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by Jenna Black
A Tor Teen Paperback, 2013, $9.99, 368pp
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Tor is to be commended: in an age of dwindling book sales and a snowballing shift to e-books, Tor is producing quality paperbacks at low prices for the teen market.

Replica is set in a near future when the United States is no more, fallen not to the devastation of nuclear strikes, invasion, or catastrophic climate change, but to bankrupt budgets and corporate buy-outs, as each state has been “rescued” from red ink and red tape by becoming privatized – just like prisons. Paxco, for example, owns what used to be New York . Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake is a member of the new Executive royalty, as her parents control the adjacent corporate state of Synchrony. She and the Paxco heir, young Nathaniel Hayes, have been engaged since they were in preschool, but Nadia knows how tenuous her position is. The least whiff of scandal or disgrace could sever the Deal and render her a social pariah, and Nate – handsome, cavalier, custom-defying Nate – seems bent on pushing through all the doors marked “Pull” or “Keep Out” and dragging her in his wake, where his immunity provides her no protection, to the vindictive delight of all her frenemies, who would love nothing better than to replace her as Nate’s fiancée.

The technology of cloning has been advanced by Paxco to the level of Replication, whereby stored downloads of memories and personalities can be placed in cloned back-up bodies. These can be legally activated in the event of murder, disaster, etc. – but not in the case of the ordinary, “your time has come” death that still comes to all. Yeah, like that limitation is going to stay in place for long, when the one thing powerful men desire more than MORE is more time in which to enjoy all their MORE, and the youthful vigor with which to enjoy it.

2001 gave us the great AI villain Hal; in Replica we have a distinctly feminine villainess AI, aptly named Thea, which is the Greek word for goddess – literally “she who witnesses.” Thea is the brains behind the replication process, and she is immoral, motivated solely by her lust for “input”, for understanding, and by a child’s devotion to her progenitor, Chairman Hayes.

Nate and Nadia stumble upon an underground movement and get caught in the crossfire between their own social set of Haves and the Have Nots as they set out to uncover the hidden agenda behind the Paxco curtain.

Clearly the first of an intended series, Replica is an exciting adventure that tests the adage of David Mamet: “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.”

It remains to be seen if youthful exuberance matures into something that can outmaneuver an enemy without foregoing its first principals. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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