Scientists cloned Mahatma Gandhi, and his 16-year-old clone is living in England, ready to rise up in support of the world’s poor.
We live in a world where scientists have cloned sheep and other animals—can humans be far behind? In his novel, written in 2006, Buckley raises the stakes by making the clone in question Mahatma Gandhi. The story begins with an epigraph from Frankenstein—“He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes”—which sets the tone before the real story even begins. In 1990, as a member of Gandhi’s inner circle thinks back on her own legacy, she discovers an urn with the hero’s ashes; she thinks science could create his clone. Fast-forward 16 years, when a geneticist holds a press conference to expose the scientific experiment and announce the location of the lab—but he’s gunned down before he can make the announcement. The event launches a global panic: Israel thinks, “Gandhi’s ideas of power and freedom could be used by the Palestinians to fuel their terror campaign against us and our occupation of the West Bank.” The United States, at war with much of the world, thinks, “All this thing has to do is fast against us like Gandhi number one did against the British and we’re in deep kimchee; he brought the Brits to their knees, didn’t he.” It’s clear to governments and scientist that the Gandhi clone needs to be stopped, but how? The obvious solution—to everyone—is to call in McGill University history professor Relph Coggins, an India expert and ladies’ man. Coggins faces the choice of what to do and whom to support; he works through the tenuous situation with aplomb. The story may be futuristic, but Buckley brings in contemporary concerns to lend gravitas and an added level of significance. Some of the dialogue feels forced, and the story goes on a bit too long, yet Buckley has an impressive handle on the form, as he expertly paces the plot and unfurls drama. Coggins is a likable, well-rounded character; it’d be great to see him again.
A strong, heady novel with memorable characters.