An American Editor

October 12, 2011

The Book of Adam: Stimulating Thought Via a Novel

As I have mentioned numerous times, I have a huge to-be-read pile of books — both ebooks and pbooks (at last count, I have more than 600 ebooks waiting patiently in my TBR pile). I have decided that I need to tackle this ever-growing pile and so I determined to sort my ebooks by date acquired and simply start reading beginning from the oldest.

As a consequence of that decision, over the past weekend, I read The Book of Adam: Autobiography of the First Human Clone by Robert Hopper. What I found particularly unique about this ebook is that it, unlike nearly all other fiction I read, actually stimulated my thinking about our world, our future, and the moral, ethical, and philosophical implications that remain to be resolved as we get closer to the ability to clone humans.

My general experience with fiction is that it is either entertaining or not entertaining. I don’t reach that point unless the book is well-written; a badly written book is simply not worth reading because any entertainment value it might have is lost and buried by the poor writing. But the bottom line remains that a well-written fiction book is largely just entertainment that may be worth commenting on but is not a provoker of deep thought; provocation of deep thinking usually falls within the realm of nonfiction.

The Book of Adam is different. First, it is particularly well-written; Adam is a 5-star book. It captured me within a few pages. Second, The Book of Adam is about a topic that is not often discussed in the United States: human cloning. Years ago we had a national discussion regarding cloning and it was resolved that human cloning should be and was prohibited. The Book of Adam ignores that early discussion.

As written, The Book of Adam touches some hot buttons that religion still has to face, not least of which is what would the effect of human cloning be on the religious stories currently being told? By granting a form of immortality, does it destroy the belief in resurrection?

The Book of Adam raises issues that need a philosophical reckoning. Consider this: If human cloning permits a person to essentially be immortal through constant rebirths, does the concept of murder as an immoral and illegal act disappear? What effect would human cloning have on a fundamental pillar of civilization and socialization: Thou shalt not kill/murder?

Human cloning, as described in The Book of Adam, supports the idea of planned suicide, which is another challenge to our current mores. The author assumes that a rebirth essentially causes a remake of the previous life. This is a highly challengeable assumption, although one that is needed for the story. Yet no one knows whether a rebirth would be an opportunity to do differently or to simply relive the same life again.

The Book of Adam doesn’t discuss these conundrums except superficially. But The Book of Adam does cause a reader to pause and think about the implications, which is where, in my fiction reading experience, this ebook differs from most fiction.

The story takes place in the not-too-distant future, and spans the years to the twenty-second century. The ebook also subtly raises questions regarding the differences between cloning and cryogenics, as well as the issue of artificial wombs for nurturing a fetus.

The Book of Adam also asks, albeit with circumspection, what if our brain could be transferred to a synthetic body that never “dies”? What, then, are we?

Ultimately, the questions neither asked nor answered but that form the foundation for all else are these: What makes a human being a human being? At what juncture is “humanness” no longer a viable description of us?

As seems obvious to me, The Book of Adam triggers questions that philosophers have been struggling to answer for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Whether or not this was Hopper’s intent, because of the crisp clarity of his writing, these questions come to mind unbidden, and they remain within my thinking processes even after I have completed the ebook and moved on to the next ebook.

If you want a well-written, 5-star story, The Book of Adam provides that story. If you want your thinking to be challenged, The Book of Adam will challenge you. I highly recommend this ebook.

4 Comments »

  1. I took a quick look and was immediately turned off. First, the author used the front matter for advertising his other books. That’s an absolute no no that only an amateur would use. Second, when I went to his profile page, I found that he has the book listed three times, each one at a different price, including free. Can you imagine stumbling across the 2.99 copy, paying for it, and then finding that you could have read it for .99 or for free? Third, and most important, unless the author is proposing that memories are cloned along with bodies, which is never likely to happen, the opening in which the character is referring to his memories strikes me as completely false.

    Your review made it sound as if it might be worth reading because I actually read to be challenged and informed, not usually just for entertainment. But the length of the book alone, and the number of chapters, combined with the other problems, tells me that it’s going to be an unconvincing effort to be profound.

    Comment by Catana — October 12, 2011 @ 10:10 am | Reply

    • Perhaps I didn’t articulate my review well. I do not think the book itself is profound. It is not. It is, however, a good read and the way the subject is handled raised questions in my mind about cloning, questions that I had not previously considered. The book is a novel, not a discussion of the pros and cons or the techiniques of cloning. As with most novels, there are things we readers simply have to accept in order to enjoy the book. Just as we set aside credulity to watch movies, so we often need to do when we read a novel.

      Regarding his use of front matter to advertise his other books, I have seen this done by numerous authors from numerous publishers, including the big 6 and indies. I’m not sure why you would consider this a decisive factor, whether you agree with such use or disagree.

      The price issues are problematic, but the answer is to purchase the least expensive version. As to finding it for $2.99 and then after purchasing it for that price finding it subsequently for free, well, that happens all the time with self-published books. It’s like worrying that my neighbor got a better price from the car dealer than I did.

      Comment by americaneditor — October 12, 2011 @ 11:13 am | Reply

  2. I didn’t mean to give the impression that I thought you considered the book profound. That’s the sense I got from reading the description and the first few pages. As to accepting the author’s ideas, this is science fiction, so when a book starts out proposing something that’s unlikely to ever happen, it raises my BS detector. If you’re going to do that, you’re moving into fantasy. I do know that a lot of science fiction depends on rather fantastic what-ifs, but a lot of science fiction is dreck. Serious science fiction fans tend not to accept ideas without substance.

    The price issue–his multiple copies are something that Smashwords likes to know about, because they don’t permit multiples. The different prices are just short of a scam, as far as I’m concerned, and not something that Smashwords is likely to tolerate. If he had a different price on another site, that’s an altogether different matter.

    The advertising in the front matter wasn’t a decisive issue for me. It was part of the overall impression.

    Comment by Catana — October 12, 2011 @ 11:40 am | Reply

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