If you’ve woken from a routine importing of your consciousness into the pc on the native cloning clinic, the very last thing you need to hear is that one thing has gone awry. For Constance D’Arcy, the title character in Matthew FitzSimmons’s new thriller, a touch that each one will not be nicely comes when, groggy and confused, she hears herself known as “it.”
Uh-oh. “This isn’t an upload,” a technician tells her when she involves, 18 months after coming into the clinic. “It’s your download.” Meaning that within the interim, the actual Constance has died, and her reminiscences and character have been transferred right into a clone — which is now Constance. Or is it?
“If she was alive, how could she also be dead?” the brand new Constance thinks. “The two contradictory ideas struggled to coexist peacefully. She was a paradox and knew how the poor cat trapped in Schrödinger’s box must have felt.”
“Constance” is about an individual, or at the very least the simulacrum of an individual, who investigates her personal demise. The premise is intriguing, however the homicide thriller is probably the least attention-grabbing a part of this science fiction romp, a busy motion story with moments of surprising depth. In between the sleuthing and the schemes for world domination and the eluding of individuals with weapons, we’re invited to grapple with genuinely considerate questions concerning the philosophical, authorized and moral implications of cloning and scientific innovation on the whole. What is consciousness? What defines an individual? How a lot is just too far?
Life in 2038 America, the place the e book takes place, doesn’t really feel all that faraway from our personal world. Cellphones have given method to “light-field devices,” or LFDs, which tuck behind the ear and undertaking floating information in entrance of the consumer. Food comes out of a printer. Cars drive routinely, in response to an algorithm that retains visitors zipping alongside, and run on batteries that may be swapped for totally charged variations when depleted. For those that can afford it, cloning is a method to extend a life.
As the e book begins, Con, as everybody calls her, is a musician nonetheless recovering from a automotive accident three years earlier that killed two of her bandmates and left her beloved boyfriend in a persistent vegetative state. She is getting ready to go to Palingenesis, the cutting-edge lab based by her megalomaniacal aunt, who has given Con the reward of her personal clone.
The lab’s clients add all the things saved of their mind into a pc as soon as a month. When they die, the fabric routinely downloads into their clone, activating this new physique and offering their consciousness with an almost seamless transition from one host to a different. (At most, they’ll lose a few weeks of reminiscences.)
After some early glitches during which the process resulted in “cut and paste instead of copy and paste,” turning the sufferers into “smoking vegetables,” the error price has (supposedly) been diminished to a manageable .0000004536 p.c, and clones are, at the very least in some states, lively members of society.
That makes Con an unlucky outlier certainly. In certainly one of many errors in her case, her clone has come on-line too lengthy after her final obtain, leaving a gaping gap in her reminiscence and probably sentencing her to psychological and bodily breakdowns due to corruption in her information.
Matthew FitzSimmons, whose new novel is “Constance.”Credit…Douglas Sonders
But she has extra quick issues. The lab is making an attempt, in its quaint parlance, to delete her. Her previous mates shun her as a nonperson. She has to cope with the militant Children of Adam, a radical anti-clone group that derides clones as “pretentious meat.”
The debates round cloning in “Constance” echo a lot of our modern preoccupations — skepticism of science, radical distrust of these with opposing views, conspiracy theories. One of Con’s mates refuses to see her, citing one thing she examine how publicity to clones may cause cystic fibrosis in kids. “The study had been debunked as junk science, but polls showed that 58 percent of Americans believed the threat to be real,” FitzSimmons writes. “Several states had laws forbidding clones from working around children.”
As Con tries to retrace the steps of her previous self’s closing months on earth, she meets the person she apparently married at the moment, finds out how she died and tries to remain one step forward of assorted shadowy teams on her path. What do they need from her? What is that this secret information which may be saved in her head? Why does everybody preserve speaking concerning the “cluster of voids”?
The plot thickens right into a turbid gumbo of greed, blackmail, megalomania, mind science and duplicity. Clones disappear and reappear; individuals who gave the impression to be useless are maybe not useless in any respect; there are a number of potential evil masterminds. It takes a while to determine who’s the evil-est of all.
That is all amusing, if not completely coherent. Never thoughts. Maybe what we’d like most as this bewildering summer time winds down is a diverting story about an attention-grabbing futuristic matter that injects no new anxiousness into our nervous brains.
The e book shines in its interstitial moments, as Con’s investigative efforts result in a reckoning along with her previous, together with a troublesome childhood redeemed by her love of music. The most compelling components of the e book come when she revisits life along with her band, Awaken the Ghosts, named in homage to her hero David Bowie, who as soon as stated that music woke up the ghosts inside him — “not the demons, you understand, but the ghosts.”
In a plot-driven e book, the writing could be perfunctory. But FitzSimmons has piquant descriptive abilities. A physician is “thin as a railroad spike,” with a “gaunt, unforgiving face that looked like it had been buffeted by the constant inadequacy of everyone around her.”
When Con returns to her previous condominium, she is rattled to search out that one other household has moved in and put up new photos. “A framed painting of Jesus gazed down with an expression that suggested he couldn’t quite place her either,” FitzSimmons writes.
It is not any coincidence that the heroine is named Constance; the identify echoes the e book’s questions concerning the continuity of thoughts and the place personhood resides. In the novel, the Supreme Court is getting ready to rule on whether or not a clone qualifies as a authorized individual. If life past life is de facto attainable, is it actually fascinating? Misunderstood and feared, many clones finish their new lives in suicide, struggling all the time from a “gnawing sense of being incomplete,” FitzSimmons writes.
As her cloned physique begins to deteriorate, Con faces a dilemma: Should she order one more clone of herself? Or possibly she ought to reside out the remainder of her present life, come what might. As she factors out, demise has “been working for people for thousands of years.”