Just about everyone's had a day when they've wished it were possible to send an alternate self to take care of unpleasant or tedious errands while the real self takes it easy. In Kiln People
, David Brin's sci-fi-meets-noir novel, this wish has come true. In Brin's imagined future, folks are able to make inexpensive, disposable clay copies of themselves. These golems or "dittos" live for a single day to serve their creator, who can then choose whether or not to "inload" the memories of the ditto's brief life. But private investigator Albert Morris gets more than he, or his "ditective" copies, bargain for when he signs on to help solve the mysterious disappearance of Universal Kilns' co-founder Yasil Maharal--the father of dittotech.
Brin successfully interweaves plot lines as numerous as our hero's ditectives and doggedly sticks to the rules of his created dittotech while Morris's "realflesh" and clay manifestations slowly unravel the dangerous secret behind Maharal's disappearance. As Brin juggles his multiple protagonists and antagonists, he urges the reader to question notions of memory, individualism, and technology, and to answer the schizoid question "which 'you' is 'you?'" Brin's enjoyment is evident as he plays with his terracotta creations' existential angst and simultaneously deconstructs the familiar streetwise detective meme--complete with a multilayered ending. Overall, Kiln People is a fun read, with a good balance of hard science fiction and pop sensibility. --Jeremy Pugh
From Publishers Weekly
Bestselling novelist Brin (Startide Rising; The Postman; etc.) restricts the action to planet Earth, but still allows his imagination to roam the cosmos in this ambitious SF/mystery hybrid whose grasp occasionally exceeds its reach. Thanks to the new technology of imprinting, people in a near-future America can copy their personalities into animated clay bodies (called "dittos" or "golems"), which last a single day. Albert Morris, private investigator, is his own sidekick as he attempts to uncover the murderer of a prominent imprinting research scientist, capture a criminal mastermind specializing in ditto the major ditto manufacturer and pinning the blame on several Alberts. Brin deftly explores the issues of identity, privacy and work in a world where everyone is supported with a living wage and has ready access to duplication technology. The book features the author's usual style, with a lighter touch and punnish humor abounding amid the hard SF speculation. The duplication of the "ditective" makes for a challenging twist on the standard private eye narrative, allowing Morris to simultaneously lead the reader through three separate (and interacting) plot lines. The hardboiled framework and the humor mix a bit uneasily, as does the social background of a libertarian/socialist U.S.A. The book's major fault lies in the diffusion of most of the tension as expendable dittos replace vulnerable humans for much of the action. Still, the work is brightened by Brin's trademark hardheaded optimism.
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