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S. D. Unwin
The Magni
S. D. Unwin, author

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

They are Marie Curie and Albert Einstein, although they don’t know it ... yet. When two friends discover that the company they work for is using illegal cloning technology to bring back deceased geniuses for a second act, should they expose and destroy the very source of their own existence? And this knowledge places them in the crosshairs of the powerful organization that’s putting recreated, brilliant minds to audacious use. Now, their survival depends on their wit; but fortunately, of that they have plenty. When a third member joins this band of fugitives, he seems to possess the greatest mind of all. But whose?

Fleet storytelling and an outstanding, mind-bending premise power this thriller from Unwin, author of the One Second Per Second series. Stuart “Art” Cornysh leaves Knoxville for Seattle at the invitation of mysterious finance company Locksley, where he’s to be interviewed for a position he knows little about. Meanwhile, a series of unsettling incidents leads Locksley employee Rox to an impossible coincidence: she’s the spitting image of Marie Curie. Rox mentions this at work and is immediately fired, all as other clues point to the possibility that Locksley has been somehow cloning the world’s greatest minds. “They’re people, not creatures,” the COO snaps at the son of Locksley’s reclusive founder. But with a succession drama underway, and the revelation that these clones, the Magni, often degenerate, the Magni themselves could be in danger—and most don’t even know that they’re clones.

At the top of the list of people uncertain whether they’re Magni is Art, who will lose much of what he loves in life during his time at Locksley. Eventually, he and Rox and the others will even see their lives threatened, as company politics turn nasty. Unwin makes Locksley’s machinations tense and surprising without pushing this bold premise too far into the fantastical, and his sharp prose, convincing dialogue, and understanding of business culture all keep the pages turning and the twists as plausible as they can be for a story in which one character might be the clone of Albert Einstein.

That brisk pace and the story’s compact page count at times work against the premise, as revelations that should jolt (such as Rox’s glimpse of a photo of Marie Curie, or Art’s recognition of the source of the company’s name) come so quickly that readers haven’t had a chance to immerse themselves in the mysteries. Questions surrounding Art’s identity and the founder’s son’s vision for the company are more effective, revealing themselves over pages of suspense and occasional action. Throughout, scenes are fast, strong, and memorable.

Takeaway: Brisk novella of corporate cloning and mind-bending twists.

Comparable Titles: Jane Gilmartin’s The Mirror Man, D.T. Wilby’s Ringer.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Guy P. Harrison, author of Damn You, Entropy!: 1,001 of the Greatest SciFi Quote

“Top-notch storytelling from a master. Magni is a page-turning technothriller that shows S. D. Unwin is a rising star in science fiction.”

Kirkus Reviews

A clever, complex techno-puzzle with authentic characters and a tight, smartly arranged setup. . . . A final showdown pitting brilliant minds of the past against contemporary thinkers makes for a memorable climax.”

Rob Grant, co-creator of the Red Dwarf television series

"Takes complex and important ethical and moral scientific questions, and somehow crafts them into a page-turning thrill ride. Visceral and cerebral. Delicious."