THE MYTH OF DEATH by Peter Wludyka


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Speculative fiction about the future of human cloning.

By the year 2041, human cloning has made some frightening advances. Cloning experts have developed the ability to transplant brains, while at the same time learning how to grow, at an accelerated rate, cloned, minimally functioning human bodies–essentially empty vessels waiting for the brain transplants of their donors. Even worse, the courts have ruled that humans have the right to use their genetic material as they see fit, opening the door for people to clone themselves, and, when the vessel is ready, to transplant their own consciousness into their younger self. In this way, the “myth of death” is dispelled. Naturally, this presents ethical problems, which the author fails to explore with enough depth. The activist groups that begin to form almost comically mirror those involved in the contemporary abortion debate. Martin Storm is a member of one such group–the Life Protectors–and his task is to terminate the still maturing clones of Nobel laureate Adrian Zeit and his wife, Marla. Surprisingly, the maturation chamber contains a third clone. After completing the mission, however, he suddenly finds himself on trial for murder–a baffling development since unripe clones are considered property instead of people. Apparently, the third clone is not what it appeared to be, and neither are Zeit and his wife, a quality shared by nearly every character, including Martin, whose own past is shrouded in mystery. Wludyka, whose first novel, The Past Is Another Country (1988), garnered favorable reviews, again concocts a thought-provoking scenario. The story’s central idea is captivating, and the mystery of Martin’s past absorbing; however, at just 110 pages, the novel does not plunge deeply enough into either its futuristic world or its characters, and the author misses countless opportunities to explore the moral and ethical implications of such a future.

A fascinating concept and a quick, enjoyable read, but readers will be left wanting more.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 2005
ISBN: 1-59926-111-1
Program: Kirkus Indie
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