Title: Replica (2016)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Extent: 336 pages
Release Date: October 6, 2016
Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.
Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing, they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Lauren Oliver’s Replica when I first started reading it — all I knew is that it is science fiction and technically two books in one. The two stories here are told from the perspective of two girls whose lives eventually intersect, and the idea is that you can either a) read all of Lyra’s story and then all of Gemma’s or vice versa, or b) read one chapter of one character’s story, then another of the other character’s story, and so on.
Now, because I’m such a rebel, I read 2-3 chapters of a character’s story before moving on to the other’s. I’d say that if you don’t mind the hassle of flipping the book around every time you finish a chapter, this is the better way to read — the chapters are chronologically intertwined (Lyra’s Chapter 1 = Gemma’s Chapter 1, etc.) and the tension rises better this way. This Epic Reads video explains it further.
Replica is about two girls — Lyra, who grew up as a replica (i.e. a clone) at Haven Institute, and Gemma, whose father was previously tied to Haven Institute. I thought this premise was amazing and loved how the novel explores the ethics of cloning and human testing. I couldn’t relate with any of the characters, but I’m the type of reader who doesn’t need that to enjoy the story, so it was enough for me to be a fly-on-the-wall spectator.
Death was natural. Decay, too. It was another thing that made replicas and humans similar: they died.
The dual storytelling worked quite well too. My main concern is that the story will be repetitive, but this didn’t end up being the case — there were definitely some overlaps, especially when Lyra and Gemma are physically around each other, but their perspectives were quite different that their narratives complement rather than repeat the other. I have a slight preference for Lyra’s story, but I think that’s because she grew up in a much more interesting manner than Gemma and thus offered a fresher look at things.
One thing I noticed was that this book was quite sombre in tone. Funny or light-hearted moments were few and far in between, and I found myself occasionally spooked when the story veered into creepy-ish territories and the characters found themselves in mortal danger. The book, however, was easy to get into and quite addictive — I finished it in two sittings and stayed up late each night to read as much as my eyes would allow. 😛
She had wanted to learn to read. She had been hungry, cold, and tired, and wanted food and her bed. But it was true she had never hurt anyone to get what she wanted.
Was that what made her less than human?
For me, Replica is more an idea-driven book than anything else. The characters were not uninteresting, but they weren’t particularly special, and their relationships with one another or other characters were nothing to write home about. It was instead the fast-paced plot that carried the story, as well as the interesting themes, giving more than a few nods to grey moralistic questions. What does it mean to be human? Can someone who is ‘artificially made’ be as human as a biological human?
My real big criticism is that the ending was incredibly lacking and felt very… unnatural. I literally went “Huh? That’s it?” because I was expecting there to be at least 100 more pages to the story. Even knowing that there’s a sequel, there were a couple more scenes I would’ve liked to see to tie the story up more nicely, and as it was, the story was left at a frustrating place.
A strange and baffling truth: that the people we’re supposed to know best can turn out to be strangers, and that near strangers can feel so much like home.
Overall, Replica was quite an entertaining and gripping book, told in a new format we haven’t seen a lot of. For how much I enjoyed this story, however, I have to wonder if I’d enjoy it as much if it was written the usual way… and frankly speaking, I don’t think so. While the themes were among my personal interests, the characters weren’t unique, and the plot, however fast-paced, didn’t exactly blow my mind. As it is, though, the story is written in a unique way, so I recommend it for the reading experience. 😛
* I received an ARC of REPLICA from Hachette and NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book.
Interested in purchasing Replica? 💕