Release date: October 3, 2017
In the world outside the Haven Institute, Lyra and Caelum are finding it hard to be human—and neither of them knows where they belong or who they can trust. When Caelum leaves without warning to pursue the dream of a place he belongs, Lyra follows him, convinced that together they will hunt down a cure for the illness that’s slowly consuming her mind. But what they uncover is a shocking connection to their past—even as their future seems in danger of collapsing.
After discovering the uncomfortable truth about her connection to the Haven Institute, Gemma struggles to return to her normal life. But when she learns that her controlling and powerful father has new plans for Lyra and Caelum, Gemma and her boyfriend, Pete, leave in the middle of the night to warn them of the danger they face.When an untimely accident derails them, they are mistaken for the escaped replicas and seized by strangers hired to capture them. The Haven Institute wasn’t destroyed after all, and now Gemma is the one behind the walls.
In many ways, I feel Ringer achieved all that Replica was trying to. Lauren Oliver had mentioned in the foreword for the Replica book (I think it was the Gemma side’s foreword) about how she wanted to write two stories into one book, but with Replica, it was more like reading a dual perspective of the same story, with few independent parts. Ringer, however, actually felt like that experiment was successful, because it had two mostly independent story-lines with a few intersections, where the titular characters meet. Lyra and Gemma, now separated in their own pockets of their world, are trying to move on with their lives, even after all that they learned. It is understandable – the truth was too big to contain and to change, so the only way forward feels like acceptance and moving on. But of course, the world won’t let them be and we get this wonderful novel exploring the theme of what it means to human in modern times.
A central theme of the Replica duology (at least in my eyes) is the concept of selfhood and humanity. There is the ethics of cloning being discussed, of course, and though I thought that might be the main focus of the duology, it is taken further to delve into the individual identity crises these characters face, being human and told they are not. Or not being entirely of natural origin and coming to terms with that fact. While the earlier novel was more conspiracy themed, this one is full of characterization, building a plot around the emotional struggles of each character, even one of the antagonists. And the characterization shines, really, because it is so well-written.
Lyra was born, not made, but for nearly her entire life, her humanness was stole from her and she was denied the rights of any other person. Caelum, by virtue of being made, is ‘not supposed to exist’, as was Calliope. So, even if they are human in every aspect, they don’t know how to be one. They are not innocent, but they are naive. As Lyra says in this quote,
“She had no context. She was a word on a blank page. There was no way to read meaning into it. No wonder she felt so alone”
And another thing they have in common is their troubled relationship with the concept of ownership. They, who were considered property themselves, now crave to call something their own. To have something is what they think would make them human, and it manifests in different ways for each of these characters.
“People take things all the time. They took what they wanted from us at Haven, didn’t they? Didn’t you”
Meanwhile, Gemma, when she comes face to face with her own replicas, starts to doubt her selfhood, whether she is really a person if there are others who are like her in every biological aspect.
“You can’t make people with science. We’re all born a collection of cells and senses and chemical patterns. We have to become human.”
Basically, what I am trying to say is, I loved how Oliver brought out the nuances of how a world with clones in it would mean on an individual level, rather than just a general ethics argument. What that translates into how you treat people around you, if you did or did not know where they came from. Through a minor character that appears halfway through the book parts, she makes a subtle but excellent argument for this – that it does not make a difference where they are from; people need to be treated as humans first.
So, while I seem to have been so thoroughly enamored by the writing, it must be a question why only 4 stars rather than 5. Well, there are many reasons for that, but I’ll mention a few. Firstly, the pacing is slow – I took nearly two weeks to finish this book, because I paused at a quarter and then read many books and came back. It also relies on some coincidences to further the plot, (you will know what I mean when you read it) which, while well planned, kind of also lowers the stakes. And finally, (while this doesn’t really affect my ratings but still felt like worth mentioning) it is left sort of open-ended as to the outcomes. Overall, though, I would say – go read it. It is an amazingly written book about existential crises.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from HarperCollins, via Edelweiss.