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An Orison of Sonmi-451 -Chapter 5

Told as an interview, this story is set in the future, in a world where corporations rule at the expense of individuals. Clones (fabricants) are created to perform service functions. One such fabricant is Sonmi-451, a former dinery server. She begins her interview by telling of her life as a fabricant. She worked in a Papa Song's, futuristic fast food joint in Neo Seoul, where the clones take orders, clean up the dining room, and serve the food. They are housed at the restaurant; work nineteen hour days, and never see natural sunlight.

The population of this corporate society is divided into "pure-bloods" (naturally born individuals) and "fabricants" (clones). Within this social structure, pure-bloods are considered better and more intelligent than fabricants, who were engineered and bred inside tanks, as opposed to pure-bloods being born from a womb. Sonmi explains that fabricants are widely believed to lack individual personality, but that is a myth perpetuated by the pure-bloods to feel better about mistreating fabricants as the lack of personality makes them lack sentience as well.

Sonmi continues her story and tells of her friend, Yoona-939, a fellow sister server, who began to be aware of her surroundings, develop curiosity, and to question her lot in the world. This awareness in fabricants is referred to in the novel as "ascending." Yoona-939 shows Sonmi how to rise above the rest of the fabricants and shows Sonmi her secret stash of objects she's found in the dinery that were left by guests. These include clothing and a book of fairy tales. Since fabricants never see the outside world, all of this is new and exciting to both of them.

One New Year's Eve, Yoona-939 executes her escape plan. She flees to the outside elevator, dragging a pure-blood little boy with her as a hostage for safety but also because the elevators only operate with a Soul, which fabricants do not have. Shortly after, however, the elevator returns with the boy unharmed but with Yoona-939's body riddled with bullet holes.

After Yoona-939's attempted escape, the regulations at the dinery where Sonmi lived and worked increased substantially. The incident was blamed on "Union," a revolutionary group supposedly working to overthrow the corporations and the current governance system. It was indicated that Yoona-939 must have been a Union recruit, although Sonmi says that this is unlikely, since how would a Unionman contact her and if he did, what use would a fabricant be? Sonmi, too, begins to become aware of her surroundings. She has independent thoughts; she can remember things, and she soon grows dissatisfied with life at Papa Song's. Some months later, Sonmi wakes to a noise in the middle of the "curfew," only to find the dinery supervisor, Seer Rhee, dead at his desk due to Soap overdose. (Soap is the food substance which fabricants ingest, but it acts like a drug for pure-bloods.) Sonmi doesn't know what to do, as to call for help would be to give away her "ascended" state because fabricants cannot wakeup without the stimulin. Since the man is obviously dead already, she does nothing and returns to the dorm room. The next morning, however, the rest of the fabricants are not awakened as usual by the stimulin customarily pumped through the air ducts. Sonmi is the only one awake - or so she thinks. Rather, she is met by a dark-suited man, who calls himself Chang. Chang calls himself a chauffeur and has a message for Sonmi that he is to escort her out of the dinery to avoid her being implicated in the Seer's death. He takes her up the elevator into the world of signs, highways, buildings, sights, and smells, and into a waiting vehicle. Overwhelmed, she doesn't ask any questions, but goes along peacefully. Their destination is Taemosan University, where she is to be a test subject for Boom-Sook Kim, a post-grad student.

Kim turns out to be the lazy son of a corporate exec. He is absent when Sonmi is dropped off, and his lab is filthy and bug-ridden, something else foreign to Sonmi. Kim pops in the lab, says he is leaving for three days, and bids Sonmi "wait right there" for his return.

On Sonmi's second day in the lab, she is visited by another kind of fabricant, named Wing-027, who brings her clothes and helps her get oriented. Wing is a "disasterman." He is engineered to operate in lands contaminated with radioactive or biological waste, the "deadlands." He gives her a sony, which is a handheld computer, capable of displaying an encyclopedia of knowledge and literature. Sonmi begins to work her way through school, independently, beginning with elementary school. In six months, she has completed secondary school.

At the lab, Sonmi meets Hae-Joo Im, another post-grad student, when he enters one day to tell Kim of Wing-027's destruction, a result of Wing's grad student's carelessness. Kim laughs, but Sonmi is distraught at losing her only friend at Taemosan. She is to meet Hae-Joo Im again before her story is finished.

Life at the lab continues, with long stretches of leisure time, which Sonmi uses to study in silence, punctuated by periods of riotous drinking and debauchery by Kim and his buddies. On one such night, the revelry takes a more sinister turn when the Kim and his friends decide to test their skill with a crossbow by shooting fruit from the top of Sonmi's head. They start with a melon and have progressed to a plum when Professor Mephi bursts into the room and rescues her. Professor Mephi is a Boardman, a Unanimity Professor, and one of the most respected individuals at the university. After thoroughly chastising Kim, he escorts Sonmi to new quarters. She is glad to be rid of Kim and his cruel friends, but regrets having to leave her sony behind. He informs her that she has been reassigned to the Unanimity faculty.

The professor attempts to answer the questions that the scared Sonmi has yet to ask. She has come to his attention from the eclectic choices of files that she downloaded to her sony. Rather than being harsh about her brazen quest for knowledge, he congratulates her and tells her he intends to enroll her in the University as a full student. Sonmi attempts to attend some lectures, but the commotion and ridicule associated with her being the only fabricant among pure-bloods causes them to restructure her courses as individual study and sending lectures digitally over to the sony.

At the University, Sonmi is invited to join Hae-Joo Im on weekend nights for excursions outside of the campus. He tells her that it is part of her training and that the Professor has encouraged these outings. They visit the parks, the gallerias (shopping malls), and restaurants (even though fabricants can't eat "pure-blood" food). They even visit the Papa Song's dinery, the same dinery where Sonmi once lived and worked.Sonmi is disturbed by their visit there. She has come far, and it is difficult to see and hear the automatic responses and the life of the servers there. Hae-Joo Im tells her that her feelings are just a sign of her ascendance.

On another outing, Hae-Joo, a film buff, obtains an old disney (movie), "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish" (the film made from the previous chapter's story) for them to watch. They are about half-way through the screening when an aide of Hae-Joo's comes in to tell them that Professor Mephi has been captured and that Chang is waiting for them in the basement with a car. Before they flee, Hae-Joo tells Sonmi that he is not quite who he has said he is.

Chapter 7[]

The conclusion of the "Sonmi-451" story opens with Hae-Joo Im's revelation that he is part of the Union revolutionary group. As they flee the university, Hae-Joo's aide is hit by a Unanimity dart with a poison that causes him to scream in agony, thus giving away their position. Hae-Joo calmly puts him out of his misery by shooting him in the head. Sonmi's quiet and peaceful university life is over for good.

The pair escapes to a slum, called Huamdonggil, where Nea So Copros "dumps" its undesirables - those too ill, too poor, or too old to contribute to society. Hae-Joo takes Sonmi to a presumed safe house, where he is greeted by the madam, a serpent-like creature. In a parlor, Sonmi is addressed by a hologram of a carp, the leader of the Union movement in disguise. He thanks Sonmi for her cooperation and tells her that with her help, Union will change the world's corporate structure out of existence. Then, as suddenly as he appeared, he is gone.

While in Haumdonggil, the two of them get new "souls," the microchips implanted in all "pure-blood" fingers to allow passage from one area to another and to allow the Corporation to keep track of its citizens. Sonmi also visits a facescaper, a plastic surgeon, who changes Sonmi's look (although the reader learns she has been changed back during her trial).

They hurry out of the city, stopping for the night at a fabricant nursery, ironically called Hydra. Here fabricants are created, much like hot-house plants. The next morning, Sonmi asks the obvious question: Why would Union go to such trouble to save one experimental fabricant? As they drive out further into the countryside, Hae-Joo attempts to answer her.He tells her that Union desires revolution because the present corporate society is destroying itself, that each year more and more of the planet becomes uninhabitable due to disease, toxic waste, and global warming. Union proposes to create an army of six million "ascended" fabricants, and Sonmi is to be their first soldier.

The second night the duo stops at an abandoned abbey, where a handful of dispossessed pure-bloods, called colonists, live off of the land. In exchange for solar panels and other necessities, the colonists provide a safe house for the Union network. At this stop, Sonmi meets the Abbess of the colony. They discuss the future of civilization and the crime of enslaving Sonmi's "tribe," the fabricants.

Leaving the colony, Sonmi and Hae-Joo stop for a rest break atop a bridge. While they are there, another car comes and stops. The man in the car gets out and takes a carrier from the trunk, leaving his wife and daughter in the car. Inside the carrier is a small, terrified fabricant living doll. Before Hae-Joo or Sonmi can react, the man flings the doll from the bridge, murmuring "good riddance."

The doll, the latest "must-have" toy, was their daughter's, but she has outlived her "newness" and is no longer desired. Instead of paying to turn the doll in, the family seeks simply to get rid of it by drowning it in the freezing river. Sonmi is too stunned to speak.That evening they reach Pusan, their destination. They make their way to a rooming house, near the port, where Hae-Joo keeps a room. Hae-Joo makes contact with the Union leader again, who congratulates Sonmi and Hae-Joo on their successful journey. He tells her that they have a "formative experience" for her, not a pleasant one, but a necessary one. She agrees.

Hae-Joo takes her to Papa Song's Golden Ark, a huge vessel moored at the port. Sonmi recognizes it as the promised destination for Papa Song dinery servers, such as she was, when they "graduate" after their twelve stars of service. They enter the vessel, claiming to be technical workers and Hae-Joo leads Sonmi through a suspended ventilation shaft, from which she can see the action below.

In the first room, some two hundred, twelve-star fabricants await to be called so that their trip to Hawaii, their reward, can begin. In the second room, an excited fabricant had been led, eager for her journey. A helmet is lowered onto her head, but instead of being transported to Hawaii, she is killed and her body taken on a conveyor to the next chamber.Sonmi and Hae-Joo crawl along further to witness the activities in the third room. Here, the cadavers of the fabricants are stripped, skinned, and cut apart, providing material for the fabricant wombanks, making food for the fabricants, and for use in the Papa Song food products.

Sonmi's outrage is predictable. She tells Hae-Joo that all of these slaughter ships must be destroyed and the killing of fabricants stopped. She says that the ascended fabricants need a Bill of Rights and that she is the one to write it. Hae-Joo agrees and says that they need Sonmi's help.

Sonmi writes "Declarations" over a three-week period in an isolated villa, outside of Pusan. Within hours of her handing her document over to Hae-Joo, the Unanimity forces come to arrest her. She is expecting them. She has come to realize that the whole journey, from Papa Song's dinery to the writing of "Declarations," has been produced by Unanimity so that they could put Sonmi on trial and discredit any possible fabricant uprising.

As the story ends, Sonmi is resigned to her fate, her death. Her last request is to see the final portion of the movie she and Hae-Joo had begun a long time ago - "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish."


  • In "Sloosh'a's Crossin'," the next chapter, the reader learns what he has suspected from the first portion of the Sonmi story -- that Sonmi is ultimately killed by the pure-bloods of Nea So Copros. Her orison, the interview detailed in the "Sonmi" chapters, is really an account of her last words. These words, however, live long after her demise and the demise of Nea So Copros to become an inspiration to future societies, such as the Valleymen of Sloosh'a's Crossin'.
  • In "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", Timothy mentions passing by factories and jokes that they make clones for Koreans.
  • "Orison" means "prayer."
  • Both the words "soap" and "corpse" can be found in the words "Nea So Copros."
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