I apologise for the lack of reviews on this blog lately – I’ve been in the middle of a move (from Providence, RI to Oberlin, OH) and the whole process took much more time than I thought it would. I don’t want to promise any specific numbers, but I’ll definitely be blogging more frequently now.
Replica came out a couple of weeks ago (July 16), although I wrote this review a few months ago after I read the ARC.
I have a secret weakness for young adult dystopian novels; although the worldbuilding is often much too simplistic and the lead characters tend to be a grating mix of far too powerful and really angsty. They make great fun reads when I’m not in the mood for a serious book, though, like on really long planes where I’m half dead by the end of it. So Replica was one of the first books I packed for my 19 hour flight to India. My hopes for a quick, dumb read were squashed, though, because Replica is actually pretty good.
The worldbuilding is still somewhat hokey – the United States has become the Corporate States. Each state is a corporation ruled by Executives, and power is hereditary. (It really gets me when authors capitalise common words and make that a pivotal thing in their world, but I digress.) This didn’t really make sense to me because to me, capitalism implies a meritocracy, even if people who are already rich have a headstart – the idea of high level employees of a company grooming their “heirs” to take over their jobs is confusing. I mean, maybe it would work if every Executive owned their own company, but each state is its own corporation. (Also the idea of named classes of people is hilarious, although this is certainly not unique to this book.)
I know, I said the book was good and immediately started nitpicking, but trust me, this is a good sign. I wouldn’t be so interested in how the book’s world worked unless I cared enough to keep thinking about it.
So, what is the book about? Nadia, a high ranking Executive is engaged to Nate, the Chairman Heir of the state formerly known as New York. Although she hates all the pressures on her as a female Executive, she’s pretty happy with her life. But then, Nate ends up murdered and although a Replica of him is created from his last memory backup, his family wants answers… and she was the last person to see him alive.
The main characters were pretty good – Nadia is definitely flawed and is confused and out of her depth through most of the book, but once she gets decisive, she’s great. Nate is very exasperating, he is very reactionary and self-centered and continues to be so even when other characters point this out to him. He has good intentions though, so he ends up being pretty likeable. The other characters are not as well fleshed out as I’d like, but there’s a nice set of them.
I loved that the usual romance is subverted; instead of Nate and Nadia barely knowing each other but being infatuated with each other, they’re best friends but very much not in love. Although, the book ends up more towards familiar romance-y territory by the end.
The thing that got me most about this book was the characters’ reactions to things. People communicate to each other way too much – there isn’t enough interpersonal conflict. I never thought I’d complain about this (I often get very frustrated with characters who don’t just talk to each other – Wheel of Time, I’m looking at you). And although there’s a lot of outrage going around, the characters get over it pretty quickly.
The plot was well paced and pretty well resolved, although I wish the “evil secret” had been fleshed out a little more. There’s definitely going to be a sequel, but the book should stand pretty well on its own.
I wasn’t expecting much from this one, but it surprised me. I’ll be keeping an eye out for sequels.
- Interview with author John Marco
- “Plain Kate” by Erin Bow