A well-crafted debut science-fiction tale about a young member of a society of human clones on an alien planet.
On the planet Clades, 17-year-old clone Twain is going through some unusual growing pains. His dissatisfaction is linked to his increasing certainty that he’s an imperfect duplicate in a culture that punishes difference with death. He and his fellow clones live in a world that was once overrun by cyborg/zombie creatures called Frags—creatures that once were human and now carry a deadly infection. Twain fears that he will be found to be flawed and then executed; at the same time, he wonders if the Frags may return and destroy their society. The novel leads the reader deeper into the intriguing details of Twain’s life while also revealing the dark secret behind the founding of the clone culture. At first glance, the story seems to tread on old sci-fi territory, but the author’s clear, strong voice quickly comes to the fore. In this fast-paced novel, Lovejoy uses economical prose while developing the story’s characters and setting in detail. She also meets the challenge of creating memorable characters in a world of identical people, including the hero; First-Batcher Luge, an instructor and leader; and the antagonistic Brisbane. There are a few gruesome scenes (including some violence near the book’s climax), but they’re handled tastefully and well. Appropriately for a YA novel, the topic of sex is briefly but deftly addressed, as most readers will likely be curious about such attitudes in a society where everyone looks alike. The story also examines themes of individuality, paranoia, self-sacrifice and the value of life with genuine curiosity and humanity: Whose life really matters? Should one person matter more than an entire community? How does one extrapolate from this to face cosmic disaster? The characters offer intriguing points of view about all these questions, but the author doesn’t present easy answers. Overall, the novel’s assured tone carries the reader along.
Highly enjoyable, thought-provoking sci-fi by an author with considerable talent and promise.