The announcement of the birth of Dolly – the first cloned mammal – in 1997 gave rise to extensive bio-ethical debate. At the same time, it stimulated longstanding cultural and mythological preoccupations with regard to the potential for human cloning.
The concept of cloning, particularly human cloning, has featured in so many science fictions. Bokanovsky’s Process which featured in Aldous Huxley’s 1931 dystopian novel Brave New World was an early fictional depiction of cloning. The Process is applied to fertilized human eggs in vitro. It causes them to split in identical genetic copies of the original.
Following the interest in cloning in 1950s, Poul Anderson explored the subject further by describing a technology called ‘exogenesis’ in the story UN-Man in 1953, and Gordon Rattray Taylor’s book The Biological Time Bomb made the term ‘cloning’ popular in 1963.
The representation of the process of cloning is done in different ways in fiction. Many fictional works illustrated the artificial creation of humans by a method of growing cells from a tissue or DNA sample. The replication may be immediate, or take place through slow growth of human fetus in artificial wombs.
Here are 5 science fiction books about human cloning which bring up riveting issues of identity and nature versus nurture: whether environment or genetics play larger roles in people’s lives. They also raise questions about technological arrogance and conceits and how far is too far in terms of progress. “What makes us human” is often a fundamental question in sci-fi books about human cloning.
NEVER LET ME GO BY KAZUO ISHIGURO
The author Kazuo Ishiguro has prioritized the characters’ relationships and reactions over suspense in this novel. The students at Hailsham, a boarding school in the countryside, grow up isolated. Story takes turns when they realise their true purpose later in life. This novel raises questions about utilitarianism, class and ethics and remind us to cherish time with loved ones.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion tells the narrative of Matt, the clone of 142-year-old El Patron, ruler of Opium, a country sandwiched between the United States and Aztlan. Clones in Opium have just one purpose: to lengthen the life of humans whose DNA they contain by providing a source of replacement parts. Most other clones’ brains are destroyed at birth, but El Patron orders Matt’s to be preserved intact. Matt has no idea of any of these things at the start of the story. Celia, El Patron’s chef, who adores him, looks after him in solitude. He first realises he is different from other people when he becomes a resident of El Patron’s estate, where he is regarded as an unclean beast without a soul rather than a person.
But, in any case, it’s a one of the most fantastic books about human cloning and humanity that will make you want to hit many of the characters at moments.
BRAVE NEW WORLD BY ALDOUS HUXLEY
It’s dystopian satire about a place where sexual reproduction is a taboo. Here people are created through cloning and sorted into genetically predetermined social classes. The lower classes are created by Bokanovsky’s Process. The novel is among the first to innovate the idea of cloning; it was first published in 1932, more than 60 years before human cloned first mammal. This work of Huxley was one of the most thought-provoking books about human cloning and was way ahead of its time in terms of scientific progress.
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
This murder mystery takes place aboard a space ship transporting colonists to a new world. The novel begins with the clone crew waking up in a carnal home of blood and death, namely the death of their former selves. Even more troubling is the loss of 25 years of memories as their mind maps (as they are known) are only updated to the day before the ship set sail, with nothing after that. The only certainty is that practically the entire previous crew is dead (there is a survivor, which proves problematic because there are now two of the same person in existence, a massive no-no in the future) and they all seemed to have been killed.
What follows is a paranoid environment as the clones struggle to figure out what occurred and why.
THE SECRET BY EVA HOFFMAN
The protagonist Iris Surrey lives in isolation with her wealthy mother in a near future where human cloning is legal. Iris has an identity crisis like many teenagers and she seek to differentiate herself from her parent. The fact that she is her mother’s clone intensifies her quest to find herself. The author also imagined the cult-like groups that might arise when people believe clones to be superior or inferior to other people.
THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION BY NANCY FARMER
This young adult science fiction novel was first published in the year 2002. The protagonist, Matt Alacran, is a clone of the 140 years old drug lord with the same name. This book is equally suspenseful and disturbing, which deals with everything from ableism toward cognitively disabled people, genetic engineering and immigration between the U.S. and Aztlan (formerly Mexico).
Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton
Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton begins as a futuristic murder mystery but quickly becomes much more. It’s 2143, and a member of the extremely affluent and cloned North family is discovered dead in the River Tyne in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, northeast England. Sidney Hurst, a police investigator, is on the case, aided by a team of cops and other influential persons. The murder appears to be connected to another murder in the North family that occurred twenty years ago on the planet St. Libra.
Angela Tramelo, the lone witness/survivor/convicted killer from the horrific murder, has been in prison since then. Angela always maintained that she was innocent and that the awful crime was committed by an extraterrestrial creature. Now it appears that she was speaking the truth, and the true killer is an extraterrestrial creature that is still on the run, but this time in Newcastle. Angela is released to join a quest to find the monster.
THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL BY IRA LEVIN
Ira Levin, the author of Rosemary’s Baby, wrote this compelling thriller about cloning of Hitler. The Nazis create 94 clones of Hitler. They try to replicate his life by killing each boy’s father when the son is fourteen years old. By engineering the death of each boy’s father, they want to recreate the social conditions of post-WWI Germany, but they couldn’t. This book bases a horrifying argument about whether evil is born or made.