Snakeskins by Tim Major
An SF thriller examining the repercussions of rejuvenation and cloning on individuals’ sense of identity and on wider society.
Caitlin Hext’s first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she’s far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her Skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.
Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Prosperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.
Snakeskins is an SF thriller examining the repercussions of rejuvenation and cloning on individuals’ sense of identity and on wider society, with the tone of classic John Wyndham stories and the multi-strand storytelling style of modern TV series such as Channel 4’s Humans.
This is not my usual read. But I was drawn to the blurb and it didn’t disappoint. I loved how real, how political and thoughtful this book was. It’s sci-fi but it is so clever and it makes the reader think.
it’s so very contemporary in a way…But also scary. The writing kept me hooked and I have no doubt that the sci-fi lovers will absolutely adore it.
I always enjoy reading out of my genre and I am so glad that I read this. It was different and utterly wonderdul.
*Thank you Titan Books for providing me with a free copy of this book.*
Interview between Tim Major and his Snakeskin clone
Tim: Thanks for agreeing to this chat. We haven’t really decided what I should call you.
Snakeskin: Tim. My name is Tim.
Tim: Sorry, that won’t do. I’m Tim. The original. You’re just a Snakeskin. Until this morning, until my my fourth shedding ceremony, you didn’t exist. Then you appeared, and here you are.
Snakeskin: That’s as maybe. But you know how this goes. I look exactly the same as you. I have all your memories. In what sense am I not Tim?
Tim: Seriously? In the eyes of the law, if you want to be technical about it. I don’t like sounding mean, but you’re a… byproduct. A couple of days from now, you’ll have turned to ash.
Snakeskin: Yeah. A couple of days, if I’m lucky.
Tim: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound cruel. And I’m taking up your time.
Snakeskin: [laughs] I haven’t anywhere I need to be. I’m happiest here at home. Sorry, your home.
Tim: [clears throat] But this conversation was my idea, wasn’t it?
Snakeskin: Depends how you look at it. We decided on it before the shedding, before I was produced. Back then, there was only one of us; our minds were one and the same. I made the decision to hide me here in the attic and to hold this conversation, just as much as you did.
Tim: You don’t feel that your perspective has changed, now that you’re here? Now that there’s an important difference between us: the fact that you know you have only a matter of hours to live?
Snakeskin: [Shrugs] We’ve been in this situation before. Three times before, since the age of seventeen.
Tim: So you remember all those other sheddings? You have all my memories from those earlier ceremonies? Memories of being the human rather than the Snakeskin? Isn’t that very confusing in itself? And upsetting.
Snakeskin: Is that a question?
Tim: No. [Looks around attic] So. We should talk about how we’ll do this, this time around.
Snakeskin: First off, I’m not going away. [Laughs] I mean, sure, I’m going to disappear in a puff of ash, soon enough. But until then, I’m staying put. Okay?
Snakeskin: And I want to keep busy. I want to carry on.
Tim: With what?
Tim: Okay. Fine. That actually makes a lot of sense. Hey, it would be fascinating, for you to write a short story or two, capturing the sense of what it feels like to be a Snakeskin clone. It’s a pretty unique perspective and there aren’t many Snakeskins that get a chance to get their head down and produce meaningful work.
Snakeskin: Yeah. But that’s not what I meant. I want to carry on with the novel I’m writing.
Tim: That you’re writing?
Snakeskin: The work-in-progress.
Tim: No. No, no, no. That’s my novel.
Snakeskin: The idea came from my head, just as much as yours. Its plotline is in my mind right now, just as much as it’s in yours. I’ve got phrases, sentences, snatches of dialogue, all whirling around, ready to be put into the manuscript.
Tim: I’m not the collaborating type.
Snakeskin: Too right you’re not. And of course that means that I’m not, either. I don’t want you looking over my shoulder. So, here’s my idea. You go and spend some time doing the things you always tell people you never have time to do. Go for a jog. Take a long lunch in a café. Get a haircut, for pity’s sake, because we both look a state.
Tim: But when I get free time, I prefer to write. [Notices Snakeskin’s scowl] All right. All right. I get it. Your options are a lot more limited than mine. Fine. You can carry on with the novel, and I’ll get some fresh air. I’ll bring you some food in, what, a few hours?
Snakeskin: Take as long as you like. We’ve just eaten. [Pause] And I know what you’re about to say. Don’t worry, I’ll make a backup of the Word document before I start.
Tim: Okay. I hope you enjoy yourself. I mean, if that’s possible, in the circumstances.
Snakeskin: You know me. This is my happy place. I’m happy.
Tim: I’ll go then. No point in holding you up.
[Tim descends stairs to main part of house]
[Snakeskin hums as laptop boots up]
Snakeskin: [Speaking to himself] Bastard’s going to edit my stuff beyond all recognition.