Review: Constance – Constance #1 (Matthew FitzSimmons)

Constance (Con) D’Arcy is one of two people in her family who have escaped a dismal existence in Texas. The other is her aunt Abigail Stickling, a brilliant scientist who founded PalinGenesis in order to clone humans.

There is a lot of discussion both here and later about the treatment of clones and ethics. Should clones be treated the same as their originals? Do they have the same rights? Should they have access to the entire life of their original? There are, of course, the usual people who want to hunt down and kill clones, presumably before any signal makes it back to PalinGenesis to pull out another and stuff that person’s memory in place.

Abigail commits suicide by flinging herself off the building. As she suffered from a genetic health issue that prevented the cloning process from working, we’re told she has no clone on standby.

For Con’s part, she wound up in a band, led by her boyfriend. One night, tired from the rigors of the touring road, Con’s boyfriend crashes their van. Two of the five members die, her boyfriend is left in a permanent vegetative state, Con suffers a knee injury, and the last member (also a woman) survives without major injury.

Con’s aunt has built PalinGenesis into a cloning shop, catering to the uber wealthy – who can afford to have their minds downloaded every 30-ish days at the company’s HQ and have a clone soaking in case of sudden death – and also to Con, beneficiary of her aunt’s offer of a clone for each family member. Con is the only one who accepted, and goes to PalinGenesis dutifully about every month to download her head.

Something goes terribly wrong, however, and Con wakes up 18 months later, an entire year and a half missing. What this means first, of course, is that her original has died. And her original died without doing regular downloads. We know Con is a clone as she has no indicators of a lived life: no tattoos, no scarring on her knee.

We also know that Dr Brooke Fenton is breaking a ton of protocols to wake up Con and get her out of the building. But she does, and send Con out into the NYC night with just the clothes on her back an the things she came into the facility with. This is where the book veers heavily into mystery territory.

Con starts investigating her own death and discovers some interesting things along the way, including paid bad actors and an amazing admission from the leader of the protest group, a billionaire whose kids want to declare him dead (since he died and was cloned) so they can inherit, a fiance who is heartbroken, an old friend with a new life, differing stories as to Abigail’s genius or sociopathy, and she comes face to face with a certain someone not once, but twice, and with another person who has risen from the ranks of the dead.

The ending felt a bit rushed, and we had a villain explaining things, but it’s an enjoyable read. If you like purity in your genre, this ain’t it. But if you’re okay with your science fiction and your mystery mixing things up, this might be right up your alley/space lane.

Four out of five stars.

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for the reading copy.