REVIEW: Kiln People by David Brin
REVIEW SUMMARY: Outstanding sci-fi gumshoe tale set in a future I know I’d love to be a part of.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A story about a future where cloning is a reality – but only for a day at a time – and the private dick who has to solve a deadly mystery (but then, aren’t they all?)
PROS: Great realistic hard sci-fi, amazing discussion on the impact to society on not only cloning but also near constant surveillance.
CONS: Its not a mystery of Agatha Christie caliber (in other words, you won’t be able to figure it out from clues in the text.)
BOTTOM LINE: Brin is on top of his game – this book is great!
The major elements of the plot are that this is a future society maybe 100 years beyond our own. In other words, there are enough similar items to make the comparisons to today worthwhile.
The main technological advancement, and the titular subject, is based on a form of cloning (really creating a golem.) You can generate these clones full grown ready to go, but they only live for 1 day, at which time they have to return to you so you can assimilate their experiences back into your archetype brain. Many of the ways these clones are used is obvious, everything from doing your grocery shopping for the day to allowing you to experience some mighty degenerate sexual experiences.
Aside: This brings me to an important point I’d like to make. Most people are aware of Arthur C Clarke’s postulate that any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic. Shaffer’s corollary is: there isn’t any technology so advanced that it can’t be used for porn.
However, another important aspect of this future world is that nearly every area of the cities are covered by video cameras. The footage from these cameras is available on the net archived for whomever wants to view it. Some of the cameras are public, however a majority are private – which means you have to pay to access them. I’m sure you can appreciate the impact this would have to a private detective – you can virtually follow anybody anywhere.
I won’t disclose any of the plot – it’s just too good to spoil here. Once critique I would have is that I prefer my mysteries to have that Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quality of giving the reader all the clues along with the detective. This book doesn’t really have that. This is a pretty minor nit because otherwise the book is great.