Clone Hunter, by Stephen W. Scott

Clone Hunter, by Stephen W. Scott book coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: 1st Books
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: half star
Book Review by Lynn Nicole Louis

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There’s a difference between recycling and rehashing. In writing, recycling is taking familiar concepts and combining them to make something new while rehashing is taking those elements and presenting them with few or no changes. Most writers have heard the saying, “There are no new ideas, only new ways to write about old ones.” Clone Hunter is a rehash of common science fiction elements one will easily recognize as coming from Bladerunner and Terminator, to name the two most obvious.

To be successful, a story must be presented with an adequate level of writing mechanics. Many of the mistakes encountered in Clone Hunter are the result of ‘two mulch rely ants one a spell check or’. After mechanics come the less concrete elements of craft, such as plot, pacing, style, character development, and point of view (the character(s) through which the author chooses to tell the story). As a novel, I’m afraid Clone Hunter fails to deploy these elements effectively.

Case is a clone hunter, a member of an elite law enforcement team. This is because clones are universally evil. All clones are completely devoid of conscience and rabidly engage in murder, rape, torture and every other vile and violent crime. Yet for some reason, people keep getting clones made of themselves, even though clones kill their originals ‘88% of the time’. This, of course, begs the question: why would a person have a clone made if there’s an 88% chance he or she would be murdered by it? Dunno. But the people in Clone Hunter keep on making them.

Scott does make some interesting social commentary however. There’s an organization that fights for clones’ rights, espousing all the twisted rationalization seen today in many of the civil liberty groups as they continue to defend and fight for the rights of murderers and rapists and other violent criminals. Slogans such as ‘Clones didn’t ask to be made’, ‘It’s not their fault who they are’ poke at some of the more common rationalizations for criminal behavior.

Back to the story…. Seems top clone hunter agent Case gets himself kidnapped and involuntarily cloned. The clone manages to convince the authorities that it’s the real Case and the real Case is forced to go on the run. Never mind that the real Case is a serial adultery, estranged from his family, and just basically an all around unlikable character, we’re supposed to sympathize with him as he dodges his former colleagues in an attempt to get back to Earth to stop the clone before it kills his family and/or friends.

One of the big problems I had was that there’s no test to distinguish between a clone and an original. Not that there would need to be anyway (more later). In Scott’s world, a clone comes out of the vat looking exactly like the original. EXACTLY. But what about scars? Tattoos? Hair length? How do they accelerate aging? What about broken bones and other past injuries? Dental Work? Fingernail length? What if the original was a weight lifter and had bulked up? Scott never does explain how a clone comes out with all the original’s memories, though he does establish that a clone and an original share a psychic link. I suppose that’s how its memories are populated…. I don’t think Scott really gave much logical consideration to the whole clone thing. Or maybe he did, and decided to ignore it. In any case, I was unable to accept his extrapolation of how clones in his world worked.

A clone is a genetic copy. Even if they could accelerate growth to age the clone appropriately, its appearance would reflect pure genetics with no environment. And yet Scott expects the reader to believe that they can’t tell the original and the clone apart. Add to this the fact that early on in the story Scott makes a point to mention that dogs can detect clones 100% of the time. Yet do they think to bring a dog in? Do they think to hold BOTH until it can be sorted out? Do they check dental records or x-rays? Nope. They accept the clone as the original and ship the real one off to be executed.

Then there’re the ‘black lasers’. Shoot someone with one and it causes them to freeze from the inside out. So shoot them in the foot and they will slowly freeze to death from the foot up. Sorry, not buying it.

These were two of my biggest problems, since both played a prominent part in the story. Just these two things alone completely ruined my ability to suspend my disbelief. For that brief period of time that you’re reading, you have to be able to believe its happening. This is the most basic element required for fiction to be successful; Clone Hunter doesn’t have it.

I could continue nit-pick, but this is a review, not a critique. I’ve given you my reasons why I didn’t enjoy it and why I don’t think this book is worth reading, except, perhaps, by other neophyte authors looking for examples of how not to write. Scott gets the same nod I’ve given other new authors. He has finished a book; that put him ahead of 95% of most other would-be authors. Now he needs to keep writing, keep submitting, and most important, get and incorporate feedback on his work from people qualified to give it.

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