aka Kil'n People†
Returning in high style to detective fiction that also happens to be science fiction, David Brin wastes not a single moment in letting us know that he's changed all the rules except two:
It's hard to stay cordial while fighting for your life, even when your life doesn't amount to much.
Even when you're just a lump of clay.
; and there will be groan-inducing puns
! To know what the pun is in that first sentence, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to read the book - like almost everything about this gem - it's too neat to give away!
The world of this chunky and enthralling novel has all the future developments you might expect extrapolating in a certain direction from today: the web has been replaced by the World Eye, everything's connected and little if any privacy truly exists; policing has largely been deregulated and moved to the private sector; and nanotech is commonplace and not even worthy of comment by a future that uses it rather like we use, say, petrol.
The big change is rather singular, the eponymous kil'n people. Quick-rise dittos that are copies of you - with suitable modifications for their task. Send one off to do the shopping, and one off to a gladiator range. And at the end of the day, when all the "yous" return salmon-like to their spawning ground - you can upload a rush, or a day paying bills, or both, or none. Their chemical "batteries" spent, at the end of 24 hours, your golems dissolve into a small pool of recyclable sludge.
Staunch partiers have a saying - if your ditto makes it home in one piece, you didn't have a good time.
Of course such a massive change has all sorts of moral, ethical, societal and religious implications, and it's a strength of the book that it doesn't shy away from these or try to sweep them under the carpet - in fact it could be argued that these things are what the book is about. In an afterword, Brin thanks all those who helped him think through the permutations, and it really shows. Once your imagination is alight with the idea (after about the first 5 pages), you have to run to keep up with Brin + thinktank, and that makes the world completely convincing.
The quarrydit was fast - puffing, running and dodging like mad. Still he spared me a brief glance as I passed, and I realised two things.
One: he has the same face as one of the hunters.
Two: I could swear he's having a good time!
An enthralling detective tale that will keep you guessing until the denouement, a science fiction story that is destined to be a classic, and enough cool tech to keep your brain in high gear for weeks after you turn the last page. What more could you want? Buy it now.
† I wrote to David Brin on August 8, 2005 about the spelling change in the book's title, which is Kil'n People on the cover of my book, but Kiln People on Amazon and elsewhere. Mr. Brin wrote back:
Interesting question. The original draft had the
apostrophe. I removed it in the final US edition, but
the UK publisher adored it and persuaded me to let
them keep it in. And now there are movie possibilities!
Movie possibilities?! Great news!
Kil'n People, David Brin, Tor Books / Orbit 2002, ISBN 1 84149 152 7