Cloneworld is a well written humourous science fiction fantasy. It is definitely a book for adults as it contains a great deal of comic book violence, constant swearing and numerous sex scenes, although the writer does not descend into pornography. It was a moderately good read, although perhaps it takes a bit long for the story to reach its climax.
The main characters of the story are Franco Haggis and Pippa. Their names alone provide a clue to the nature of the storyline. They are both soldiers with an elite fighting corps named Combat-K. Franco is a slob, always eating and drinking and constantly causing chaos by ignoring rules, orders and even basic common sense. Pippa is the sensible member of the partnership, trying her best to ensure that Franco gets the job done. Both characters are superhuman in their ability to fight.
Right at the start of their mission Franco gets drunk, attempts to seduce a number of women and, after an absurd round of events finds himself in prison on Cloneworld, the population of which, as you would expect, consists of a lot of people who are clones. This gives the residents of cloneworld a rather laissez-faire attitude towards life, as a body can always be cloned again.
Whilst in prison Franco meets Mrs Strogger, a woman from the other major population group on Cloneworld, the Orgs, who have taken prosthetic modification to an absurd level, “upgrading” virtually every part of their body. The orgs and the clones hate each other and are constantly at war together on the planet but separated by a huge mountain range. In addition, to keep them apart the authorities enforce a no fly zone using robots.
In a long series of mishaps Franco and Mrs Strogger escape prison, mostly with the help of Mrs Strogger’s incredible fire power supplied by her prolific upgrades. Unsurprisingly, once the duo escape they are caught up in a long series of misadventures.
Meanwhile, just as Pippa is about to land on Cloneworld to rescue Franco, a superior officer, Tarly Winters, appears to take charge of the operation. Tarly has a well earned reputation as a tough fighter and she immediately vetoes the rescue operation in favour of completing their original mission.
The story then turns into a long series of absurd adventures, at least half of which are due to problems caused by Franco and his stupidity. The group manage to fight their way through all of this until the inevitable show down with the villains.
The author uses absurd situations to create the humour in the storyline and it works quite well, although there are no particularly clever plot devices. The writing is good and the situations are described very well creating clear images of complex and ridiculous scenarios in just a few sentences.
The plot overall was well developed and holds the reader’s attention, but the storyline became rather repetitive and by about half way through the book the constant fighting which always ends with Franco and Pippa managing to just barely survive against impossible odds again and again and again did become rather tedious.
As the author ignored any attempt at keeping to the laws of physics, there was a danger that every situation could be resolved by the introduction of imaginary devices and tricks but the author keeps to the internal logic of his world so the escapes remain moderately interesting. High tech devices are only used to support the story. Many of the numerous weapons in this world are only ever named and not described but they all seem to be things that shoot or explode or do both.
Pippa’s character is well developed with a good back story, although it also becomes a bit repetitive to read again and again of her childhood and her relationship to a previous lover, Keenan. Franco’s character is not developed at all – his only purpose is to provide absurd situations and to fight.
Overall, the book is a good read, but there is no depth or challenge to it and the constant diet of absurd situations, last minute escapes, violence and sex does become progressively less captivating until the final confrontation with the bad guys when the story becomes interesting once more.
The author has written many books, several in this series, so those who are interested may want to read his other works, but I will not bother.
The main plot is based on “Overcoming the Monster” (see “The Seven Basic Plots” by Christopher Booker).
And now for the Awards. I give it the following positive awards, which the author and publishers will probably like. They are all out of five:
• Four Bond Villains for a good exciting plot with big villains in a fast paced round of exotic locations.
• Three Discworld Wizards for good pen sketches of peculiar characters.
• Three Monty Python Generals (the guy who keeps stopping the sketches) for silly situations and characters.
I also give it the following awards which the authors and publishers may not appreciate quite so much.
• Three entire Bond Movies for repetitive last minute escapes from contrived situations with bad guys who capture and threaten the good guys rather than just kill them.
• Four baby-sized paddling pools for a shallow storyline.
To summarise, it’s a good entertaining book but without much depth as it’s really only a series of escapades based on comic book violence in impossible situations. If you like that sort of thing you’ll love this book.