Amazon has this program called First Reads, where each month they pick books from many different genres—cozy fiction, romance, mystery, sci fi/fantasy, etc. –and they make them free on Kindle for Prime members. (Alternatively, it’s $1.99 a month if you’re not a Prime member).
It was during January, I think, that I picked up Constance by Matthew Fitzsimmons from Amazon First Reads. The red fingerprint on the cover was a facsimile of the Rorschach comic book I’d just finished reading, and the premise of human cloning murder mystery had me intrigued.
So, I figured I’d do another sci fi book review and hope Amazon had picked a good book for me.
Awaken the Clones
Constance D’Arcy, Con for short, is a struggling musician living in D.C. Her band, Awaken the Ghosts, had broken up a while ago after a tragic car crash that left two members dead, a third in a coma, and the other two struggling to cope.
Con’s aunt, the woman responsible for the human cloning revolution in America, Abigail Strickling, had gifted everyone in Con’s family a clone. Typically, only the very wealthy could afford the luxury of extending their life after death, so Con jumped at the opportunity.
Little did she know her decision would set into motion a number of devious plans that would leave her original dead, and her clone on the run from some of the most powerful people in the country. With an eighteen-month gap of memory missing, Con’s clone hunts for the answers about her original’s death, trying desperately to avoid the same fate.
The Mainstream Sci Fi
After reading Constance, I did some research about the author, Matthew Fitzsimmons. I was surprised to find that he is actually a well-known thriller writer, and his work has made it to the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list.
I was kind of surprised that I’d never heard of Fitzsimmons before, but I think it’s because his primary work is the Gibson Vaughn series, a military/hacker thriller series.
Constance seems to have been Fitzsimmons’ first jaunt into sci fi territory, but the story he chose to tell fit his style well. Coming from a background of writing intense political and military thrillers, Constance pairs the concept of human cloning with the intense murder mystery in a palatable way.
As far as science fiction goes, I feel like Constance is very much a work of mainstream sci fi. By this I mean it’s not over the top, out of this world, space ships and aliens and stuff.
It’s still very much relatable to our own world. Some changes we see in this 2038 America include self-driving cars that become part of a nation-wide network of traffic, 3-D printed meat, and the new cell phone replacement, LFDs, act as little personal holograms.
Aside from human cloning and the anti-cloning religious fanatics that follow, Constance’s America is much the same as we know it today.
In this way, Fitzsimmons creates a sci fi story that fits neatly into the mainstream because it’s not so far-fetched that casual readers will be unimpressed. I’d say that this is a great book for people that don’t read sci fi, because it’s largely a murder mystery, but with the subtle sci fi overtones.
I don’t often read thrillers because I find they lack a certain introspection and self-awareness, but Constance wasn’t like that. The book asked potent questions about the value of human life and the morality of cloning.
One of the most interesting interactions in the book is when Con meets Franklin Butler, the leader of the anti-cloning militants, the Children of Adam. The public perception of Butler was that he hated cloning with a passion, but in reality, he hated the idea of cloning, but had to make his argument more digestible for his followers.
That kind of nuanced thinking underlies the whole novel, and by the end, you’re left with a few more moral quandaries than when you started.
Overall, I thought the pacing was good and the characters were well-developed. There are a lot of characters in this relatively short book, but Fitzsimmons has a way of quickly making them unique and memorable.
I felt the book stumbled a bit as it approached the climax. Multiple chapters ended with Con being told “oh, you’ll change your mind when you see this,” and then we’re teased for another chapter. You could see the big reveal from a mile away, but it really isn’t that big of a problem.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed this book. It combines the sci fi genre with the thriller mindset in a way that makes it an easy book to pick up, no matter if you’re a sci fi fan or a Gibson Vaughn reader.
I’d give it an 8/10. The characters are well-developed, but the plot seems to drag on a bit near the end, and a few of the character motivations become unclear as we approach the last pages.
Plus, I found out after I’d wrapped up my read that Fitzsimmons is working on a second book featuring Con D’Arcy. Chance is set for release in November of 2022.