Book Review: Replication

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The Story: Human clone J:3:3 has one wish before he expires on his 18th birthday: to see the sky. Abby Goyer is new to the small Alaskan town of Fishhook, but she already suspects her father may be involved with some unethical scientific research at Jason Farms. Again. But even Abby couldn’t have imagined what lies underground at Jason Farms–dozens of Jasons just like J:3:3. When J:3:3, AKA Martyr, succeeds in getting outside for that look at the sky, his world collides with Abby’s, and neither will ever be the same.

Pleasant Surprise: I don’t know why I didn’t expect to be sucked in to Replication. I had every reason to suspect that I’d like it. I loved Jill Williamson’s fantasy trilogy, Blood of Kings, so why wouldn’t I like her writing here? I suppose it’s that I tend to appreciate fantasy a lot more than science fiction. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a lover of all things speculative. But if I only have time to read one or the other (which is usually the case), I’ll pick fantasy every time.

But Williamson did it to me again.

The opening chapter introduces us to Martyr, the lovable clone who looks out for the weakest of his brothers. Then we meet Abby, smart and spunky and just trying to figure out how to navigate her rather complicated teenaged life. Tension builds as we wait for the inevitable intersection of these two teens’ worlds. Well played, Ms. Williamson. Well played.

Strengths: Williamson has a knack for creating strong female leads. I love this. And I don’t mean “strong” as in male-bashing feminists. I mean girls who are smart, know it, and use it–but not to manipulate. And I love that Williamson realizes that strong girls like these can still be sensitive, vulnerable, and occasionally make bad choices. In short, her girls feel real. And it’s fantastic.

She also has a knack for creating desirable male leads. And no, it’s not because her guys are sparkly blood-suckers who breathe out nonsense like “you’re my own personal brand of heroin.” (Just sayin’.) It’s because they’re selfless and brave, yet vulnerable and unsure. In short, they feel like real young men who are trying to do the right thing.

Overall Feel: I loved the distinctly YA feel of this book. Sometimes fantasy is categorized as YA, simply because it has a teenaged protagonist or teens are the ones consuming a lot of fantasy on the market. But this Sci-Fi piece truly felt like teen lit. And even though I’m a crusty old woman, I like that.

But I also like that Williamson clearly feels that teens are capable of digesting serious themes like morality in science, science vs. God and nature, man’s god-complex, and some other really deep ethical issues. Like Suzanne Collins of The Hunger Games fame, Williamson expects her readers to hang with her as she explores hairy questions that don’t have simple answers. I’m inclined to agree with both authoresses and am delighted every time I see YA authors going there.

Bottom Line: A great read for Sci-Fi and/or YA fans, with strong Christian themes. Williamson’s clean writing and great characters grabbed me once again.

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