Metareview: Kil'n People (US title: Kiln People)by David Brin
(US edition: Tor, US$26, 461 pages, hardback, February 2002; ISBN: 0-675-30355-8. UK edition: Orbit, £10.99, 501 pages, trade paperback, 2 May 2002; ISBN: 1-84149-138-1.)
Rating: "A-": what if we could make cheap copies of ourselves? Nice.
A new David Brin novel is always an event. He's not SF's best novelist, but you can count on him for cool ideas, likeable characters, and bedrock optimism -- all on display in Kil'n People.
In a brave new world c.2100, you can 'bake' short-lived duplicates of yourself, and send them off to do, well, pretty much anything that catches your fancy. The heart of your home copier is the tetragramatron [!, note 1], which scans your soul and imprints your Standing Wave onto cheap, clay-based blanks.
KP's plot exists to trot out Brin's cool extrapolations, which follow John Campbell's dictate to allow one impossible idea per story, then ring the changes, if this "what-if" came true. Another prominent part of the backstory is Brin's "Transparent Society," or security through universal snooping (www.davidbrin.com/privacyarticles.html), which is a better idea than it might seem at first glance -- but Brin does get a bit preachy about it. He does a better job with technology-as-destiny, with the light of science pushing back the darkness of superstition with each big discovery. And I like the quotes, allusions and references to earlier SF throughout the book.
Author's comments: www.davidbrin.com/newbooks.html#kiln
Note 1) A high tolerance for word-play, including some serious groaners, would be a big help if you read Kil'n People. You Have Been Warned. [...back to main text]
is also reviewed in Adam Roberts' feature
on the 2003 Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist.
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© Peter D Tillman 11 May 2002