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Worlds Without End Blog

Kiln People Posted at 2:39 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Kiln PeopleLet me start by saying I really like David Brin.  I’ve read many of his books and have always enjoyed them.  Earth was great and I loved The Uplift Saga in particular but as much as I like his other work, I just could not get into Kiln People.  There is nothing particularly bad about the writing – some of the characters are interesting, and the story is a serviceable who-dunnit murder mystery – but the world of Kiln People is just a bit silly.

In this future, everyone has an in-home kiln that they use to make life-size robotic clay duplicates of themselves called "dittos".  You get up in the morning, lie down on the machine next to a blank that looks just like you and imprint your consciousness on the blank.  You send the new you out to mow the grass or to the office to work in your place or on a climbing expedition in the Andes.  Whatever you don’t want to do yourself, in person, your dit will handle for you.

There are different types of dittos for different tasks and each has a specific color.  You make a green dit to do mundane chores, they’re cheap to produce but not very bright.  For work you’d make an expensive gray as they’re more suited for complex thinking.  White ones will have sex for you if you can’t be bothered to show up in person or if you don’t want to risk STD’s.  If you’re a waiter you can make a yellow or two or three and off to work they go to do three times the work for you.  The catch is that at the end of the day your dittos "die" so they have to be home before they expire so they can download the day’s memories back into your brain and be recycled into a new dit for the next day. You get the benefit of the experience from a safe remove via the downloaded memories and emotions… orgasms and all.

The technology is common as any household appliance so there are millions of clones out and about on their owner’s behalf.  So many in fact that they outnumber real people on the street.  The real people are busy gardening or reading at the beach or enjoying other recreational pursuits.

When I read, I form a mental image of the world I’m reading about.  With Kiln People, it was a cartoon world over-run by Gummy Bear people.  It was too hard to take seriously and I ended up baling after 140 pages.  I only stuck with it that long because I like Brin’s other stuff.  Plus, I just read Dune, glorious book that it is, and I thought it was the comparison that was killing Kiln People for me.  Turns out it was the gummies.  For a book that garnered so many award nominations and an 8.5 rating, I was really disappointed.


M D Terry   |   28 Feb 2010 @ 22:20

I have read 8 of David Brin’s books and Kiln People was the only book that I did not enjoy. In fact I couldn’t get past chapter 4. Your review is exactly what I had been looking for as an explanation. You are very concise and you put into words what I was thinking at the time I attempted to read Kiln People. MD

Dave Post   |   28 Feb 2010 @ 22:43

Thanks M D Terry. I chalk it up to simple statistics. They can’t all be hits and there always seems to be one work that stands out in stark contrast to the rest. For Brin, this is the one IMO. It’s like Sean Connery’s Zardoz. A strange blip in an otherwise stellar resume.

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