I read and reviewed the first book, Machinations, earlier this year. While there were issues with the worldbuilding, what made it stand out was Stone’s powerful, effective evocation of a cloned character. Would she sustain this fascinating character in the sequel?
Commander Rhona Long understands survival better than most. Killed in combat, she was brought back to life using her DNA, and she’s forged a new, even more powerful identity. Now the leader of the resistance, she’s determined to ensure the machines are shut down for good. But victory is elusive. The machines have a new technology designed to overcome humanity’s most advanced weaponry. Despite Rhona’s peacekeeping efforts, former nations are feuding over resources as old power struggles resurface. Worse, someone inside the resistance is sabotaging the human cause—someone who, from all appearances, seems to be Rhona . . . or her exact replica.
The start of Machinations was one of the high spots of the book – that wrenching death scene right at the beginning of the story pitched us straight into the action and this book kicks off with similar action-packed drama. Could you fully appreciate it if you hadn’t read the first book? Yes, I think Stone’s writing and pacing is such that you could pick this one up and wouldn’t flounder too much, though in an ideal world you would read the first book before tackling this one.
While I enjoyed the first book, I did have difficulty envisaging exactly what the machines looked like. As a great deal of the action in Counterpart takes place in an underground citadel, which is very well depicted, this isn’t such a problem in this slice of the adventure, where we also get more information about how the machines operate, anyhow. And at no point does this book suffer from the classic second book slump – it grabs us at the start and the action doesn’t let up until the end. I reached the final page with a jolt of dismay, as we are left with something of a cliffhanger, although most of main plotlines running through the second book are brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
What Stone achieves magnificently throughout both books is to give us a ringside seat as a character struggles to come to terms with being a clone. This is a staple of science fiction and the normal way of dealing with it, is for the character to be a tad disorientated and grumpy about the whole business in the first couple of chapters, then snap into action, appreciating what this new body can do… Stone’s enjoyable, sympathetic character finds being a clone defines her as she struggles to get those closest to her to initially accept her. She also still has problems, due to not fully recollecting her former life. And once she hits her stride as humanity’s icon – the reason why she was cloned in the first place – there are several plot developments that have her on the back foot, again. I like her bravura, her constant patter of jokes, often at entirely inappropriate times. I like her hot-headed inclination to go plunging right into the middle of trouble.
Any grizzles? No – I found her relationship with Camus far more compelling and believable in this story. I read waaay into the early morning to discover what would happen next and am now eagerly looking forward to the next instalment.
I received a free arc of Counterpart from the publisher via Netgalley, which has not affected the content of my unbiased review.