KILN PEOPLE

David Brin

Adieu! for once again the fierce dispute
Betwixt damnation and impassion'd clay
Must I burn through...
But when I am consumed in the Fire,
Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.
John Keats, "On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again"


DAVID BRIN's Kiln People

Tor Books, 2002

Read the first chapter online, or scroll down to purchase KILN PEOPLE.


the future of multitasking?

In a perilous future, disposable duplicate bodies fulfill every citizen's legal and illicit whim. Life as a 24-hour "ditto" is cheap, as Albert Morris knows. A brash investigator with a knack for trouble, he's sent plenty of clay duplicates in to deadly peril, then "inloaded" memories from copies that were shot, crushed, drowned... all part of a day's work.

But when Morris tackles a ring of crooks making bootleg copies of a famous actress, he trips into a secret so explosive it incites open warfare on the streets of Dittotown.

Professor Maharal, a brilliant researcher, has vanished on the verge of a revolutionary breakthrough in the art of people-xeroxing. Maharal's daughter thinks he's been kidnapped, and the silvery copy of a mysterious trillionaire offers lavish rewards for locating Maharal — before awesome power falls into the wrong hands.

To uncover the truth, Morris sends one ditto after another... then his irreplaceable organic self... into a high-tech, nightmare world of "ghosts" and golems where nothing — and no one — is what they seem, memory itself is suspect, and the line between life and death may no longer exist.

Kiln People received four SECOND PLACE awards: the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel; the 2003 Locus Award; the 2003 Arthur C. Clarke Award; and the 2003 John W. Campbell Memorial Award.


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exclusive to this website

A limited number of autographed hardcover first edition copies of Kiln People are available at $50. Go here for ordering details.


more about Kiln People

two 'sermons' from Kiln People

the old preacher's sermon:

"It is not for Man to set boundaries, or to define the limits of soul.

"Once, human beings were as children, needing simple tales and naive visions of pure truth. But in recent generations the Great Creator has been letting us pick up His tools and unroll blueprints, like apprentices preparing to work on our own. For some reason, He's permitted us to learn the fundamental rules of nature and start tinkering with His craft. That's a fact as potent as any revelation.

"Oh, it is a heady thing, this apprenticeship and the powers that go with it. Perhaps, in the long run, it will turn out to be a good thing.

"But that doesn't make us all-knowing. Not yet."

Yosil Maharal's sermon:

"...where were answers to the truly deep questions? Religion promised those, though always in vague terms, while retreating from one line in the sand to the next. Don't look past this boundary, they told Galileo, then Hutton, Darwin, Von Neumann, and Crick, always retreating with great dignity before the latest scientific advance, then drawing the next holy perimeter at the shadowy rim of knowledge."


foreign-language editions

Kiln People has been translated into Bulgarian, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Here are some of the covers of the foreign and foreign-language publications.

Kiln People's foreign editions

Kiln People in the world

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  • film & media queries

    Queries about film or media rights to any DAVID BRIN books or stories can be addressed to his film agent:
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    Kiln People reviews

    Asimov's Science Fiction

    "David Brin delivers what science fiction readers want — intelligence, action, and an epic scale."

    Vernor Vinge

    "More than any writer I know, David Brin can take scary, important problems and turn them sideways, revealing wonderful opportunities. This talent shows strongly in Kiln People, a novel which is deep and insightful and often hilarious, all at the same time."

    Wil McCarthy

    "Be careful what you wish for: being two places at once may create as many problems as it solves. David Brin unflinchingly serves up a giddy, thoughtful, and darkly comic future."

    Publisher's Weekly

    "Brin deftly explores the issues of identity, privacy and work in a world where everyone is supported with a living wage and has ready access to duplication technology. The book features the author's usual style, with a lighter touch and punnish humor abounding amid the hard SF speculation. The duplication of the 'ditective' makes for a challenging twist on the standard private eye narrative, allowing Morris to simultaneously lead the reader through three separate (and interacting) plot lines."

    Chris Mullins, Amazon.com reviews

    "I was struck by the ease with which Brin switched perspectives from one Ditto to the other, all originally from the same user. How their thoughts after initially waking into this world were all the same, and how they grew into their own personalities by the end of their life span. Each time a ditto expired...well, you're a little saddened by it, and a bit surprised by how haphazardly they are treated by both their users and by other 'real people.' That thought is the major 'meat' of this novel. Anyway, I enjoyed Kiln People. Another book that shall remain on my shelf for years to come."

    The Barnes and Noble Review

    "This is a fun novel, rich with ideas, that examines on a very human level the ramifications and side effects of our ambitions and the things we take for granted. It's also a hard-boiled murder mystery with levels of physics and metaphysics that work your brain. But for me, as always, it's David Brin's characters that really pull me into the story and keep me up until three in the morning."

    GuerillaBookworm.com

    "Kiln People is going to make you laugh and make you think. You will be so immersed in the world of greenies and grays and rox's and rig's that you won't have time to be dazzled by the commentary in Brin's work. That will come later, after you've put the book down and certain scenarios will prick at your consciousness — sneakily invading your own world view and thought process."


    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author

    novels

    David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More


    shorter fiction

    Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More


    Contrary Brin blog

    Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More


    social media influencer

    Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

    DAVID BRIN scientist

    scientist

    David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More


    transparency expert

    Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More


    speaker & consultant

    Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More


    future/tech advisor

    Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More


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  • THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY
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  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
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    OMNI Magazine

    "David Brin is one of the '10 authors most-read by AI researchers.'"

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    David Brin has created some of the greatest classics of recent science fiction, including Startide Rising, plus the short stories "The Crystal Spheres" and "Thor Meets Captain America."

    J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley

    "If enough people read Brin's book [The Transparent Society], or are brushed by the currents of thought in represents, then it may turn into a self-negating prophecy: a warning of dystopia that by virtue of the horror it paints helps avoid that horror. That was the function of George Orwell's 1984. That is an honorable role for anyone's book."

    Rob H. Bedford, SFFWorld.com

    "I would consider Existence to be a triumphant, epic Science Fiction novel on many levels. It stayed with me after I set it aside for the day, continues to simmer in my mind now that I've finished reading it, and has opened up a gateway to Brin's novels I'd wanted to enter for a while. Brin achieved an excellent gestalt of character, big ideas, and narrative energy."

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    an excerpt from Kiln People

    1. A Good Head for Wine
    ...or how Monday's green ditto brings home fond memories of the river

    It's hard to stay cordial while fighting for your life, even when your life doesn't amount to much.
              Even when you're just a lump of clay.

              Some kind of missile — a stone I guess — smacked the brick wall inches away, splattering my face with stinging grit. There wasn't any shelter to cower behind, except an overstuffed trash can. I grabbed the lid and swung it around.
              Just in time. Another slug walloped the lid, denting plastic instead of my chest.
              Someone had me nailed.
              Moments ago, the alley had seemed a good place to hide and catch my breath. But now its chill darkness betrayed me instead. Even a ditto gives off some body heat. Beta and his gang don't carry guns into this part of town — they wouldn't dare — but their slingshots come equipped with infrared sights.
              I had to flee the betraying darkness. So while the shooter reloaded, I raised my makeshift shield and dashed for the bright lights of Odeon District.
              It was a risky move. The place swarmed with archies, dining at cafes or milling about near classy theaters. Couples strolled arm-in-arm along the quay, enjoying a riverside breeze. Only a few coloreds like me could be seen — mostly waiters serving their bland-skinned betters at canopied tables.
              I wasn't going to be welcome in this zone, where owners throng to enjoy their long, sensuous lives. But if I stayed on back streets I'd get hacked into fish food by my own kind. So I took a chance.
              Damn. It's crowded, I thought while picking a path across the plaza, hoping to avoid brushing against any of the sauntering archies. Though my expression was earnest — as if I had a legit reason to be there — I must have stood out like a duck among swans, and not just because of skin color. My torn paper clothes drew notice. Anyway, it's kind of hard to move delicately while brandishing a battered trash lid between your vitals and the alley behind you.
              A sharp blow struck the plastic again. Glancing back, I saw a yellow-hued figure lower his slingshot to load another round. Furtive shapes peered from the shadows, debating how to reach me.
              I plunged into the crowd. Would they keep shooting and risk hitting a real person?
              Ancient instinct — seared into my clay body by the one who made me — clamored to run. But I faced other dangers now — from the archetype human beings surrounding me. So I tried to perform all the standard courtesies, bowing and stepping aside for couples who wouldn't veer or slow down for a mere ditto.
              I had a minute or two of false hopes. Women chiefly looked past me, like I didn't exist. Most of the men were more puzzled than hostile. One surprised chap even made way for me, as if I were real. I smiled back. I'll do the same for your ditto someday, chum.
              But the next fellow wasn't satisfied when I gave him right of way. His elbow planted a sharp jab, en passant, and pale eyes glittered, daring me to complain.
              Bowing, I forced an ingratiatingly apologetic smile, stepping aside for the archie while I tried to focus on a pleasant memory. Think about breakfast, Albert. The fine odors of coffee and fresh-baked muffins. Simple pleasures that I might have again, if I made it through the night.
              "I" will definitely have them again, said an inner voice. Even if this body doesn't make it.
              Yes,
    came a reply. But that won't be me. Not exactly.
              I shook off the old existential quandary. Anyway, a cheap utility rox like me can't smell. At the moment, I could barely grasp the concept.
              The blue-eyed fellow shrugged and turned away. But the next second, something struck pavement near my left foot, ricocheting across the plaza.
              Beta had to be desperate, shooting stones at me amid a throng of real citizens! People glanced around. Some eyes narrowed toward me.
              And to think, this morning started so well.
              I tried to hurry, making a few more meters further across the plaza before I was blocked by a trio of young men — well-dressed young archies — intentionally blocking my path.
              "Will you look at this mule?" The tall one said.
              Another, with fashionably translucent skin and reddish eyes, jabbed a finger at me. "Hey ditto! What's the rush? You can't still be hoping for an afterlife! Who's gonna want you back, all torn up like that?"
              I knew how I must look. Beta's gang had pummeled me good before I managed to escape. Anyway, I was only an hour or two short of expiration and my cracking pseudoflesh showed clear signs of enzyme decay. The albino guffawed at the trash can lid I was wielding as a shield. He sniffed loudly, wrinkling his nose.
              "It smells bad, too. Like garbage. Spoilin' my appetite. Hey! Maybe we have cause for a civil complaint, you reckon?"
              "Yeah. How about it, golem?" The tall one leered. "Give us your owner's code. Cough up a refund on our dinner!"

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