she awakens as a new clone, her first memory is of how she died. This time, she has no idea. Her memories are incomplete.

And Maria isn’t the only one to have died recently…

In deep space, a ship full of frozen colonists and a crew of six criminal clones runs into trouble. The whole crew wakes in the cloning room: they had all been murdered. Recloning after death is standard, but they realise they have no memory not only of the events leading up to the mass murder, but of the entire 25 years since launch. Their backups are destroyed, the ship’s AI is offline, and the food printer is dispensing only hemlock. They need to figure out what is going on before they all die again.

This is a great murder mystery, fully dependent on the science fictional context of the technology of printing clones and the consequent social changes, of the scope of body and brain hacking, and the ‘locked room’ setting of deep space flight. We gradually see the back stories of the crew, and discover how those relate to the current mystery. Of course, nothing is as it first appears. Everything is both complicated (there are several different stories at work) and simple (there’s a honking great clue early on), and it’s a fun read to see how the jigsaw fits together to build a futuristic picture.

Mur Lafferty.
Station Eternity.
Ace. 2022

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 3 September 2023

From idyllic small towns to claustrophobic urban landscapes, Mallory Viridian is constantly embroiled in murder cases that only she has the insight to solve. But outside of a classic mystery novel, being surrounded by death doesn’t make you a charming amateur detective—it makes you a suspect and a social pariah. So when Mallory gets the opportunity to take refuge on a sentient space station, she thinks she has the solution. Surely the murders will stop if her only company is alien beings. Her new existence is peacefully quiet at first…and markedly devoid of homicide.

But when the station agrees to allow additional human guests, Mallory knows the break from her peculiar reality is over. After the first Earth shuttle arrives, and aliens and humans alike begin to die, the station is thrown into peril. Stuck smack-dab in the middle of an extraterrestrial whodunit, and wondering how in the world this keeps happening to her anyway, Mallory has to solve the crime—and fast—or the list of victims could grow to include everyone on board…

Mallory is a murder magnet: they keep happening in her vicinity, and she keeps solving them. This is not fun, so she has fled to an alien space station to avoid them. There are only two other humans aboard, and she feels safe among the aliens. Then a shuttle arrives from Earth, and murders start again. Can she solve this case before the station itself dies?

This is another great SFnal murder mystery. If the previous Six Wakes was a locked-spaceship murder puzzle, this is a locked-space-station murder puzzle. The various aliens are each differently alien, the backstory is trickled in slowly, and all the highly complex pieces come together in a satisfying conclusion to several related puzzles, including Mallory’s apparent magnetism for murders. This can be read stand-alone, but there is another in the series, which I am looking forward to.

Mur Lafferty.
Chaos Terminal.
Ace. 2023

Reluctant amateur detective Mallory Viridian is driven to crack the case once more in this clever murder mystery…in space.

Mallory Viridian would rather not be an amateur detective, thank you very much. But no matter what she does, people persist in dying around her—and only she seems to be able to solve the crime.

Now the law enforcement agent who hounded Mallory on Earth has come to Station Eternity, along with her teenage crush and Mallory’s best friend from high school. Mallory doesn’t believe in coincidences, and so she’s not at all surprised when someone in the latest shuttle from Earth is murdered.

Only this time she has more than a killer to deal with. Between her fugitive friends, a new threat arising from the Sundry, and the alarming behavior of the sentient space station they all call home, even Mallory’s deductive abilities are strained. If she can’t find out what’s going on, a disaster of intergalactic proportions may occur…