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Archive for February 16th, 2010

‘Nine Lives’ by Ursula K. LeGuin

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Two men live alone on an isolated planetoid mining uranium. They are joined by a tenclone – literarily ten versions of a clone – sent by the company to assist them. This causes the two men to reassess their relationship. There is an accident and some of the clones die. This causes everyone to reassess their relationships.

The problem for the story, both in terms of its hardness and emotional impact, is that the clones are not just genetically identical but essentially a hivemind:

“God, what a team! I hadn’t seen the point. How much do you each know what the others are thinking?”
“Not at all, properly speaking… No ESP, nothing fancy. But we think alike. We have exactly the same equipment. Given the same stimulus, the same problem, we’re likely to coming up with the same reactions and solutions at the same time.” (46)

As presented it does amount to ESP though, they function as a single unit. This unity is necessary for the story to succeed but it isn’t very plausible; the idea of the clones as identically deterministic pieces of “equipment” doesn’t wash.

Quality: ***
Hardness: ***

In their introduction H&C comment: “This story is perhaps her most famous.” Really?

Written by Martin

16 February 2010 at 11:58