A Murder of Clones (Retrieval Artist)
by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Cover Artist: Madartists / Dreamstime
Review by Sam Lubell
WMG Publishing Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781561466085
Date: 01 January 2015
A Murder of Clones is the tenth novel in the Retrieval Artist series and third in the Anniversary Day Saga, a series within a series. It is also the first book in an unusual publishing venture that will release a new Anniversary Day book each month from January to June, 2015.
The earlier books were published a year or two apart, with the last one coming out in 2012 so this is a major change in publishing strategy. One reason for this shift is the absence here of the series' main character, Miles Flint, a former detective in the Armstrong Dome on the moon turned Retrieval Artist who helps find people who hide themselves from aliens after violating aliens' laws. A Murder of Clones is labeled a Retrieval Artist Universe novel as Miles Flint does not appear; nor do past series regulars Moon Security Chief Noelle DeRicci and Detective Bartholomew Nyquist show up. Monthly publication means readers will not have to wait years for Miles to show up again in his own series.
A Murder of Clones opens 15 years before the Anniversary Day bombings on the Moon. Marshal Judita Gomez of the Earth Alliance Frontier Security Squad has been contacted by the Eaufasse, a recently discovered alien race petitioning to join the Earth Alliance, about a secret human settlement in their territory. When her team arrives they find three dead identical human bodies and a fourth who the aliens say is seeking asylum with them. Gomez is suspicious of the translator, who is from the Peyti, another alien race in the Alliance, and requests a human translator. Gradually she learns that all the humans in the settlement are clones of the same person and they are being trained to kill.
Most of the book takes place after the Anniversary Day bombings on the moon, committed by clones of the same type as those Gomez found at the Eaufasse settlement. Gomez begins investigating the links between her case and the moon bombings. Meanwhile, Torkild Zhu, a lawyer from a well-connected law firm, begins to represent one of the surviving clones who is imprisoned for being illegally created.
Generally, there are two types of series in science fiction and fantasy. There is the continuing adventures series, such as Narnia or Dune, in which each book has a beginning, middle, and end, although they may build to a greater conclusion. And there is the serial novel, one book chopped into pieces published separately, such as the Lord of the Rings. The early Retrieval Artist novels were the former, each a mystery resolved, perhaps not always cleanly, by the end. The previous two Anniversary Day books ended with a conclusion to the immediate threat, although the reasons behind the bombings remained open. But A Murder of Clones seems to move to a hybrid of the two approaches; without any resolution, this book merely sets things up for a payoff in a future novel.
Readers new to the series can pick up A Murder of Clones without a problem as all the characters are new. The one necessary piece of information from the previous books, that the bombings on the moon were caused by clones of PierLuigi Fremont, is mentioned several times here. However, as just a piece of a larger puzzle, the book does not really work as a standalone novel. Even those following the adventures of Miles Flint, can safely regard this book as a side story optional to the main plot. The author has said Judita Gomez will appear in later books; when she does a few lines of dialogue would suffice to explain her previous involvement in the case. The other way this book contributes to the larger plot is to provide the reader with further evidence that the conspiracy goes beyond the moon; people in the Earth Alliance are covering up something.
One has to wonder if readers will be willing to buy six books in six months. The publisher could have combined the 344 pages of A Murder of Clones with the 216 pages of the next book, Search & Recovery, which would have produced a book only a little longer than today's typical SF novel and well shy of the length of a David Weber or Peter Hamilton doorstop. Still, for those who feel $19 a month for the trade paperbacks is too high, the ebook is a much more reasonable $5.99.
Overall, dedicated fans will be glad to see the return of this universe, even without Miles Flint and friends. Casual readers may want to save their money for the later books, and possibly pick this one up later if they want more back story on Gomez or Zhu. New readers should start with the first Retrieval Artist novel, or at the first Anniversary Day one.