Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Borrowed Man, by Gene Wolfe

A Borrowed Man was nominated for a Locus award in 2015.  Gene Wolfe has written some amazing fiction in his time, so I figured it was worth reading.  I would say so, but it's not a super strong work.

It's the 22nd century, and life has slowed down.  There are far fewer people in the world, but it's a rougher place.  The narrator and protagonist is E. A. Smithe, a mystery writer of renown.  But this version is a "reclone", a recreation of a person from a scan.  This copy of Smithe belongs to the Spice County Public Library, where human reclones wait to be checked out.  He gets checked out by a beautiful heiress who is being pursued by shady figures. 

There is some interesting social commentary in here--Wolfe has the narrator discussing the treatment of people who are not considered to be human.  Smithe does not seem to consider himself human, except by sneaking up on it.  Wolfe also comes back to a device he used in the Book of the New Sun--using words in odd ways.  He refers to a woman's purse as a "shaping bag".  But the book gets dry toward the middle as it becomes a more straightforward mystery.  The speculations don't really drive one to think about the future, they just add a speculative element. 

The book is OK, I will give it 3 stars, but a weak 3.

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