ARC received from the publisher, Recorded Books, in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science fiction
Published: 14th Sept 2020 by Recorded Books (in collaboration with Mainframe)
The Original is a fascinating yet chilling look into a possible future where a person can be cloned into a replicant used to hunt down his or her ‘original’. This science-fiction collaboration between Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal thoroughly engages and satisfies with its solid characterisation and worldbuilding in a novella spanning just over 3hrs long of audio narration.
Sanderson and Kowal have been friends and co-hosts of the Writing Excuses podcast for many years. While they have published a book with the rest of the podcast’s co-hosts called Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology (which contained some great stories and also offers a peek into the creative process), this is the first time where they co-authored a story together.
There isn’t much that could be mentioned about the plot that was not already in the synopsis without giving away important story beats. What I could say is that this packed a surprisingly solid amount of worldbuilding through the first person perspective of the Holly, the provisional replicant that was tasked to hunt down her original in four days, failing which she should be permanently erased. Holly came across as sympathetic and relatable character as she struggled with the notion that her original (which essentially means herself) could actually have killed her husband.
The same goes for the worldbuilding which I’ll refrain from describing as I think one needs to listen to this audiobook to appreciate how well it’s incorporated into the character’s POV. While I can’t say that it’s wholly unique, I definitely found that it’s both intriguing and chilling in dealing with the concept of cloning and ‘theming’ to the point where one could hardly tell what is real anymore.
The Original is only available in audio for now and Julia Whelan’s narration and portrayal of Holly was excellent. I’m not sure what the future plans holds for more collaboration between Sanderson and Kowal under this Mainframe umbrella, but I’m definitely interested for more. Who am I kidding though, I’ll always read anything that Sanderson has written. But this does also make me want to read one of Kowal’s books sooner rather than later, especially her Hugo-award winning The Calculating Stars.