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Kiln People (The Kiln Books) Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 12, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, January 12, 2002
$11.98 $1.61

This is a bargain book and quantities are limited. Bargain books are new but could include a small mark from the publisher and an Amazon.com price sticker identifying them as such. Details
--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (January 12, 2002)
  • ISBN-10: 0765303558
  • ASIN: B0000DK4HM
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,362,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Chris Lee Mullins on January 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
David Brin has always been an author I can count on. First with his "Uplift" series, then with the novel "Earth" (and man, what a book that was). I started to wonder about him when he wrote some Star Trek comic book fiction and a series of books for kids about time travel. But it looks like he was cooking up something good in the interim. "Kiln People" (in my humble opinion) is by far his best.
To me, Brin is always best when he remains grounded. Like someone said about his novel "Earth", extrapolating 1000 years into the future is easy. You have no reference point and who knows what scientific breakthroughs will take place over the next millenium. Extrapolating 50 to 100 or so years into the future, a future you may conceivably live in....that's hard to do. Hard to make fantastic and believable at the same time. He succeeded admirably in "Earth".
"Kiln People" takes place a couple of centuries from now. Society is a vastly different place, but the people in it are very familiar. The major difference? A technology which allows the user to create short-lived duplicates of oneself. These duplicates, called "dittos", made of clay, with a one-day life span, are infused with the personality and memories of it's archetype. The duplicates are assigned a variety of tasks, depending on it's original. Going to work for the day. Fighting prearranged wars that decide national issues. Sleuthing for missing persons.
And once the ditto has reached the end of it's useful lifespan, it's memories can be reinfused with the original user.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a huge fan of Brin, and have read everything he has put to print, including many of his scientific and social papers. He has always been one of the most imaginiative and creative SF writers out there. Kiln People starts out like a good old fashioned mystery novel. It reminded me early on of the Old "Gil The ARM" series of novellas by Larry Niven, which I think are among some of the best SF mysteries to be found. Unfortunately, by the time that I had reached the end of Kiln People, I just didn't care about the resolution anymore, even struggling to finish the last three chapters!
Overall, this effort is interesting in it's central idea, but flawed in it's execution. The departure to some "super soul plane" dimension didn't seem to serve any purpose, and certainly didn't manage to solve any mysteries, spritual or otherwise.
Brin seems to be trying to send some sort of message about where technology is taking us on the spirtual level, but sorry, I just didn't get it! If you really liked "Earth" by Brin, with it's myriad of characters and somewhat contrived finish, then you will probably enjoy Kiln People. On the other hand, if you prefer his Uplift series or maybe the Practice Effect, you are going to find yourself little bit irriated at Brin for this one!
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Format: Hardcover
Larry Niven once wrote that science fiction mysteries are among the hardest stories to write. You need to come up with an interesting science fiction premise, a mystery, then synchronize the two so that the science is necessary to solve the mystery, but doesn't give away the ending or cheat. Brin is one of the last people writing SF mysteries. I think his earlier work, Sundiver, is a lot better, but Kiln People is still very strong, and well worth reading.

Kiln People is set in the near future, with a slightly advanced version of the internet, superlight electric cars, and one radical technological advance - "dittoing." Specifically, dittoing rests on the discovery that the mind (or soul) can be copied onto 24-hour clay copies of yourself ("dittos"), that can be designed to be smarter, stronger, breath underwater, or what have you, for the right price. If the ditto makes it back in time, you can even upload its memories back into your real head.

The main character, Albert Morris, is a private detective. Mostly, he works from his houseboat, sending dittos out to do his investigations, particularly those related to his arch-nemisis - "Beta" - a crimelord who specializes in pirating other people's personalities for his own dittos, and who Morris has never met in the flesh.

The story is inventive and clever, introducing us to the idea, then meeting wilder and wilder extrapolations of the possibilities created by ditto technology as Morris digs himself into a modern version of a film noir mystery. (Specifically, his story is close enough to the Big Sleep that I'm surprised no one recognized it).

I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 because of the ending, which I found unsatisfying.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel contains many of the strengths of David Brin, but is ultimately haunted by weakness. Brin's brilliance in world-creation, i.e. the ability to create an alien culture that may or may not be related to our own, populated by interesting creatures, makes the idea of Kiln People enticing. The setting is about 100 years in the future. People have developed the ability to create clay doppelgangers of themselves, which they send about on various errands each day. At the end of the day, the memories of this golem are downloaded into the mind of the "real" person.
The moral question of who is real and who is not is an interesting one that is well-explored, a highlight of the novel. But the surrounding culture is not as developed as, say, the world of Jijo in "Brightness Reef" or the planet in "Glory Season." Brin makes a valiant attempt at fleshing out the world in the first hundred pages or so, but abandons any further attempts which might lend further tension to the mystery which is the core of the story.
And that mystery could use some help. While I was delightfully confused by the culprit for the first half of the novel, the gradual revelation of the crime details leads only to anticlimax. And, like the "The Postman," Brin's action finale makes you wish the last 100 pages had never happened. The ethereal spiritualism that follows is so abstract as remind the reader of "Heaven's Reach," the sad end of the latest Uplift Trilogy.
Another of Brin's strengths, at least compared to his peers, is character development. Alas, due to the very nature of the novel, the detective is the only character developed. Any other viewpoints are those of his doppelgangers, which are necessarily very similar to him.
Overall, I have to admit I enjoyed it, as I've enjoyed all of Brin's work. But if you want a stand-alone novel of his to try out, I'd try Glory Season. And if you want a sci-fi mystery of his, check out Sundiver.
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