Summary:The Original

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Summary pages have spoilers through the end of the book they summarize. However, they also have links to the rest of the Coppermind, which has full spoilers. To safely browse non-summary pages, consider using the Time Machine.

This page contains a chapter by chapter summary of The Original. We hope this summary will make it easier to find specific areas of the book, as well as providing a quick plot refresher for anyone who doesn't want to take the time to reread the entire book.

Chapter 1[edit]

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Summary

Holly wakes up in a hospital bed, disoriented and confused. A doctor asks her questions, wanting to know the last thing Holly remembers. Holly asks where her husband, Jonathan, is, but the doctor doesn’t answer any of Holly’s questions, which frustrates Holly. The doctor asks more questions about Holly’s past, and then signals to one of the men in the room. The man pulls a knife out and moves to attack Holly. She responds quickly, stopping his attack and wrapping her IV line around the man’s neck. She releases him, shocked and wondering how she’s gotten those skills. Holly realizes that she is a Provisional Replica, a clone of her original self but with special skills edited into her. The third man in the room, Skyler, hands Holly a pamphlet about living as a provisional replica, then informs her that she has murdered her husband.

Chapter 2[edit]

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Holly sits on the edge of the bed, holding a gun in her hand. The gun feels disturbingly comfortable in her hand, due to the muscle memory edited into her. Holly is assigned to hunt down kill her original, who killed her husband and disappeared. Her energy gun is set to only harm her original, and Holly is given four days to hunt her down. If she fails, she will die at the end of the four days, and if she succeeds, she can replace her original and returned to her normal life. Skyler shows Holly a virtual replication of the murder scene, which took place in their apartment. Skyler doesn’t include the body in the simulated room, but there are signs of a struggle. Skyler plays a recorded report of the murder, and the report lays out the details of the murder. Jonathan was killed with a knife, and his head was mutilated, with spiraling lines carved into it. The world “Liar” was spelled out on the floor with Jonathan’s blood. Angry, but with little other choice, Holly sets out to find her original.

Chapter 3[edit]

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Outside the hospital, Holly is taken aback at the blank white surroundings. Without her personal theming, everything seemed strange and different. She walks past some slums, and encounters an old woman who asks if she’s a checkout. Holly struggles to understand what happened with Jonathan, and can’t imagine them getting into a fight, much less herself ever killing him. Holly comes to the conclusion that maybe her original was framed. She decides that she needs to find and talk to her original, and find out what happened,

Chapter 4[edit]

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Holly, working on the assumption that her Original was framed, tries to determine what she would do in the Original's place. Coming to the conclusion that she would want to try to meet her replica to explain the truth, Holly goes to the Riverside Marketplace, and is again shocked at how different the market is without her theming on. She walks to the citrus stand where she first met Jonathan and where they often hang out. She suddenly realizes that there might be dangerous people out to get her if her original was framed, and that she has just come to the most obvious spot that people would look for her. She surreptitiously looks around her, and spots a sniper in a third story window. The woman fires her energy rifle at Holly, and she is knocked unconscious.

Chapter 5[edit]

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Holly wakes up, but feigns unconsciousness. She is dumped onto a table in a restaurant, and she listens to four people talking about what to do with her. Holly, using her edited skills, uses their voices to discern where everyone is in the room. She overhears the others in the room discussing how they should not kill the replica yet as they can use her to open a biolock if her Original doesn't cooperate. She moves slightly, but the team sees the movement and are alerted. Holly leaps into an attack, defeating one of her opponents and taking back her energy weapon. She tries to shoot him, but her gun can’t harm him. Holly runs into the kitchen, using a set of knives and a cutting board there to fight her attackers. She is familiar with the restaurant because it belongs to a friend of Jonathan's, and she opens a manhole and escapes into the sewer.

Chapter 6[edit]

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In the sewers, Holly discovers that she is edited with infrared vision. She contemplates what just happened, and is disturbed by the ease with which she can kill people. She wonders if she is the same person anymore. A timer appears in the corner of her vision, telling her that she has three hours until nanite depletion. Holly is confused and concerned, wondering why she needs to go to the renewal station so soon. Depletion of nanites usually only means losing added benefits like accelerated healing until they are replenished, but does not warrant such a warning. Holly feels dizzy and numb, and decides to go to the renewal station.

Chapter 7[edit]

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Holly reaches the renewal station without incident, and as she lays down the system automatically calls Skyler. She asks him about the nanite depletion. He tells her that if she doesn’t check-in every day to get new nanites, she will die. He notices the damage to her hands, and asks what happened. He tells her that the government can’t watch private places like the marketplace. He reveals that, since Holly is a replica, he can look through her memories, which shocks and horrifies Holly as they are usually encrypted for privacy. She tells him about the attack and her escape, and he tells her that they are likely members of ICON, a terrorist group. He gives her access to all documents on ICON, so that she can research them freely. At Holly’s request, Skyler gives her gun the ability to shoot checkouts instead of only her Original, which make up the majority of ICON members.

Chapter 8[edit]

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Holly, despite her reservations, goes to her apartment to search for more clues as to what happened on the night of the murder. It looks strange without her theming, though some real decorations remain. Holly sees a bowl of oranges, and begins carving one. She takes a bite, but it is shockingly acidic. She remembers having edited her taste buds as a kid to make oranges sweeter, now making it taste awful in comparison. Holly sits at the table and weeps.

Chapter 9[edit]

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Holly looks at some keepsakes from her and Jonathan’s time together. Several of them are real, though some of them are missing. Holly goes to her computer and begins researching ICON, and sees videos of them murdering people and blowing up renewal stations. Holly wonders what connection her original has with ICON, and tries to figure out what her original would do. She sees a clip of Jonathan giving a talk about the psychology of checkouts. Holly hears voices outside her apartment, and moments later several ICON members break in. Holly fights back, disabling a few of her attackers. She gets shot in the leg by an antique revolver, then escapes by jumping out her window.

Chapter 10[edit]

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Holly is in a renewal station, restoring her nanites. The system calls Skyler, and Holly angrily yells at him. Skyler patiently explains himself, then tells Holly more about ICON. He shows her information about the members in the fire team, and about Jill Preston, the infamous leader of ICON. Holly remembers that Jonathan used to know Preston, but Skyler said that Jonathan wasn’t connected to ICON. Skyler tells her that the government can’t trespass in the slums where ICON is hiding, but that Holly can as a provisional replica. Jonathan tells her that she has some funds in a bank account, and that she can find a hotel to rest and research. Holly almost goes to her favorite hotel, but realizes that ICON would be looking for her there. She uses a pair of dice to pick a random hotel, and goes there instead.

Chapter 11[edit]

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Holly arrives at the hotel, which is blank and generic without theming. Holly’s room has an in-room fabricator, and she tries multiple times to print weapons. Holly tries to figure out what ICON wants, and decides that they want some sort of memories stored in her head. She wants to figure out who really killed Jonathan, so that she can prove that her original didn’t do it. She decides that she needs to meet with her original, but on her own terms. She picks the Jolly Racer nightclub, a place that she and Jonathan have strong connections to.

Chapter 12[edit]

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Holly enters the Jolly Racer nightclub, hoping to isolate one of the ICON members and get some answers. She wears a physical disguise that she printed at the hotel. She brushes against dancers to hear the music, allowing her to dance to the rhythm and blend in. She uses her dancing to disguise her search for ICON members. She spots Carl Newton and Zoba Moss, then accidentally bumps into another ICON member. Holly keeps dancing, and spots Frederique Gorski on the balcony. Holly goes to the bar and orders a drink, but Carl Newton sneaks up on her and puts a gun to her head. She attacks him, stealing his gun and shooting him with a paralyzing shot. Holly, realising that anyone still checked-in has the gunshots and scenes of violence filtered out of their perceptions, uses the crowd of dancers for cover, and both her and the fire team have trouble shooting accurately with all the dancers. She shoots an ICON member in the knee, then is attacked by Zoba. Both of them roll across the dancefloor as they fight, and Holly emerges victorious, pointing a gun at them and demanding answers. Zoba tells Holly that they have a voice recorder with a message from her original. A security guard comes over and pulls them apart, then zaps Holly with an energy gun when she tries to resist.

Holly wakes up in a room with a security guard, only having been asleep for a short time. The guard tells her that fighting is not allowed in the Jolly Racer. He tells her that her friends are already gone, and that they left a voice recorder for her. She takes it, and the man leaves her to listen to the message in private. The voice recording is from her original. She tells Holly that she is going to save Holly a lot of pain by telling her that she was not framed, and that she killed Jonathan.

Chapter 13[edit]

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Numb and in shock, Holly processes the news. She goes up to the roof of the nightclub, angry. She crosses from rooftop to rooftop, then stops atop a building to think. She wonders again why she would've killed Jonathan, and what he could've possibly done that would've made her so angry. She reasserts to herself that the only way she would get answers would be to talk to her original. She decides to hunt her original down carefully, then make her tell her what happened before killing her.

Chapter 14[edit]

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Holly goes to a bar late at night and orders two drinks on the rocks. She gets some physical pencil and paper, and wonders what information her original put under a biolock that ICON could be after. She realizes that her original might have had the same idea she did, and used dice to randomize where she went. Holly makes a list of eleven places her original might go (eleven being the number of possible combinations from rolling two six-sided die), then puts them in an order that feels natural. Since seven is the most commonly rolled number, she looked at six and seven, which said to get a hotel room and to change her name. She writes down a list of possible fake names she might use, then sees that her nanites are depleting again. She heads to the renewal station, deciding that Skyler could look up some of the fake name ideas.

Chapter 15[edit]

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The system places a call to Skyler when Holly enters the renewal station, and he is slow to reply due to the late hour. She gives him the list of fake names, and asks him to check hotel registries. He tells her that PR's that shift to working things out on paper statistically have a higher success rate and that it indicates they have accepted their Original's guilt. She realizes that her original could've looked up her name in the hotel registries too, and Skyler books her a room in a hotel with a fake name. The hotel is pubic property, so Skyler can keep an eye on her. After he hangs up, Holly looks up another one of Jonathan's speeches on the psychology of checkouts. He talks about rising suicide rates, saying that many people stop finding meaning and purpose in life. He shows an interview with an old woman named Jane Doe, and Holly recognizes her from the checkout slums. Jane says that she took up smoking because she liked the danger and risk of it. Holly wants to know how she knew Jonathan, and decides she needs to go to the checkout slums to meet with her.

Chapter 16[edit]

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Holly goes to an old fashioned hotel, where almost everything is real. She gets a good night of sleep, then tries to figure out where her original could've gone. She rolled dice again to pick from a list of places, and comes up with camping as the result. She decides to go to the forest and try and find her original there.

Chapter 17[edit]

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Holly arrives at the forest, and is shocked to find it packed with people. She had thought it to be nearly empty when she had been there, but realises the theming hides the presence of others to anyone who visits, faking the impression of solitude. She is horrified at how much her and Jonathan been deceived, and she vomits. Holly sees two of her friends talking to each other, but they can’t see her. She realizes that even if she succeeds and takes her original’s place, she can never go back to normal. She wonders if her original turned off her theming and saw all the deception, then somehow snapped. Realizing that her original isn’t here, Holly leaves the forest.

Chapter 18[edit]

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Holly sits on a maglev, riding back to town. Skyler calls her, telling her that he found a hotel where her original had registered using a fake name. He tells her that she wasn’t there, but that she left a voice recorder with a biolock on it, as well as a pair of dice that matches Holly’s. Skyler tells her that she needs to come in to unlock the recorder.

Chapter 19[edit]

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Holly enters the government building where Skyler works, which is made to look like an old noir film. Skyler greets her, wearing a real suit. He tells her that he doesn’t use theming, since a lot of criminals use the blindspots created by using theming to hide. He leads her into an interrogation room, and they sit down at the table. He hands her an evidence bag with the recorder in it. She unlocks it, and reluctantly plays it.

Her original apologizes for putting her in this situation. Her original tells her not to trust the government, and that she badly wants to meet with her. Her original tells her that Jonathan’s death must be hurting, and Holly furiously turns off the recorder and doesn’t want to hear the rest of it. She asks if originals usually leave clues, and he says that they do it when they feel guilty about what they’ve done and are trying to explain themselves to the only person who could understand their actions and offer forgiveness - themselves. Skyler tells Holly that he is a PR, along with many other government agents. She asks about her violent tendencies, and he tells her that they didn’t edit her personality at all, they only add new skills and information, so any changes Holly is experiencing is her original personality expressing itself with these new tools at its disposal. Holly resumes the recording, and her original tells her to leave a message at the marketplace. She decides that she needs to go into the checkout slums to confront ICON.

Chapter 20[edit]

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Holly enters the checkout slums, in disguise and posing as a new checkout. She carries two bags with her, one with a tent and some toys, and one with groceries. She knows that the ICON headquarters are in the top floor of one of the buildings. She is greeted by three ICON members, one of them from the nightclub. She pretends she is moving to the slums, and her disguise fools the ICON members. She enters a room with Zoba waits, who gives her some paperwork to fill out. Zoba pulls out a gun, and Holly attacks her using an expandable tent as a distraction. Holly defeats Zoba, knocking her out after a brief fight. She leaves Zoba and her ICON escort bound and gagged, and she climbs up the building. She uses a grappling hook to climb up, managing the climb with difficulty. Holly calls Skyler, and he uses cleaning bots to knock out the lights in the slums.

Holly goes up to the roof, then enters into a room where Jane Doe sits at a desk. Holly asks how she knew Jonathan, and she says that they met when Jonathan was researching checkouts. Holly soon comes to the revolution that Jane Doe is actually Jill Preston, leader of ICON. Jill Preston tells Holly that ICON isn’t a terrorist group, and claims that the government simply showed her videos of acts of violence being committed and claimed that ICON was responsible. Holly demands answers, and threatens to carve her head when she doesn’t cooperate. Preston became afraid, and Holly says that she has nothing left to lose.

Jill says that when Jonathan died, Holly’s original inherited all of his pass phrases and secret info, allowing her to open his biolocks. Preston tells her that Jonathan discovered a back door in people’s minds that the government could exploit, allowing them to hack into people’s memories without their knowledge. He encrypted the pass phrases so that only he could access them, and that ICON had tried to recruit him. He had been murdered by Holly’s original before he could be recruited. Holly calls Skyler, and informs him that she’s found Jill Preston.

Chapter 21[edit]

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Holly uses herself as bait on her last day, sitting in the art gallery where her last memory took place. She listens to the recording that her original had left in Jill Preston’s desk. The recording says to think about the first time they had met Jonathan. Her original asks how she didn’t notice how unhappy Jonathan was towards the end. Her original asks her again to meet her, and Holly hears the click of a gun. She turns to find her original standing behind her, an old-fashioned revolver pointed at her. Holly pulls out her own energy gun, pointing it at her original.

They stare down each other, and Holly’s original tells her story. Jonathan had gone on a business trip and checked out, which the government didn’t like because of the valuable secrets and information he knew. They illegally made a PR of Jonathan who killed and replaced him. Holly’s original had discovered the truth and murdered Jonathan’s provisional replica. Holly and her original stare at each other, guns leveled at each other and wondering who would pull the trigger.

Chapter 22[edit]

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A voice recording plays, left by either the original Holly or the PR of Holly. The recording says that one of them shot the other, and the violence was edited away. The message says that she in the end, she wanted to live. She says that they were both broken, and that her life will never be the same. She recounts their relationship, and says that she’ll roll the dice and see where she goes from there.