This book is so much more than you think it’s going to be. Just… trust me. It broke my heart. More than once. I still feel the weight of it. But it was kind enough to at least put a band-aid over the wound and kiss me on the head before sending me on my way.
Before I get to the rest, I’ll mention that the audiobook, narrated by James Fouhey, was great. He portrayed the characters with life and emotion, it sounded natural, and it was easy to tell them apart since Kodiak had what sounded like a Russian accent. Now back to my thoughts on the story…
Before starting this review, I wrote over 1500 words of my own notes, just to try and process my thoughts and feelings. I was expecting “queer teen romance in space,” but this was… whew.
Heart-wrenching, yet hopeful. Dark, but not entirely without light. Thought-provoking in ways that will probably give you an existential crisis, if you don’t already live in one. This is a heavy book, but also a powerful, poignant exploration of strength and life and people and love, with a love story that’s quiet but poetic and beautiful in its own unique way.
It was a doozy. Not at all what I was expecting. I’m probably going to be thinking about this book for a long time.
More In-Depth Thoughts (there will be *MAJOR SPOILERS* in this section):
I don’t know, I just wanted to ramble some about some of things I’m still thinking and feeling?
– When they realized the blood on the panel was super similar to Ambrose’s but 5000 years old, I guessed that they were clones woken up to do maintenance and would be killed once they finished. Maybe everyone else figured it out at that point too, I’m not saying I’m special. I’m bringing it up to say, even though I suspected, the book still took me by surprise, both plot-wise and emotionally, after that. I guess I kind of figured these would be the clones to make it. They’d be the ones to overtake the OS and survive. But they didn’t. And it was the author’s choice to show us multiple different versions of Ambrose and Kodiak that made the book so brilliant and thought-provoking and gut-wrenching. Because, before that, the other clones were intangible and abstract to me. I didn’t really spare them a thought, as terrible as it sounds. They were just too nebulous of an idea. I was focused on the story of these clones, alive right now. But then they died. And there were new clones. And they died. And there were new clones. And that—actually seeing and experiencing multiple clones’ time on the ship—really made me understand and feel for them and connect to them—to all the clones—in a way that just knowing they existed didn’t. It forced me to face that reality. That they had all been people. They had all felt and loved and feared and hoped and died. It made even the clones I didn’t read about more real.
– The romance was not a dramatic, flowery sort of romance, but it was still so very beautiful. Because they lived it over and over and over. I know, they were all they had, it wasn’t like they had any other options, but I don’t think that makes it less beautiful. Even if there was something so sad in the fact that they only ever knew each other. But their relationship, each time, always felt organic and believable. Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s sad to think the original Ambrose and Kodiak probably never even met. I wonder if Ambrose ever learned the same lessons about love. I wonder if Kodiak ever realized it was ok to be vulnerable and not always be self-sufficient. I wonder if either of them ever found the kind of love their clones found with each other.
– I liked how each version of the clones had a different story, but what all of them went through, except hopefully the last set, was terrible. The second version we saw, the ones who managed to take OS offline… I especially felt for those. They got so far. They actually succeeded, in a sense. Only for Kodiak to die from the radiation he got while navigating the ship. And the whole time, those few days they had with just each other and their freedom, they knew. They knew they only had days to live. When Ambrose was recording stuff for their next clones and asked Kodiak to record some, Kodiak’s answer just about broke me. That and the fact that Ambrose couldn’t bring himself to tell Kodiak he loved him until it was too late. But the next set, the ones in which Kodiak had the psychotic break and killed them both by opening the airlock because he thought it was all a simulation, that was heartbreaking in an entirely different way. Those two didn’t even get to enjoy as much time together or enjoy much at all in the brief lives they had. Everything turned bad so fast. And then the ones who lived to be 38… I was so happy for them. It wasn’t an ideal life, clearly, but they were the only ones, aside from the final ones, who actually got to live out a portion of their lives.
– Just, this *cries*:
“Okay. Ready. Future Kodiak: One, you don’t like manicotti as much as you tell Ambrose. It’s just your way of having something to say. Two, you don’t need to spend as much time getting ready for when you’ll see Ambrose, since he’ll only start to tease you for being so vain. Three, settle into kissing Ambrose as soon as possible. You’ll enjoy it very much, and you’ll only have time for so many kisses.”
My vision wobbles. “Those aren’t the details I was imagining. I thought it would be something more like ‘You had your wisdom teeth pulled on a Thursday.’”
“I much prefer these,” I say, voice wet.
– And this *sobs*:
June 11, 18304 Common Era
(1 task left)
Kodiak is dead. The tumor Rover extracted was just a hint of how much was growing in his body.
The universe has no light in it anymore.
I will join him tonight.
Hug your Kodiak close to you.
I love you.
Even the way Ambrose tells his future clone he loves him somehow makes it more touching and more heartbreaking all at once. He never met him, and they weren’t technically the same person, but they kind of were, at the moment they awoke. Ambrose knew him, without needing to meet him. I don’t know. Everything about Ambrose #13’s final message makes me want to cry.
– But the last two clones made it! They actually made it. And assuming nothing goes horribly wrong, they’ll get to live out their full lives on an actual planet rather than the ship. And they’ll get to meet other people, the ones they bring into the world. It doesn’t make the other clones’ lives less tragic, but these two will get to have the life together that the other clones never got. It won’t be easy, but they made it.
Anyone who likes mysterious space missions, love that's quiet but poetic, and books that are thought-provoking, beautiful, and heartbreaking but hopeful.