A review of Sniffcode.com’s ‘Clone’
I usually review books in two sentences, but since I’m the first to put this one on Goodreads, I thought I’d contribute something fuller. If you like this, pay it forward by finding, reading, and reviewing something the internet doesn’t know about yet.
To start, yes, the author’s pen name is also his website, or maybe vice-versa. This is exactly the kind of merging of message and identity you’d expect from the mind that produced Clone; his name and his work are both uncomfortable, equally crass and thought-provoking. Only the latter cause of discomfort is good, so how you feel about the book will ultimately come down to which of those qualities wins out for you.
Appropriately, Clone lives a dual life. On the surface, it’s an action-thriller that plows through the subtleties of characterization and plot like a summer blockbuster. Underneath it’s speculative fiction, an extended and intriguing thought experiment on what happens when corporate, national, and personal interest in human cloning come into conflict.
At the risk of exposing plot points, there’s irony in this dual existence, because it’s clear that the original layer is the speculative sci-fi one, and it’s much better than the thriller used to express it. The prospective reader should be warned that issues of gender, race, and sexual orientation are clumsily handled here. Women are routinely oversexualized, and it irked me to no end that Amber, the female FBI agent and allegorical bridge between the ancient and the modern1, is the only major character who lacks a full name. The plot unfolds mostly as a reverse whodunnit (which is great), although the puzzles that the FBI and FDA hurdle to unlock the mystery also evoke National Treasure more than Fracture. I would not fault anyone for putting the book down over these faults, because they are not minor.
That said, the book is much more successful at the macro level. Clone's predictions for how the biotech industry, government, and society at large might square off when the truth of human cloning is exposed is totally believable and worth talking about. The book’s vision for how the Biotech Consortium, a group of scientists unapologetic about their cloning activities, works to harness the media and affect popular opinion is personally exciting (as a member of academy myself).2
In this form, Clone is Sniffcode.com’s natural child, imperfect but more than entitled to its existence. As an amateur futurist, I’d be excited to see it reengineered into something great. If you want to give it a shot, here’s an excerpt.3