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4.2 out of 5 stars
Kil'n People
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

love this book, read it a few times, brilliant premise, can't believe no-one has made a tv show based on this idea yet...
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on 8 March 2013
An extraordinary book. I like everything David Brin writes,but this is one of the best. A unique science fictional 'world' that allows a fast-moving plot and plenty of action, while still allowing the reader to respond to "characters" (you have to read the book to see why I use quote marks there) with a range of credible emotions and yet have some real laughs.
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on 3 February 2015
Excellent book, great story, following a really unique premise. The only critique I'd offer is that the book is a little long, BUT it's a great story all the same
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on 28 December 2015
Very good book.
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on 24 March 2014
The premise (short-lived clones who are able to merge back with the original) is interesting, the world-building is strong, the hero is flawed but sympathetic, and additional characters are fairly well-developed. There is quite a bit of switching back-and-forth of points-of-view - but I felt that it was done successfully, without getting the reader lost in confusion.

Another reviewer has said, "This novel's leading motive is a submissive man's desire to be owned by a strong, obstinate (while caring and gentle) woman. On second reading, I began noticing this theme almost from the beginning, and it was quite disturbing."

I find this quite an interesting statement, because it does not match my perception *at all*.

- First of all, the relationship between the main character and his partner is not at all the leading motive for the novel. The mystery of whodunit-and-how-and-why is the main driver for the book.

- Secondly, the protagonist is not at all submissive, and he has no desire to be owned by his partner: instead, they have a healthy relationship based on equality and independence (and they feel no need to live in each others' pockets), though each clearly feels some ambivalence about fully committing to the other.

I would suggest that the huge difference between my perception and that of the other reviewer is due to widely differing cultural norms.

The reader *thinks* that they know more than the main character - but it's not until the end, when the clones with all the different pieces finally come together, that the reader learns the full truth.

If you like a good science-fiction mystery, you will enjoy this novel.
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on 9 October 2004
In the Morris Dance, raffishly-clad men silently gyrate around a great circle. Their colourful costumes are in stark contrast with their stern expressions as they dance their ancient, arcane ritual. When the dance ends, it doesn't cease with definite closure. Slowly, the action winds down with various dancers casually leaving the circle until none remain. As you watch the performance, you discern no meaning, no purpose to the noiseless pirouettes. The dance is an empty achievement, devoid of intent or result.
It's not hard to believe David Brin was inspired by the Morris Dance in writing The Kiln People. Not only is the protagonist named Albert Morris, but the story rests on the "lives" of Morris' clones. These "dittos" weave and pirouette through meaningless encounters with others of their kind, equally colourful, equally empty of value. They are temporary projections of their "rigs" [o"rig"inal real humans], but not true clones. Their skin colours reflect their intended role - black for "focused study," grey for general use, green for cleaning toilets and so on. The dittos have the original humans' memories implanted in them. They are then sent off to accomplish assigned tasks within their 24 hour life span. A "salmon reflex" urges them to return "home" to the rig and upload memories of their day's activities.
For Morris' dittos these activities are often investigative. Albert Morris is a PI [private investigator] - the Sam Spade of the twenty-somethingth century. Like all such characters, he has led a life fraught with danger, but it's his clay golems who suffer the risks. Brin, like his predecessors, uses this story to step up the pace of Morris' investigative life. Inevitably, this means the clone buffer is somehow eroded and Morris must confront his antagonists directly. Morris is confronted with his own mortality. Something the clay folk live with each day - for a day. Albert becomes involved in a typical detective story plot line - twists and turns of conspiracy, counter-conspiracy and unexpected revelations. Unlike the detective novels of an earlier generation, however, Brin inserts a philosophical spin in this convoluted tale. It almost fits, but finally fails to find an acceptable niche. Still, it lets Brin inform us that he's done some reading in serious authors like Roger Penrose. He's to be applauded for that, but not for how he uses the material in this story. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 22 August 2004
Perhaps the best way to encapsulate Brin's latest book is its own (UK edition) tagline: "A Future Thriller". It's neither space opera nor overly-cerebral: for the most part, it's a fast-paced near-future tale that has plenty of ideas but plays down the cerebral in favour of plot.
_Kil'n People_ is set in our world a few generations down the line, at a time when society has been transformed by the widespread availability of the technology to make "dittos". Dittos are not organic clones, but recyclable clay copy-people imprinted with their maker's abilities/personality/soul, finetuned to equip them for their designated tasks - and designed to disintegrate after one day's service, with the optional ability to 'inload' the memories of their brief lives back to their originator. Dittos do all the jobs that real people love to hate, or that are considered far too dangerous to risk one's true body in, leaving real folk free to do as they please. For many, this means finding creative ways to stave off boredom, or to experience new extremes of behaviour by proxy.
The implications are intriguing, and are explored almost as fully as the confines of the break-neck pace will allow: the decadence, the boredom, the proxy wars, the impact upon human relationships and religious beliefs. Characterisation isn't a strong point, but Brin has great fun with his fictional environment and his count-the-twists plot, and for much of the novel you'll find yourself borne along on an infectious wave of ditto-led puns and tantalising glimpses of social detail. It has the odd thought-provoking line courtesy of the narrators' dittos exploring their independence, but on the whole the concern here is for an entertaining story and a few scientific extrapolations.
However, Brin also has a weakness for preaching/info-dumping his social and scientific ideas (what causes a religious experience, the excesses of radicalism, the ultimate good of scientific progress, etc.) that jars with the tone, upsetting the pace. It's a shame, particularly when in other parts of the novel he uses his world so neatly to show rather than tell.
This trend is particularly marked towards the end, amid a muddy climax that gets carried away in its own implications, and falls into the trap of having the super-villain Explain His Scheme At Great Length. Nevertheless, this is a highly enjoyable read that ought to find a market outside the SF shelves. Recommended.
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on 31 December 2003
As with many of David Brins works, this novel is set on a highly imaginitive and detailed future. The core concept is that people can make copies of themselves. These copies only last for 1 day and their thoughts and experiences can be 'inloaded' by the real person before the 'dittos' dissolve.
This is a lighthearted piece, but it also makes some interesting philosophical and metaphysical points re the nature of self.
The plot revolves around the investigative work of a private detective and this allows him to both explore and explain the world around him. There are a few plot devices..copies can't make copies; copies are not exact duplicates but can be enhanced or detracted from (for instance to make them more able to study or even to be more obedient)
There is a large touch of the Philip Jose Farmers about the novel though, particularly as the various plot threads come back together for the final denouemen. My main complaint being the levels of deux ex machinery, which I found a little hard to swallow.
In conclusion.
I noticed that one of the other reviewers mentions 'The Practice Effect' and I'd agree that they are similar works. Both start with an interesting premise, but have a relatively slight plot and neither quite live up to what I would regard as the mainstream SF works that DB has written (that is his The Uplift novels).
Worth reading, but not Mr Brins best work.
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on 18 October 2004
The premise of this book is great - a society that creates clay avatars that can do your bidding, and in the case of the main character, private investigating. The puns come thick and fast and the there are loads of ideas, some of which are intriguing and downright prophetic...
...but, however great the idea is one feels that Mr Brin has hung the book on that idea and that alone, and although the idea is a strong one the characters and the plot are the puny friends who tag along and are not strong enough to stand up for themselves. I didn't really empathise with anyone nor care what happened to them. One thing that Star Wars taught us is that great science fiction, no matter how good the science is, needs to be great fiction as well.
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on 27 October 2002
There have only been a few serious attempts to meld the crime/detective genre with hard-core science fiction, of which Asimov's and Bester's works are probably the most well known. Brin latest accomplishes this feat with a fair amount of elan, as he envisages a world where people can make ditto copies of themselves, impressed into variously hued clay molds that can only 'live' for a day, after which they must return to their originator, 'upload' their day's memories, and expire.
Our protagonist, Albert, is naturally a detective, blessed with ability to make near perfect copies of himself that he can send out to do the leg work of his business. He must operate in a world where almost all work is done by ditto copies, where 99% of the 'real' population must live on the dole, not having any marketable unique abilities to sell. As a result of a supposedly successful 'bust' of one of his arch-enemy Beta's illegal ditto-cloning operations, he comes to the attention of Ritu, daughter of one of the founding scientific minds of the ditto-cloning technology, who has turned up missing. From here the plot gets complicated, as the missing father shows up dead, but his ditto clones are still around, bent on some incomprehensible scheme of their own, and one of Albert's dittos is hired to (unknowingly) sabotage one of the main ditto manufacturing plants of Vic Kaolin, recluse and close collaborator with Ritu's father. Complication is piled on complication, and Albert's multiple dittos each become characters in their own right as they follow various threads of the mystery.
This is probably the best part of this book, as by showing how each ditto, starting from the same base, is modified by the events he experiences; each one, while retaining the greater part of their originator's character, slowly morphs into a distinct individual. This is some excellent characterization work. It also brings forth some of the thematic drive of the novel, a questioning of what makes each person unique, more than just an organized collection of atoms. As part of this Brin envisions that the metaphysical 'soul' has a real physical aspect, a field or 'Soul Wave'. Indeed it is this aspect of a person that allows the 'ditto' cloning technology to exist.
However, Brin stretches this concept too far, trying to make it extend from quantum mechanics to what is God (and how to make one!). His explanations become rather rarified, especially as delivered by Ritu's 'ditto' copy father, who by this point is that cliche of cliches, the mad scientist out to remake the world in his own warped image.
Brin does a fair amount of punning in this book, especially in his chapter titles, and while some of them are absolute groaners, they add a certain amount of warmth, a leavening of humor to what is essentially a very serious story. In general style it follows the precepts of the hard-bitten detective genre and does of pretty fair job without becoming a parody.
The denouement, when all the various threads are tied together and all the mysteries are solved, is marred by the fact that one of the major players in all the action is never really presented as a character in his own right, whose motivations the reader cannot possibly know, and thus leaves the reader feeling a little cheated, that Brin has pulled one too many rabbits out of the hat.
An ambitious book, with some great ideas, a lively investigation into individualism, privacy, and psychology, some great characters, but doesn't quite form a fully fleshed out mystery and fails in its upper reaches for meaning.
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