I received a copy of this novel courtesy of Tandem Literary.
In the year 2071, a reluctant rebel in the United States writes a report about cloning.
The narrator, code name Ray Bradbury, (after the author who wrote novels about the future) really didn’t think too much about the process. “The very terms we use - “original, “ “copy” - ..to be less scientific, less clinical, more palatable, ultimately blinding...cloning is taken, gratefully, for the centerpiece of a federal health care system.”
Ray was a grumpy widower who is contacted by Anna, a college roommate of his late wife. She wants him to help her take care of a clone that escaped.
Anna’s husband was very active in the anti-clone movement, and she took it up after her husband’s death. Through Anna’s conversations, Ray finds out what has been going on in the rest of the country, what the government has been covering up.
For example, people in North and South Dakota were expelled to create the Clearances, the cloning factory. No anti-clone member has been able to get in to discover what went on there. But, one clone did escape, and the pieces of information were shocking: the clones worked from childhood to grow their own food, they were not educated, they didn’t speak English, they attacked each other for sexual release, they are drugged in order to be compliant.
The 20 or so year old clone had a hard time in the withdrawal phase. Anna taught him how to read, eat, and behave socially, Ray couldn’t “think about him as fully autonomous,fully human. This is deplorable, beyond a doubt, but one can almost be forgiven feeling this way at the very start of things. He had no name. Going forward, I wlll call him Alan.”
The trio travel through Canada to evade the US government. Anna has no contact with her children, so they won’t be implicated. Alan becomes more “human” as time goes by.
This page turner has aspects of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novels that protray the US as a place of genetic manipulations and Canada as a place of refuge and reason. And the clone’s story reminds me of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, even though Alan really doesn’t tell too much of what happened to him.
Not all is gloom and doom, though. Alan enjoys seeing old photographs. Ray observers that “they are faithful, if misleading, copies of reality As he himself is. Alan is a Winnipeg Jets hockey fan and is able to enjoy one live game.
This novel will get you thinking about a misuse of cloning and the consequences of the recent health care act.