Book: ‘Kiln People’ by David Brin (2002)

“In a perilous, future, disposable duplicate bodies fulfil every citizen’s legal and illicit whim. Life as a 24-hour ‘ditto’ is cheap, as Albert Morris knows. A brash investigator with a knack for trouble, he’s sent plenty of clay duplicates into deadly peril, then ‘inloaded’ memories from copies that were shot, crushed, drowned… all part of a day’s work.

But when Morris tackles a ring of crooks making bootleg copies of a famous actress, he trips into a secret so explosive it incites open warfare on the streets of Dittotown.”

David Brin presents a complex vision of the future where mankind has mastered the art of perpetual procrastination, where war is a pre-arranged sport with league tables and armchair experts and anything goes.With the aid of ditto-technology, you can send off a ‘ditto’, a blank clay person which you ‘copy’ yourself into and send off to do whatever you need them to do for the day. Send one to work, another to school to study advanced quantum mechanics, another can watch Alfred Hitchcock’s entire back catalogue in preparation for a film club discussion… at the end of the day you can ‘inload’ all the memories/experiences from the day and they’re all yours.

It’s the perfect existence.

Or it is?

Albert Morris is a private investigator, he’s sent dittos off into dangerous situations and later ‘inloaded’ memories of copies that were shot, drowned, beaten up and sometimes worse. He’s just broken an illicit bootleg copying ring run by his Moriarty, ‘Beta’, but there’s something more going, something deeper, something that could change the entire course of humanity.

The story is brilliantly written with great concepts, especially the idea of dittos. Humanity has become lazy, buildings are condemned because people no longer work there just disposable copies, and only people with specialist skills are needed in person (such as Albert Morris). Society keeps ticking over but seemingly on the edge, you get the impression that it all could collapse at any moment and it’s hardly surprising that there are the ‘crazies’ either screaming that ditto’s are an affront to ‘god’ or screaming that these 24hr people deserve rights.

The mystery soon becomes deliciously deep, Brin creates twists and turns that give the best mystery writers a run for their money. The different stories from the dittos come together very well and the shift between them is smooth and unlike other multi-angle stories it doesn’t begin to frustrate.

I liked the characters, although I did feel that they were a little one-dimensional and very much like every other character in science fiction. There didn’t seem to be much more going on with them but the plot is so vast that it can be entirely forgiven. I was hooked by the plot and concepts not the characters.

For me the last few chapters got a little too much metaphysical and contained fantastical concepts of life that flew a little over my head, but it was gripping to see it all wrapped together. The final reveal felt a little weak, particularly after being lead on such a roller-coaster ride but despite feeling weak it felt ‘right’. If you’re an Isaac Asimov fan, particularly of his Elijah Bailey/R. Daneel books, you will like this book. David Brin has a similar writing style to Asimov and it’s no surprise that he is one of the writers continuing with the ‘Foundation’ series

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