Science fiction allows authors to explore deep philosophical questions about the ethics of science and the nature of human consciousness. Stories about clones, near-perfect copies of people, are a popular way to do this. Is a copy of your body also a copy of your soul and emotions? These questions are especially relevant today as cloning technology is developed in the real world.
The books on this list explore these questions in many different ways. From murder mysteries to political intrigue and scandal, here are 15 thought-provoking clone books.
When Maria Arena wakes up in a cloning vat, something is amiss. She usually remembers how the last version of her died, but this time she has no memory of it—though the dried smears of blood give her a good idea.
Maria is one of six cloned crew members on Dormire, a starship bound for a faraway Earth-like planet carrying 2,000 cryogenically-frozen future settlers. She quickly realizes her last incarnation was not the only member of the crew to be brutally killed, and it seems whoever did it is trying to sabotage the mission completely.
With the ship off-course and the artificial intelligence offline, the clones must discover the murderer in their midst.
The Cloning of Joanna May
For years, Joanna May has dealt with the aftereffects of her disastrous first marriage to Carl, the CEO of a nuclear energy company. When Carl caught her having an affair, he had Joanna's lover killed.
Although Carl divorced her and is now living with a much younger woman, he never really put the past behind him. Joanna discovers just how attached he’s always been when she learns that years ago, when she thought she was getting an abortion, Carl convinced the doctor to take part in an unprecedented experiment.
Jane, Gina, Julie, and Alice are all perfect clones of Joanna, and up until now none of them knew the others existed. Carl had planned to take one of them as a kind of replacement for his ex-wife, but once his scheme is revealed, everything changes.
The five women have all suffered throughout their lives, and they decide to work together to take down the man who started the trouble in the first place.
The rivalry between 19th-century magicians Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden begins with a botched séance and continues for the rest of their lives. As their careers advance, they seek out new ways to undermine each other.
When Alfred’s teleportation act wins him fame, Rupert finds a way to outdo him with the famous inventor Nikola Tesla.
Instead of using a body double to make it seem as though he’s teleported, Rupert uses Tesla’s device to create a true double, a perfect copy of himself, and transfer his consciousness into it.
But with Alfred hot on his trail to discover his secret, Rupert must dispose of the originals left behind every time he performs the act. When the feud leads to bloodshed, the consequences will last for generations.
Never Let Me Go
The less that first-time readers know about this book by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, the more of a punch it's likely to pack. This soft sci-fi novel is a brief but powerful look at how people make meaning when their life's purpose is predetermined for them.
This 1990 novel by Michael Crichton brought the science of cloning and chaos theory into popular culture.
When paleontologists Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler are strong-armed by a secretive billionaire into visiting an island attraction funded by International Genetic Technologies, they're stunned to find an amusement park featuring cloned dinosaurs.
InGen wants Grant and Sattler, along with other consultants, to give their professional approval to the park. But when power goes out on the island, the humans learn the true dangers of giving life to extinct creatures.
In David Brin's Kiln People, clones are commonplace. People task copies of themselves with doing almost anything, from the mundane to the unspeakable. This is certainly the case for Albert Morris, who often sends clones out to do his investigative work for him. But his latest case may be more than he and his copies can handle.
When an artificial intelligence researcher goes missing just as he is on the brink of an important discovery, a reclusive trillionaire recruits Morris to find him.
He and the researcher’s daughter believe the researcher was kidnapped, and that his knowledge is about to be used for destructive purposes.
Morris soon questions if he can trust anyone—even a perfect copy of himself.
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Brave New World
A science-fiction classic, Brave New World is a warning against losing our humanity to technology. In the year 632 AF—After Ford—the entire world has been sorted into a caste system and is ruled by an authoritarian dictator.
Humans are reproduced in artificial wombs as clones in order to keep the population obedient, but everything changes when a few members of the higher caste realize flaws in the system.
Family relationships are complicated—particularly when you and your siblings are all cloned from the genetic material of your mad-genius dad.
Pamela Sargent's debut novel follows clones Michael, Edward, Albert, James, and Kira as they struggle to understand their astrophysicist's father's legacy, and build sustainable lives in a world where they're seen as aberrations.
The Third Twin
Jeannie Ferrami spends her days at Jones Falls University researching the effects of genetics on personality. When law student Steven Logan agrees to participate in her study, she discovers a perfect test case. Her software identifies convicted rapist Dennis Pinker as Steve’s identical twin, whom he was raised separately from. There’s just one problem: Pinker was born two weeks after Steve to a different mother.
In order to find the truth, Jeannie investigates the men’s pasts. But her digging invites the attention of powerful people, including a U.S. Senator and Jeannie’s own boss. Years ago, they launched a scientific experiment in human cloning as a way to make America racially pure, and they aren’t about to let one woman bring their plans down.
Great North Road
In the future, humanity’s intergalactic empire is ruled by the North family, each generation of rulers clones of the previous.
When a North clone is found murdered, Detective Sidney Hurst is on the case. He quickly discovers the similarities between this murder and that of another North clone and his family years ago. Angela Tramelo, the convicted killer, has always claimed she was innocent. Now, it seems she may have been telling the truth all along.
For years, Angela has claimed that the murderer was an alien monster. Once she is released from prison, she joins Sidney on the hunt for the truth.
For Sidney, an investigation into the upper echelons of power means making powerful enemies. And Angela’s pursuit of the alien will prove to be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.
Orphan Black: The Next Chapter
Although not technically a novel, the audiodrama serial Orphan Black: The Next Chapter will thrill sci-fi readers who have an interest in cloning.
The serial follows the same clone characters as the TV series Orphan Black, and asks questions about autonomy and interdependence in a world where anyone might be a carbon copy of someone else.
Iris Surrey is an everyday girl. She lives with her mother in a small midwestern town and enjoys an average, comfortable life. Like any adolescent, she is beginning to question what makes her who she is, but her questions lead to shocking answers. Iris Surrey isn’t just a normal teenager: She is a clone of her own mother.
The Coin Giver
After the death of his father, the unscrupulous CEO of ZahlenBank, Dominic is left with a mess to clean up. Dominic is his father's clone. But in order to save the family business, Dominic has to contend with his own doppelganger: an arrogant A.I. also modeled after the late Richter Jedes.
This cyberpunk romp satirizes intergalactic bureaucracy while also asking compelling questions about identity and authenticity.
The Possibility of an Island
Despite career success, Daniel is depressed. His marriage has fallen apart, old age seems closer than ever, and his closest companion is his dog, Fox. Searching for meaning, he joins a cult obsessed with creating eternal life through cloning.
Later, in a post-apocalyptic world, Daniel’s clones reflect on the original Daniel’s life and ponder what made him human.
Like Jurassic Park but with time travel, Mammoth follows wealthy eccentric Howard Christian. When a complete woolly mammoth is found perfectly frozen in the Canadian tundra, Christian is determined to clone the beast. But what to make of the human body found alongside the Mammuthus primigenius?
A pachyderm expert and a physicist search for answers—and find themselves, and the mammoth, sent back through time.
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