The Original

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The Original
Original US cover.jpg
by ?
Collaborators Mary Robinette Kowal, Julia Whelan
Released September 14, 2020[1]
Publisher Recorded Books
ISBN 9781980062738

The Original is an audio original story co-written by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal, two of the hosts of the Writing Excuses podcast.[2] It is performed by Julia Whelan.[3]


In the near future, humans choose life - for a price. Injectable nanite technology is the lifeblood that flows through every individual wishing to experience the world through the lens of their own theme. While death from mortal wounds is still possible, life is made easier in a socially liberated society where automation and income equality allow passion pursuits to flourish over traditional work. Renewal stations are provided to every law-abiding citizen for weekly check-ins, which issue life-sustaining repairs in exchange for personal privacy. But what becomes of those who check out, of those who dare to resist immortality and risk being edited under the gaze of an identity-extracting government surveillance system?

When Holly Winseed wakes up in a hospital room, her memory compromised and a new identity imposed on her, a team of government agents wastes no time stating their objective. With intent to infiltrate and defeat the terrorist group ICON, the agents tell Holly that she is now a Provisional Replica and has one week to hunt down and kill her Original for the murder of her husband, Jonathan. If she succeeds, she’ll assume her Original’s place in society. If she fails, her life will end. Holly’s progress is monitored by an assigned contact that feeds her information as she confronts the blank, robotic world around her, discovering that others view life through the theme of their own choosing.

With her newly implanted combat and deduction skills, Holly fends off both attacks by terrorists and doubts about her own trustworthiness as clues lead her to her Original - and to the truth about Jonathan. In the end, one body remains and one walks away. Although questions persist, one thing is certain: Life will never be the same.[4]


The story is about a world in which the government creates clones of criminals to track the criminal down. If successful, the clone is promised the chance to take the Original's place in life. The clones also have controls in place to kill them at the press of a button.[5]


Brandon completed the outline in about a week in May 2018 and revisited it later in the year.[6][5] He decided the story might work as an audio original and decided to bring in a coauthor, although he did not initially reveal who it was.[5][7] Writing happened throughout 2019. Brandon became concerned after learning that the Will Smith film Gemini Man had a premise very similar to that of The Original; he hoped to publish the story before the release of the film in fall 2019, but that proved unfeasible.[2] Recording of the audio had begun by December 2019.[2] By mid-2020, the publisher had decided to delay the release to later in the year, for reasons unknown to Brandon.[8]

The reception of the audio format of The Original may influence whether Brandon would use a similar format for future Legion or The Reckoners stories.[9]

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