Replica by Jack Heath

Saturday, August 9, 2014

'Whose body is that on the table?' I ask. 
She stares at me, as though the answer is obvious. 'It's yours,' she says. Before I have time to scream, she types a command on the keyboard. My consciousness whirls away like storm water down a drain. 

Chloe wakes up to find all her memories have been wiped. And the only person who knows what happened is a teenage girl who looks and sounds exactly like her. 

Who is she? And what does she want? 

Chloe is running out of time to discover the truth. But she's in even more danger than she realizes, and nothing is as it seems . . .

An awesome possible-near-future sci-fi novel with a fantastic premise and lots of killer twists. It's very, very difficult to talk about Replica without accidentally revealing any of these twists (and I hate to be a plot spoiler, I do) but I will say things that are pretty clear from the outset: it's a novel about a replica of a teenage girl, created via 3D printer with silicone skin and a consciousness downloaded as open-source software - technological details that ground Replica in our reality. Replica raises lots of interesting questions about the nature of consciousness and what makes us human. I love thinking about the possibility that I am a robot, or in the Matrix, or that we're all aliens (I use the excuse that I'm imaginative and a writer but I'm actually just a bit odd) so I found this premise immensely engaging. It's set in Canberra but nothing feels overtly Australian about it. Without being horrifically spoiler-ish, I love that for once there's a non-hetero romance in a YA sci-fi/thriller novel - I want to see more of this!

The ending is of the open variety, clearly set up for a potential sequel with a lot of things left unresolved. I am not a fan of endings that spell it all out for the reader and tie up all loose ends - I like to both write and read endings where it's up to the reader what happens next. That said, as much as I love open-ended stories and concise novels, there are things I would've loved to have seen explored further and in more depth - it's a very plot-driven novel and while characters are authentic and believable (Narrator Chloe is realistic and likeable and complex), there's a necessary economical use of detail at times to maintain pace. Between the nefarious organisation and the conspiracies and the robotic clones it was difficult to get to know Chloe's family and friends as well as I'd like (as a reader of primarily character-driven novels) so I'm really looking forward to a sequel.

Replica has an amazing concept and a terrifically intriguing opening scene, and it's stacked with thrills/twists/action that means it's probably inadvisable to start reading it at ten p.m. if you'd like to be asleep at a reasonable time. If you like sci-fi, action, mystery, thrillers or some combination thereof, it's definitely worth a look. Robotic replicas, you guys. How could you not want to read this?

Replica on the publisher's website.
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