Holly wakes up in the hospital, confused and disoriented. She demands to know what happened to her, and suspects that she has died and been replicated. Except, she has no memory of the moments leading up to her death. That’s when they tell her the truth – she’s a provisional replica, alive for only four days, with one purpose: to kill her original self, because her original killed her husband.
This is a very short little novella, but it packs a major punch. PR Holly has very little time to process the information given to her: that in her former life/body, she killed the husband she loved so much, and then went on the run. In addition to the disbelief she feels at the idea of killing her husband, she must deal with the grief of losing that husband, who is with her in her last memories, plus the added pressure of killing her original. How do you find yourself, in a literal sense of the word? And what do you do when you find her? Can this all be a mistake? Can the government that created your provisional life be trusted? When the entire world bends to a technology that manipulates reality, is anything really trustworthy left?
This book was brilliant. First, I want to say that despite it being written by two authors, I never would have known it was a collaboration. This isn’t like some books that have different chapters or points of view written by different authors, or even a round robin style book like The Chopin Manuscript. I don’t know how Sanderson and Robinette Kowal did their collaboration, but it’s flawless all the way through. Second, because I know Sanderson’s work so well (having read, um, 28 of his books at least once apiece so far…), I suspected that not all is as it seems at the start of the book, and that there would be twists and revelations – ones that should be obvious from the beginning but somehow never are. And yeah, I was right. I suspected everything under the sun except what actually came to pass. Sanderson wins again. Third, this is how you do an ambiguous ending. I got literally chills as I listened.
PS – Clearly I need to read something by Mary Robinette Kowal, which I haven’t done up to this point. If anyone knows any of her books, please pass along suggestions!
Performance: Julia Whelan reads this audiobook. Whelan is kinda hit or miss for me, but when she’s hit, she’s brilliant. This was one of the brilliant ones. Her narration was perfect for the book. I can definitely see myself re-listening in the future!