A washed up star creates a clone tasked with eliminating other clones of herself; a whip-smart and thrilling sci-fi read that's perfect for fans of Orphan Black, Killing Eve and Keeping it Real by Justina Robson.
Set in a world of the near future, the celebrity elite have access to a technology that allows them to make perfect copies of themselves, known as Portraits. These Portraits exist to fulfil all the various duties that come as the price of fame.
Our protagonist is the thirteenth copy made of the actress known as Lulabelle Rock. Her purpose is very to track down and eliminate her predecessors.
While initially easy, her task is made difficult by the labyrinthine confusion of Bubble City and the unfortunate stirrings of a developing conscience. When she makes the mistake of falling in love with one of her targets, the would-be assassin faces the ultimate question; when you don’t want to kill yourself, what’s the alternative?
Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock is a satirical sci-fi novella, written by Maud Woolf, and published by Angry Robot Books. In a bizarre and complicated near future, where celebrities get portraits (clones) so they attend all the obligations and acts they are expected, Lulabelle Rock has created her thirteenth clone, with a straightforward task: eliminating the rest of her previous portraits.
In this fast paced story, we will be following how this portrait proceeds to follow her instructions and dive into Bubble City in order to terminate those portraits; in the process, she discovers which aspects of Lulabelle's life they were covering and how that has shaped the portraits' lives and personalities, which Woolf ties to a major arcana's card. Even if she was created for this, that doesn't mean this was an easy task.
In terms of characterization, is quite interesting how despite being all the portraits clones of Lulabelle, they have developed their own personality, even their own quirks and manias; some of them have accepted their destiny, but others will represent an authentic challenge for our Lulabelle. Some of the secondary characters are relatively plain, more a vehicle for the plot than an entity of its own; probably a consequence of the length.
The story is excellent at keeping you hooked, creating your own theories and trying to answer the questions generated by the plot; and it has some twists that you can't really guess until you get to them. Alongside with this plot, Woolf proposes deeper questions about the nature of those portraits, giving the novella another layer of complexity.
Bubble City, where the story takes place, is a sort of near futuristic place, where some incredible technologies exist, but there are also many details similar to our world; fame seems to have a big importance for them. It's not excessively detailed, but as a frame works marvels.
Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock is an excellent debut novella, a read that you will want to devour while suffering together with Lulabelle; if you like Black Mirror, you should check this novel.
Maud Woolf is a Scottish speculative writer with a particular focus on horror and science fiction. While completing an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, her unpublished novel was shortlisted for the North Lit Agency Prize. Her work has appeared in a variety of online magazines, including Metaphorosis Magazine where her short story ‘The Stranding’ was selected to appear in the Best of Metaphorosis 2020.
As of 2022 she is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Lit Agency.