It's the middle of the 22nd century, and humans have been occupying space on Mars for well over a century. For as long as anyone can remember, the war between man and machine has been a integral thread to life on Mars and there is no end in sight. Human birth rates have fallen on Mars, and cloning becomes the most logical option to allow the collective intellect of humans live on. Meanwhile, the Cartesians, or "mechs," are programmed to follow "Mother's" orders to wipe out the human race, and cloners are at the top of the list. Asher is one of those cloners who is part of an underground rebellion. Haunted by his past, he's trying to strive for a future that will allow him some peace and give all humans hope. With the help of Claudia, a local Martian celebrity, Asher comes up with the idea to create the perfect weapon against the machines. No one will be the same when the Martian dust settles on this battle of clones, humans and machines. One way or another, this war will end, but who will be around to see the results?
Joseph Robert Lewis has written a compelling book that follows the lives of 6 sentient beings during the days leading up to the end of the war. Each chapter tells a piece of the adventure from one of those beings' reference points. The chapters are clearly marked, and I found this to be a very effective way to give us a more complete picture of what was going on in the minds of the humans, clones and machines involved in this war. The premise of the story was really intriguing, and brought up some interesting concepts; cloning people minutes before they die to save their knowledge, machines that seem almost human and yet they're not, Mars being a viable habitat for people when Earth is not enough. With the changing viewpoints and the engaging concept, this was an easy book to get into.
In addition to the main theme of hope and redemption, there were several underlying themes. For example, what qualifies one to be a person? Seeing the individual thoughts and feelings of three different types of beings, the question is raised- what makes someone (or something) a person? With their synthetic bodies and brains saturated with the memories and experiences of another, are clones closer to humans or machines? Are machines who make choices independent of their programming more like humans than machines? Is it possible for all three types of beings to coexist, and are their goals really all that different?
I found this to be an interesting read. Although the story moves along at a fairly good pace, I found the ending to be somewhat abrupt. When I saw the epilogue, I wondered if I'd missed something in the story. When I turned the last page of the epilogue, I was expecting more. I had taken the journey through the last part of the war, and I wanted a little something else at the end to give me more closure. I'm honestly not exactly sure what form that would have taken, but I felt a bit letdown by the ending. Some of the transitions and relationships between characters were a little difficult for me to follow at times as well. I'm not sure if that's because we were following so many characters (each of the six characters had at least one or more partners associated with them), or because of a lack of development in the writing of the characters. It wasn't a major flaw of the story, and just a minor complaint on my part.
Overall, a good read for anyone who likes speculative science fiction, and for anyone who thinks about the future of machines and clones, and what it will mean for the human race.
4 /5 stars