Brin (Foundation’s Triumph, 1999, etc.) gives the medieval fable of the golem a thoroughgoing, agreeably tongue-in-cheek revamp. Aeneas Polom invented the process whereby nanoclay is kiln-baked into pseudolife, then imprinted with a human’s unique Soul Standing Wave. The resulting golem, or “ditto,” has 24 hours to accomplish whatever tasks the original wishes; its memories can then be recovered. Now, Yosil Maharal, a big-shot researcher at Polom’s Universal Kilns, has mysteriously disappeared. Gumshoe Albert Morris animates three dittos: two general-purpose grays, one green for dull errand-boy duties. The green, a poor copy, goes “frankie” or independent, preferring to visit the beach rather than do Albert’s shopping. Arriving at UK HQ, one gray encounters a Yosil Maharal ditto that claims it’s all a mistake—but refuses to be interrogated. Albert’s gray follows the Yosil ditto when it sneaks off, only to get zapped. Gray # 2, meanwhile, comes to a sticky end; real Yosil turns up dead, having apparently driven off a cliff. Original Albert investigates, only to be shot at by a Polom ditto. Albert’s zapped gray wakes, a captive of the Yosil ditto, and finally gains some inkling of what’s going on: Yosil has discovered how to extend a ditto’s lifespan, and how to transfer the animating principle from one ditto to another—and even permanently from original to ditto. The Yosil ditto is actually the original in a ditto body!
Intricate plotting, unflagging inventiveness, and a judicious sprinkling of puns and in-jokes: Brin keeps the pages feverishly turning and the tone light enough to evade the inherent irrationality of the premise.