Sunday, 17 August 2014


Title: Replica
Author: Jack Heath
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Published: August 2014

I finished Replica, placed the book on my desk and took a moment. Many bookish people will know the sensation when a world holds your imagination so rapt that you look up on completion, feeling vaguely astonished (and perhaps annoyed) that yes, the real world is still there. There are some books that lure you in like a drug and hold you like a vice. You are left reeling.

Teenager ‘Chloe’ awakens to a grim reality: she is a robot, a replica of herself. She has all real Chloe’s memories, Chloe’s emotions, Chloe’s ingrained knowledge and habits. She has a list of books Chloe has read pre-programmed into her system, even though she has read none of these, nor has she met Chloe’s parents or interacted with Chloe’s friends. When we meet her, she is waking up for the first time, humanness hardwired. (Does this make it fake?) One of the strengths of this story lies in posing ethical questions to the reader, and in the characterisation of rendering a robot absolutely human; I found myself desperately wanting a happy ending for Replica-Chloe as she tries to work what has happened, how she came into being – and, with her, we distrust the frightening (and often less humane) humans surrounding her. An LGBT romance is also deftly and sensitively written into the storyline, ultimately tied into the culmination of all the action: can there ever be a happy ending for her? Can there be a place – or ‘room’  – for her in this world?

Replica is disturbing, frightening and maybe not for everyone, but it is an addictive, thrilling and challenging read. The world we enter is dark and disturbing; cliffhangers and bombshells practically besiege the close of each chapter and just when you thought things could not get worse, that Jack Heath had to have run out of narrative this time, more of them crop up. The ground caves again and we plunge deeper into the Rabbit Hole.

If you enjoy your YA with thrills, you may love this. (I know I did.)

(*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.)

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