The New One

Image of The New One
Release Date: 
March 28, 2023
Reviewed by: 

The New One is an exquisitely crafted thriller, but also an intimate portrait of a family facing the impossible.”

Family drama meets Westworld in this smart thriller by Evie Green. A corporation called VitaNova has perfected a technology that allows them to recreate a clone of a person in a coma. With the help of some artificial intelligence, they can restore the person’s memories to the clone’s mind, and even their sense of self. In fact, the clone will not even be aware that they are not the original person.

Enter the Trelawney family. Even before the accident, their life was falling apart. Tamsyn and Ed work different shifts and barely see each other anymore. Their teenage daughter Scarlett screams at them whenever she’s home, which is rarely these days. They live in a trailer and can’t make ends meet. Ed has a bag packed under his bed because he’s not sure he can take it for much longer.

Then the unthinkable happens: After an argument with her parents, while running away through the night, Scarlett is struck by a car. She’s in a coma, kept breathing only through life support, and Tamsyn and Ed’s money is running out. Tamsyn stays at her bedside every moment she can, but with little hope.

Evie Green deftly weaves the story so the reader understands that they have no options left. Why else would a family decide to accept VitaNova’s offer to create a robot clone (or an “AI reanimation,” as VitaNova puts it) of their daughter? But they do accept it, because if they do, VitaNova will foot the bill for the care of their real daughter, indefinitely. Accepting the weird clone into their lives is just, as Ed says, “the price we pay for getting the real Scarlett the treatment she needs.”

But the clone is not what they expect. Sophie is not just an uncanny twin to Scarlett; she’s better in every way. She excels in school, is polite to adults, loves new experiences, and adores her parents. Not only that, but the corporation puts them up in a luxury apartment in Geneva with an unlimited expense account. Suddenly life is better than they had ever dreamed. Tamsyn considers herself “the luckiest woman in the history of the world, the only one who had lost her child and then been given her back.”

To the reader, some of this narrative may feel a little off. Can a poor couple really adjust to a life of wealth in another country so readily? Can a marriage at the breaking point really heal so quickly? Why would VitaNova pay so much to keep Ed and Tamsyn and Sophie living in such luxury? What does VitaNova expect of them in return? These and many other questions hang in the background, barely acknowledged by the characters but obvious to the reader. Green’s careful plotting keeps the reader on edge, recognizing that things are not right without knowing exactly how.

The careful balance of the Trelawney’s new lives is overturned when against all odds, the real Scarlett wakes up. Thus begins an avalanche of revelations that land one by one, with perfect timing. Just when the reader thinks they know how the story will unfold, another revelation changes its course once again. By the end, all of the unusual and curious discrepancies adding up in the reader’s mind are explained, as VitaNova’s true motives become clear.

The New One is an exquisitely crafted thriller, but also an intimate portrait of a family facing the impossible. Tamsyn, Ed, Sophie, and Scarlett are all point-of-view characters, each of them trying in their own personal way to navigate the unknown, to know and trust each other, and to come to terms with relationships never experienced by any family before. Each of them gains a new understanding of the other members of their family, as well as who they are themselves, as they fight the evil that has brought them together and now has the power to tear them apart.