A Fistful of Clones
(Harper Collins Impulse March 2015)
“If anyone else were to kill them it would be murder, for Henry, it would be suicide.”
Henry Madison is an apathetic young man with little to no ambition. When he loses his job and his girlfriend in one day, he is destitute and signs up for paid medical testing. The doctor creates clones of Henry and when these clones escape and start causing havoc in Henry’s life, he is hired in secret by the strange doctor and trained by his employ to hunt the clones down one by one and kill them.Henry soon finds out, however, that personality isn’t genetic but made of the experiences you have, and as time progresses, his clones become less carbon copied than he was lead to believe, growing their own identities and challenging Henry’s perception of what it means to be Henry Madison and of what it is right and what is wrong.
Reviews for A Fistful of Clones:
Walker Putsche 5 out of 5 (Catherine Rose Putsche)
A Fistful of Clones is a comedy sci-fi novel and follows the protagonist, Henry Madison, who is 26 years old and floats through life without any real desire, direction or motivation and seems to be emotionally cut off from the very few people in his life. When he loses his job as a coupon boy and his girlfriend in the same day he makes a rash decision to sign up for medical testing, so he won’t starve to death. However, a few days after he donates his various forms of DNA he receives some disturbing news from the doctor who is unknowingly constructing Henry’s clones that seven of the clones have escaped. Dr Efflund insists that only Henry can hunt them down and kill them and manages to convince a very reluctant Henry with a large amount of money and some special combat training to terminate his doppelgängers ASAP. Henry soon discovers much to his despair that his carbon copies are running around trying to ruin his life and his original mission to stop them all in a short space of time isn’t working as the clones soon develop personalities of their own. After he hesitantly murders clone number five, his conscience gets the better of him and instead of murdering the remaining two clones, he comes up with a plan to try to save them as his own life is on the line as the doctor and his ruthless associates will stop at nothing to end all traces of the scientific experiment that went horribly wrong.
Seaton Kay-Smith has created a story that is well written, inventive and clever with genuine laugh-out-loud humour that is entirely effortless and entertaining to read. It’s almost like the disarming and friendly style in which it was written wraps you up in the story and refuses to let go. Each character, especially Henry, who is my favourite, is equally flawed, believable and realistic and complements the plot’s cause and effect beautifully.
This is a novel that will stay with me for some time and is definitely one not to be missed and I highly recommend it and look forward to reading more of the author’s work in the near future.
My Ranking: 5 Stars
SF Book Reviews (Allen Stroud)
Occasionally a book and a writer comes along that breaks rules left right and centre, but does so with panache and style that makes you tip your hat. The beginning of A Fistful of Clones clearly sets it out to be one of those books; an accessible science fiction comedy that immediately endears, the author clearly subjugating all the dos and don’ts to a quirky indulgent style that matches the neuroses of the main character, Henry.
The sketch of our hero is refreshingly honest and clear. An everyman at a low point in life, Henry isn’t doing well, fired from his going nowhere job and quickly abandoned by his girlfriend, his only consolations are wine and old western films.
The plot is equally accessible, setting up a ‘what if’ scenario for us involving a mysterious doctor, lack of employment and a lucrative ‘medical testing’ opportunity as a substitute for real work. Agreeing to give up a little hair, blood and semen to a stranger seems like a small price in exchange for enough money to pay the bills for three months. Henry didn’t even read the forms…
The dilemma that ensues forces our neurotic fish into new waters. That said, the comedic promise of the premise doesn’t quite have the focus it could, with more wordage spent on Henry’s overthinking and overthinking again, a trait which might work better if it gradually faded to mark his character progression. Also, the mixing of viewpoints to establish the different clone contexts isn’t as fast and loose as it might be either and we have a question or two that distracts the reader.
That said, when the action comes, it stays refreshingly in keeping with the tone established at the start. Despite preparation, Henry never gets used to perpetrating his own Highlander scenario. The duels are full of pathetic realism, eschewing any kind of glorification. There is much to laugh at and much that offers a dark reflection on choices we might make if presented with the same dilemma. The time spent on crafting Henry as a character certainly pays off in these scenes. He stands out as original, in the story premise and by the choices he makes. The awkwardness endears and frustrates and helps us see ourselves. Only his hatred of his duplicates stands out as an oddity, despite their meddling with his life, it is difficult to reconcile this emotion with his portrait. Is Henry really capable of hate? Is this a strange form of self-loathing? Or a lie he is telling himself to get the job done?
Finally events drive Henry into taking a stand, like one of the western gun shooters he most admires. The conclusion doesn’t pull its punches and the presence of the clones throughout ensures you never believe our awkward hero is safe. Killing him off and replacing him remains an option right until the last pages.
A Fistful of Clones is a great read that makes a tricky topic accessible, humorous and thought provoking. Perhaps it would serve by being a touch more restrained in exploring the tangential thoughts of characters (and occasionally the author), but this is knowing writing and part of the novel’s endearing charm.
Kouer 4.4 out of 5
This was a really well done novel. Great character and story line development and an overall plot that was good to the end. Henry isn’t just apathetic. His self loathing and trenchant self-centeredness were pretty much over the top with regard to how much time was spent on that portion of his personality. If the author had of just backed off a little in that regard and moved more in a direction of self-sufficiency/esteem and emotive discovery then this would have been an easy 5 stars. It is nice to experience a person moving from deplorable into the Western hero he imagines himself to be. What we get in the end is not Angel Eyes or Blondie in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” but Tuco with a conscience.
The story line might have moved in a direction where the clones ideas and burgeoning personalities were more on display. But when your busy whacking your clones it doesn’t leave a lot of room for chit-chat. There were some fall downs with regard to firearm knowledge. For instance, Henry is using a revolver to hunt his clones and referents the safety being on etc.. Only revolvers don’t have safeties. Despite my shitpicking, I read this in one sitting. GET IT!
Online Book Club 4 out of 4 (Jeska6029)
What constitutes a life? Is a life worth less when it has been created as a result of genetic modification?
A Fistful of Clones by Seaton Kay-Smith requires readers to consider the questions above. The science fiction novel follows the protagonist, Henry. He is 26, and he seems to be stuck in a rut. He loses his job and his girlfriend in the same day, and he is left without any hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. Desperate and without anything to lose, he signs up to be a paid medical subject, and it all pretty much goes downhill from there. Henry believes he has made easy money, but his life is turned inside out when he is required to cleanup a failed experiment. Informed that clones of him have been made and have subsequently escaped, Henry must do everything he can to prevent his clones from ruining his entire life. However, on his journey he is forced to confront his own apathy and question what he has been told. His journey is one of life, murder, self-discovery and redemption.
Kay-Smith has a gift for description. The settings and various locations in this novel are depicted with just enough detail, allowing readers to picture everything in their minds, without being smothered by too many adjectives. The dialogue is equally wonderful. The conversations between characters give the right amount of insight into their own thoughts and motives, while advancing the plot.
The narrative switch is a great move by Kay-Smith. Henry does not know everything, and if readers were stuck with him the whole time, the narrative would have been lackluster at best. It’s great to know more than the protagonist. Plus, getting into the minds of Greta, Dr. Efflund, Sammy and the clones provides information on why they act in certain ways when we are once again thrust back into seeing things from Henry’s perspective.
The characters in the novel are likable and unlikeable in all the right ways. I think many readers will understand and identify with Henry’s feelings of being stuck, and his struggle to connect with people emotionally, which is shown when he interacts with Sammy. Readers will have to hold back from mentally shaking Henry because of how painfully gullible and naïve he is at certain points. At first, I believed Henry was going to be a static character, but I realized his growth comes with his growing understanding of the meaning of life.
My only critique is that there should have been more time spent on the actual clones. The first few encountered do not really have a lot of personality or weight to them. However, the later ones are scene-stealers. They are complex and interesting. It’s a delight to hear their thoughts, but I wish they had been flushed out further. I was left craving more information about what kind of people they truly are.
I give A Fistful of Clones 4 out of 4 stars, and I recommend it to those who enjoy science fiction and moral dilemmas. I thought about this book long after I finished it, and I questioned my own responses to the essential questions the book asks. Give A Fistful of Clones a go, and be prepared to ask yourself, “What constitutes a life”.
Maria Rainor 5 out of 5
A Fistful of Clones is hilarious–a riveting page-turner. Although not in the usual genre I would read I found myself gripped by this suspenseful, action packed story. I smiled through the whole book and laughed out loud on almost every page. Seaton Kay-Smith has comic genius and I was reminded of the brilliant novel Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Hollywood here it comes. This book is cinematic, descriptions so vivid and entertaining it must become a film–it will be a box office hit.
Amazon Customer Reviews
Kay-Smith writes like a comedian with a straight face 4 out of 5 (Stephen Marshall)
Seaton Kay-Smith, author, is an acquired taste. His writing style is not mainstream and his quirky humour ranges from subtle and cerebral to absolutely bizarre. The more I read of this book the more I came to appreciate this. I smiled to myself when the story’s hero, Henry, achieved a small but significant win in having a “mach-cap combo” clause inserted into a contract (a daily macchiato to wake him up immediately followed by a large skim cappuccino for the flavour). I intend to insist on this in all legal agreements I sign from this time forward!
Kay-Smith writes like a comedian with a straight face. In his world it’s the role of the reader to determine the appropriate moments to cringe, to smirk, or to fall off the chair laughing. Unlike comedians who laugh at their jokes you don’t get obvious prompts from this man. I found his style refreshing and particularly so when I read A Fistful of Clones for the second time.
Intelligent, insightful, unusual. A very enjoyable read and I will eagerly await the next offering from this talented young writer.
Hilarious and Brutal 5 out of 5 (Alana Hicks)
A Fistful of Clones is somewhere between Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Steve Martin’s The Pleasure of My Company. It’s an (action-adventure) meditation on identity, ethics and the reasons for living, done in a neurotic and pants wettingly humorous way. It’s so funny, that the sad and lovely moments sneak up on you ninja-like.
Did not want A Fistful of Clones to end. Now hoping for a sequel! 5 out of 5 (Korsh)
Well-paced and with an interesting structure, A Fistful of Clones delivers a good story that held my interest. This surprised and pleased me as sci fi is not my preferred genre but, as I know the author, I wanted to read it. The humour in it is clever and character based and, for me, lightened up the mayhem. I particularly enjoyed the use of language and found that the values espoused – and they do sneak up on you – are well and truly the best of ‘human’. An incisive review by koeur.wordpress.com gave the book 4.4/5 and I obviously more than agree with him.
Clones! Clones! Clones! 4 out of 5 (Mr Jefrey Ball)
I was given a free copy of this book to give a honest review of it. I enjoyed this book, I would call it a thriller comedy. A little slow to begin with but once it got started it was hard to put the book down. The ending has a nice surprise, so give this book a read, it is well worth it.
My Best Book of the Year 5 out of 5 (Irini 379)
“This was a great yarn and pageturner. I like this guy’s writing style and original wit. Awesome. Thoroughly recommend it.”
Enjoyable Read! 5 out of 5 (rlindesay)
“I really enjoyed Seatons comedic writing style, combined with an intriguing depth of story. Highly recommended.”
iTunes Customer Reviews
A Very Entertaining Read! 5 out of 5 (Taylor122)
“A great book, with lots of action and comedy. Highly recommended!”
Awesome 5 out of 5 (Alexandra379)
“Great read. Real page-turner. Hope this guy does more.”
A Fistful of Clones 5 out of 5 (Korshie)
“Well structured, fast-paced and quirkily human for a story about clones . Highly recommended!”
Brilliant! 5 out of 5 (Pain heals, chicks dig scars)
“Hopefully the first of many, a very talented author!”