Cast of Shadows
by Kevin Guilfoile
I first heard of this book when I read a few funny postings about the press tour written by the author who is a contributer at The Morning News. I’m not usually a big fan of mysteries, but as I found the postings engaging and the basic plot outline interesting it seemed worth a glance.
It takes place in a near-term future where cloning has become commonplace but is still enmeshed in passions similar to today’s abortion debate. The religious extremism it arouses becomes one of the main elements of the story, but it doesn’t get overly bogged down in an examination of the morality of the process.
The narrative is driven by the quest of a cloning provider to discover the man who had killed and sexually assaulted his daughter. When the police, who have been unable to crack the case, accidentally provide him with DNA evidence, he sees an opportunity. He substitutes the cells of an anonymous donor with those of the killer and uses those to impregnate a client.
While this was a compelling setup, it wasn’t clear where he could really take the plot at this point: what was left other than waiting for the clone to grow up? Actually, the story grew enjoyably entangled as complications arose in following the young boy; complications that lead to murder and ruined lives—and which ultimately lead the doctor to struggle with the ethics of his act for reasons he had never anticipated.
Some of the story actually unfolds in a highly sophisticated online gaming world that has become hugely popular - a world that is a virtual duplicate of the real one, with many people having the same jobs and living in the same locations. I found myself becoming increasingly ambivalent of this aspect of the book. On the one hand it was reasonably well handled in that it didn’t lose track of the fact that it was being played by individuals sitting at computers. But on the other, the virtual world was in fact too much like its real counterpart, with many people doing the same mundane tasks. It stretches credulity to think that these two universes wouldn’t have diverged more dramatically. I generally get turned off when I find myself straining to believe some component of a work like this, but overall it was compelling enough that I was picking the book up every chance I had to find out what was going to happen next.
A website dedicated to the book with exerpts and more reviews can be found here.