Today's book is:
'In a perilous future, disposable duplicate bodies fulfil every citizen's legal and illicit whim. Life as a twenty-four-hour "ditto" is cheap, as Albert Morris knows. A brash investigator with a knack for trouble, he's sent plenty of clay duplicates into 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.' - Kiln People, David Brin 
Kiln People is a tale that mimics the old 'Film Noir' crime thrillers of the late 1940s. Film Noir's stereotype is generally associated with an emphasis on cynicism and sexual desire, black and white films that are dark because of their hard-life setting rather than their colours. The same is true with Kiln People. We follow the story of Albert Morris, a private dick* (who even wears a trenchcoat and fedora, a stereotype of the Film Noir private eyes). The story is told from realAlbert and from the ditAlberts' point of view. The ditto-Alberts (ditAlberts) are the characters who evoke the dark edginess of the Noir crime thriller because they are the ones who are expendable, who risk their lives in the search of answers.
*Slang for detective.
The story is set in a future built upon the labour of a self-aware, sentient underclass, namely golems (or dittos). The term golem comes from Jewish mythology, a creature created from clay. The mythology differs in time, (for example, Adam in the Genesis myth is a golem formed from mud), but it seems likely that David Brin is drawing upon the medieval interpretations of the golem, a creature formed from clay and provided a shem, a sheet of paper with God's name that grants it life. In this future, mankind imprints the Standing Wave of his soul into his clay golem and sets it to tasks. The golems expire after a single day, returning to 'inload' memories to their archetype (their template or creator if you will) before their remains are recycled. As a result, clay-life is cheap as the golems are treated as property rather than people. In this future, man cannot murder a ditto, he can only destroy it (and pay the resulting fines).
Click below for the full synopsis (click to open/close):
The story begins with one of Albert's dittos running for his life, trying to escape a band of sling-shot armed crooks who are trying to kill him. He decides to run through a busy section of town populated by 'archies' (short for human archetypes, or 'normal' humans) in an attempt to evade his pursuers. Unfortunately for him, the gang chasing him continues to follow Albert's ditto into the busy street, he is given a brief distraction when a waiter ditto collapses and nods at Albert's ditto after the crowd's attention focuses on him. As Albert's ditto makes his way through the crowd, stepping aside and bowing to the archies he passes, he finds himself accosted by a group of three who begin block him. His ditto is wounded, damaged perhaps is a better term and even as he is held up by the three men, his makeshift shield bounces a few sling-shot stones. The gang chasing him has evidently decided that whatever Albert's ditto knew was too valuable to let go.
One of the three attempt to extort money from the ditto by demanding to see his owner ID so that they could request a fee from the owner. When Albert attempts to tell the three men that his work was urgent and needed immediately this only hardens their decision to detain the ditto because urgent work would mean the owner was more likely to pay to obtain their ditto. However, with each second's delay, the gang was closing in on Albert. He attempts to cow the young men into letting him through, pointing out that he was a ditto with important case information for Albert who was an investigator. Instead, the young men decide that they'd be quite happy to pay the fine for the death of a ditto and would rather destroy him. The largest of the group grips Albert tightly, his ditto's pseudo-skin giving him pain and holding the weaker ditto in place. To the group's surprise though, Albert draws a weapon, illegal on dittos and slices his own hand off before effecting an escape. He avoids Beta's gang by diving into a river. All dittos retain a basic core of the personality that they are copied from and even appear to display a level of self-awareness and intelligence exactly equal to the copied original. For Albert, this reflects itself in his dittos stubbornness as the ditto manages to pull himself to the banks of the river while being attacked by the river's fish. His last memory before the ditto's brain deteriorates is pulling himself onto the deck of a party boat and expiring before a crowd of real humans. One of them was kind enough to stash the ditto's head into an ice-cooler for Albert, sending a message to Clara, an associate of Albert's who lived nearby.
After Albert had 'inloaded' memories from his ditto's remains, he realises that he has a chance to catch Beta at his hideout, especially if this criminal assumed that Albert's ditto had died in the river. He quickly organises a raid, though has no choice but to go in person as there is not enough time to thaw and imprint a ditto from his home kiln. He contacts Inspector Blane who hurriedly agrees to meet him at the location. The target for the raid is deep within dittotown, an area of the city populated entirely by dittos. Their troops arrive, the dittos disguised while they negotiate with the cop present. Blane's mercenaries manage to catch them off-guard, though Beta's dittos come out guns blazing. As the battle unfolds, the cop sets up inflatable barriers and proceeds to note infractions for fines. Legally, the unfolding battle is a commercial issue and as long as the only victims are dittos there was no requirement for law enforcement to get involved. As the fight continues, the cop sends one of her dittos to check the dead and claim their heads for investigation, though Albert feels she would fail to find any useful information. Beta was too smart to be caught through the crook's own proxies. As Blane's mercenary dittos storm the building allowing the regular street life to continue, though not before Albert receives a call from his client who had seen the fight appear on the news (Albert is able to see drone-like News cameras recording the incident). They successfully recover a ditto belonging to Gineen Wammaker, the Maestra of Studio Neo, Albert's client. Her ditto thanks Albert for recovering her property and ending Beta's use of her ditto to create copies. As the workday commences and dittos arrive to go to their workplace, the cop returns to present them the preliminary estimates of fees and costs associated with their gunfight, something that would cut into the LSA (Labour Subcontractors Association) quite hard until they managed to catch Beta. The police are unable to provide much help to Albert and the LSA because copyright infringement was only a civil tort. As long as Beta ensured there were no real casualties, he wouldn't have to worry about the police involvement, which raises a point of concern with Albert because Beta had sent his gangsters to chase him through an 'archie' street.
Dittotown is a slum, comprised mostly of collapsing, derelict buildings simply on the basis that there was no need to bother developing safe housing for what were only temporary clay creatures. There were war-zones for clay dittos, themed areas that recreated drama and opera like a strange version of live television. Albert finds himself entering one of these unsafe buildings, where he suddenly hears a voice calling out to him. He discovers one of Beta's dittos, who tells him that he had originally thought the man shutting down his various outposts was Albert, but in fact, the raided location didn't belong to Beta, he'd been kicked out earlier and Albert had no idea that this was the case. The ditto mocks Albert before reaching expiration, leaving Albert confused. All of Beta's operations had been closed by an unknown organisation, though Beta had been assuming it was Albert who had led that change.
Shortly after, Albert finds himself being invited to meet an individual within a limousine, congratulated for his day's work involving the recovery of stolen property (the Maestra's ditto). Inside the limo he is introduced to Vic Aeneas Kaolin, owner of Universal Kilns. At least, he is introduced to his ditto. As Albert is driven away from his pickup point, Ritu, Vic Kaolin's secretary explains that there had been a real kidnapping (not a dittonapping) that they wanted him to investigate. The reason they have selected Albert is because law enforcement officials do not believe that Dr. Yosil Maharal had disappeared in a way that suggested any wrong-doing. Albert agrees to a confidentiality clause as the limo begins to pull into the Universal Kilns' headquarters. As they enter, Albert observes two groups of protesters, the first being a religiously motivated group that campaigns against the 'wrong' involved in using dittos and the second being a group that sought to give emancipation to the dittos. To group's surprise though, they are met by Dr. Yosil's ditto within the UK headquarters, giving them proof that Dr. Yosil hadn't disappeared (because of the 24 hour lifespan of a ditto). Dr. Yosil's ditto apologises for running away, mentioning that he had been quite paranoid recently due to his work project, but he sent a ditto to reassure them. Albert can't help shaking a feeling of a job unfinished as he takes a check for his consultation.
RealAlbert decides to visit Clara on her houseboat, only to find that she had left a note on the fridge telling him she had gone to war. Warfare between nations is treated almost as a sport having been boiled down to a series of conflicts in specified areas of ditto against ditto. As a result though, it meant that Clara was not present to keep him company, though she had left an ebony (a ditto programmed for analytical skills and focus) to study while she was away. Another note reveals that Clara had left an imprinted ivory (a ditto focused on pleasure) for him in the freezer should he wish to thaw it out. He contemplates thawing her, but decides against it. As he leaves Clara's houseboat, he receives a message from Nell, his home's AI, telling him that Maestra Wammaker was demanding a meeting with him. RealAlbert decides to send one of his greys to meet her. Though not long after that, Ritu calls him to tell realAlbert that found her father's body and that she thought he'd been murdered.
Meanwhile, the first of Albert's two grey dittos is taken to the private estate belonging to Vic Kaolin by limousine. He is greeted once more by a ditto of Vic Kaolin, something altogether expected as many of the elite tended to shut themselves away, only conversing and meeting through their dittos. The police and their experts do not consider that a murder has taken place, believing that Ritu's father, Dr. Yosil had died in an accident. It is revealed that Dr. Yosil had apparently died in a crash, his vehicle going off the road and the police believe it to be the result of sleeping at the wheel. Dr. Yosil's grey ditto that is present cannot offer any substantial clues or understanding to the event. Vic Kaolin's ditto tells Dr. Yosil's ditto that they would need to cannibalise the ditto in order to save whatever they could of his research projects now that the original (the 'rig') was dead. DitYosil agrees and leaves, but as ditAlbert and ditKaolin converse, he suddenly realises that he had seen ditYosil head the opposite direction. Suspicious, he breaks off talking with ditKaolin, asking to be excused before following Yosil's grey ditto. Albert's ditto tracks him, watching as the ditto disappears through someone's property only to find himself caught by ditYosil who aims a weapon of some sort at ditAlbert and shoots the investigator.
The narrative switches over to Albert's second grey ditto who is hurrying to meet Maestra Wammaker. As Albert's second grey makes his way towards Studio Neo, he receives a call from Nell who is forwarding the call to both him and his rig. It is Pal, one of Albert's friends, demanding that he needed to speak with Albert urgently, but he is otherwise ignored as Albert considered himself too busy at the present time to talk with him. As ditAlbert is invited in to meet with Maestra Wammaker, the point of view once more switches to ditAlbert number 3 (the green, designed to be cheap and not very intelligent). He travelled in with ditAlbert number 1 (the one assigned to Vic Kaolin) but split off to go obtain a lawn mower that Albert had sent in for repair. He returns home, mows the lawn and undertakes several other chores before the green stops. His frustration over being a green translates itself into a spontaneous decision to go to the beach. Number 2 meets Maestra Wammaker's other guests, four identical female dittos and a plaid-skinned ditto who are introduced as Queen Irene and Vic Manuel Collins. Maestra Wammaker tells him that she was interested in hiring him for a matter involving industrial espionage. He complains, preferring not to get involved with anything that might be skirting the edge of the law, though Wammaker continues to explain that the suspect was Universal Kilns, something which causes Albert to raise the issue of conflict of interest, though this is waved aside. They tell him that they suspect UK to have developed the technology to recharge a ditto, allowing it to persist longer than twenty four hours. If such a technology can be proven to exist and has been hidden away by Universal Kilns, then the group hiring him can sue UK for its lack of transparency. Tempted by the large amount of pay being offered, he agrees to work for Maestra Wammaker, deliberately choosing to keep his real-self out of the loop for deniability.
During this, Albert's green ditto reaches the beach where he spots numerous ditto-rights groups, though most of the best parts of the beaches are reserved for real humans while dittos are left with rocky outcrops where they huddle together. However, it is shortly after a ditto protesting for ditto rights tells him to carry on that he realises that he must be a frankie (an incorrectly imprinted ditto), explaining why he'd just left the other chores undone. Rather than stay at the beach, he decides to talk with Pal about it. Although, a few hours later, he finds himself encountering a hunting group chasing a single ditto for sport when he decides to cut across a thinning gap of traffic, not seeing the warning signs. Checking himself for injuries after he gets out of the crossfire, he discovers a growing hole near his spine, something that while immediately incapacitating to a human would shut him down before long. He knows he can't make it to Pal's place so he runs for the Temple of the Ephemerals. Once inside, he is able to obtain medical help, the staff working on him quickly due to the nature of the weapon (an 'eater', illegal to possess and use). After his operation, he sits through a sermon delivered by another ditto about the nature of their souls, before heading out, intent on finding answers, frankie or not.
For realAlbert, things have taken a turn for the worse when he discovers that all three of his dittos have dropped out of contact. The first disappeared on Vic Kaolin's property, the second deliberately cut off his communications and the green left a message for Albert, telling him about the fact that he was a frankie but he wouldn't cause trouble for Albert. Frankie is short for Frankenstein duplicate, and Albert decides against an appointment with the doctor. To ease his workload, Albert decides to imprint an ebony, designed for focus. As he is undergoing the imprinting, Albert receives a call from Vic Kaolin. On receiving the call, Albert initially thinks he is looking at the real Vic Kaolin, but notices the subtle discrepancies of a very high quality ditto (something illegal in public but acceptable in the privacy of one's home). Vic Kaolin, as before, offers Albert terms of employment that suggest another Fealty Oath (something rich industrialists required from their many employees). Albert ignores another call from Pal.
Albert's second grey is taken in to the Rainbow Lounge, a club for dittos (overwhelming sensory stimuli that would be inloaded to the human rigs later) to meet Queen Irene. As he is led through the crowd, he spots a gladiatorial pit fight and watches the winner. To his surprise, the winner looks in his direction and seems to recognise him but Albert is led away to a booth to wait. As he sits in the booth he decides to look up news about the war between the Pacific Ecological Zone of the USA and the Indonesian Reforestation Consortium, the war in which Clara is fighting. To his satisfaction, the Pacificans are doing well. He contemplates viewing the action live but is interrupted by the pit fighter he'd spotted earlier. The pit fighter recognises him and belatedly Albert's ditto recognises the pit fighter as the ditto of one of the men who had accosted his green a few days ago (back when he'd been escaping from Beta). He manages to trick the fighter and makes a break for it, though ends up cornered and waving off him and his friends with a cocktail table (and its attendant holos). It is at that point that some of Queen Irene's red dittos arrive to break up the fight before escorting him to meet the hive. The hive is in fact a single woman in a life-support chair. She is plugged into industrial strength kilns and cared for by her own dittos. When her dittos die, they inload the memory straight to her, an example of one of the hypothesised futures for a society that can mass produce dittos. Before talking with Albert's ditto though, they indicate that they will repair his grey ditto first, seeing as he had been injured.
While Albert's second grey is being repaired, realAlbert sets out to determine the last known sightings of Dr. Yosil Maharal by tracking his sightings through public and private security cameras. He is able to track his last sighting to a desert outside of the city, something that frustrates Albert due to the fact that there were considerably less surveillance equipment in those areas. Dr. Yosil had also not made use of the car's autopilot (in an attempt to make him harder to trace). Albert however, is able to make use of an orbiting weather satellite to get a rather weak view of Dr. Yosil's vehicle. After he returns from a quick break, he finds his ebony ditto working at his station, who reminds Albert of a simple question, how sure was he that the sighting he had were really Dr. Yosil. Albert discovers that in fact, that Dr. Yosil had been trading places with a ditto at certain points to elude surveillance. Albert's green, despite being a frankie and refusing to do chores for Albert, ends up investigating some of Albert's cases until he is accosted by (of all things) a wasp that attacks his eye. The wasp turns out to be an advanced drone that delivers a message straight to the ditto's head, a message from Pal, asking him to meet immediately.
DitAlbert number 2 (the second grey) comes to after the repair work, apparently intact, before the presence of Queen Irene. He is impressed by the level of competence in the repair work he'd undergone and is brought to a van by one of Irene's dittos, accompanied by Gineen Wammaker's ditto as they head towards the UK headquarters. As Albert's second grey makes his way towards Universal Kilns, Albert's frankie reaches Pal. Pal is accompanied by two protesters, both of whom are from differing camps (one pro-ditto rights, the other seeing them as an abomination), and both claim to have been met by a grey that had impersonated Albert. Though Albert's frankie proclaims his creator's innocence. What concerns Albert's green though is the fact that the faked Albert Morris approached both protesters, ranted then left. They turned to Pal because Pal was someone who listened to groups such as these. Pal points out that it was not like Albert to stir trouble and adds that he had found out that Albert had a closed contract with Maestra Wammaker, but when he called to confirm, Maestra Wammaker told him that she had never asked for Albert at all. Curious, Pal traced Albert's ditto only to discover that it had never met Maestra Wammaker, having been waylaid along the way by her assistant, or what appeared to be her assistant. Albert's green grows more worried as he realises that from the outside, it would appear that Albert's dittos had been conspiring with the two protester groups, while the real ditto worked under the apprehension that he was performing a legal activity, though all of this appears to be aimed to direct blame. And if there was blame to be apportioned, then there would have to be a victim. Someone both polar-opposite protest groups hated together. Universal Kilns.
RealAlbert decides to meet with Ritu Maharal and investigate Dr. Yosil's crash site. He calls her and requests one of her dittos to accompany the one he planned to send and after impressing upon her how important he felt investigating the site was, she agrees to send one of her dittos to meet him at her father's place. He packs his Volvo quickly, leaving a prepared grey for thawing in the boot (along with a portable kiln and forensic tools) before he assumes a disguise. Rather than sending a grey, Albert decides to go himself, disguised as a high quality ditto. It is illegal for a ditto to impersonate their rig (or any other rig for that matter), though it was not illegal for a rig to disguise themselves as a ditto (but given how dittos are treated as property and subject to a more violent life, the majority of people never considered disguising themselves as dittos). As he prepares to leave, his ebony demands to know what should happen if he expired before Albert returned (as the crash site was near the battlefield where Clara was and he intended to visit her as well). Albert tells the ebony to stick his head in the freezer, reminding the ditto that he had left an imprinted ebony, green and a grey should the current ebony need to continue working. When the ebony complains of a break in continuity if he should expire, Albert tells him to thaw the other golems early and update them verbally (since dittos could not inload memories to each other). As realAlbert heads towards Dr. Yosil's estate, he tunes into the news from the battlefield. The war has taken a turn for the worse, with the PEZ now on the retreat, though a government spokesman tells the reporters that they would not surrender and negotiate a treaty but rather fight for full ownership of the contested icebergs to the bitter end.
On arrival, realAlbert finds the entry to the building unlocked and calls out, announcing himself, though he gets no reply. A few more steps allows him to hear the ghost of a noise that sound like someone searching for something. More cautious now, Albert heads towards the source of the noise (Dr. Yosil's study). Ritu calls to him from upstairs, asking if that was Albert. Albert replies back, asking her if she had company, though Ritu doesn't hear it and asks Albert to wait for her, she hadn't been expecting him so early. However, Albert can make out the shape of someone in the study and expects to see Dr. Yosil's ghost (the term for a ditto without a rig) emerge, but instead is greeted by Vic Kaolin's ditto. This ditto doesn't recognise Albert immediately and feigns recognition after Albert reminds him that he had hired the investigator. Rather than probe the rich magnate as the expense of his dignity, he decides it is wiser to give him an out, letting Ritu know that he had met ditKaolin on her drive and entered together. However, as he continues to talk with ditKaolin he grows suspicious, requesting a query from Nell (his home's AI) to confirm that Vic Kaolin had sent this ditto. As he explores the study with ditKaolin watching, he realises that two photographs were missing from the room (confirmed by cool patches on the infrared) before hearing a flushing sound. Turning around, he spots ditKaolin exiting the toilet and Albert's paranoia jumps to the conclusion that the ditto had flushed some evidence away. It was possible after all that if Dr. Yosil had been murdered, then Vic Kaolin might have been involved. By the time Ritu's ditto comes down to greet Albert, Vic Kaolin has already left in the limo he had arrived in.
Albert's green finds himself in a van with the two protest leaders and Pal. Pal is a gifted imprinter for dittos, able to use golems that go beyond the human shape, something that would have meant great opportunities were it not for his constant restlessness. All of Pal's dittos usually find an excuse to translate any still period into action. As they sit in the van, driving towards the Universal Kilns headquarters building, Pal asks the two protesters what they had done beyond protest, what actions they had undertaken in the name of their cause, anything that might help them stop Albert's grey from succeeding and dragging their protest groups' names into the mud. Gadarene, leader of Defenders of Life (an anti-ditto group) admits they had been digging a tunnel to breach Universal Kilns, something that amuses Lum, leader of Tolerance Unlimited (a pro-ditto group) who admits that they had also been digging a tunnel. They arrive at Gadarene's protest camp where Pal tells Gadarene that they would be using his tunnel to enter Universal Kilns (as the tunnel was large enough for human beings) while Lum's tunnel had been designed smaller, for golems, by golems, though Pal intends to use both tunnels. Gadarene admits his tunnel was actually complete, but the protesters hadn't decided how best to utilise it. Pal tells them that they only have until nightfall (the best opportunity to cause industrial damage without real deaths thereby skirting around murder and causing property damage instead) and that, no doubt, the originator of the plan intended to use the protesters' tunnels as proof of their guilt. Their enemy is most likely ready for them and has trapped the tunnels, though Pal intends to use the tunnels anyway. Finally, Frankie (Pal's name for Albert's green) stands with Paldit who has taken the form of a very large ferret. Together they head into Gadarene's tunnel, while realPal set up more dittos to head down Tolerance Unlimited's tunnel. To Frankie's surprise, he overhears Gadarene asking God to go with them.
Albert's second grey is currently sneaking through Universal Kilns' security, something that was rather easy and almost effortless due to the fact that his other grey was registered with UK's security system. However, as he makes his way deeper underground, keeping an eye out for any proof of Universal Kilns having been holding back information, he begins to be assailed by doubts. When his legs lock up, preventing him from getting off at UK's research division, his doubts increase. He begins to question how likely it was that the man at the Rainbow Lounge was not only the same man he'd bumped into when fleeing Beta's henchmen, but also able to find him so easily within the huge club, before prompting the question as to why it had taken Queen Irene so long to step in when she had near limitless manpower within her club. He suddenly realises as he continues to head deeper that he couldn't have been hired just to spy on Universal Kilns, rubbing the wound that had been repaired at the Rainbow Lounge. There were 'whistleblower' prizes, providing instant celebrity status and huge rewards that ensured that it was impossible for any big company to keep secrets. Instead, he comes to realise that they had no doubt fed him that story to appeal to his ego, allowing him to ignore some of the doubts he might have had because they were well aware of his 'crusader-like' attitude. As he continues to descend, he finds himself being attacked by some flying insects that he quickly swats out of the air. With his worries forefront in his mind, he quickly stops before a UK worker and asks if he can use the diagnostic device he's got. Thanks to a bit of subterfuge and the curiosity that the UK worker displays after seeing ditAlbert's wound, the UK worker decides to scan him. During which time another few tiny insects assail Albert, one of them burrowing into his ear, whereupon Albert comes to realise that it had been one of Pal's creations. His friend was using it to communicate with him. Pal warns him not to get scanned, fearing that a scan might activate the bomb, or prime it for countdown. Unfortunately, they are too late as the scanner works over Albert's clay body. He feels his body react. Whatever he is carrying is more than a mere chemical explosive. He dashes towards the cargo bay, following Pal's advice but dashes right past Pal and his green ditto. Unsure how best he can contain whatever has been primed within him, ditAlbert ends up climbing inside a biological forklift, squeezing up its exhaust (for want of a better word). He can only hope that this will reduce the damage caused by whatever was about to go off inside him.
RealAlbert is meanwhile, currently driving along with ditRitu. Ritu cannot recall what photographs might have disappeared from her father's study and after a moment apologises, requesting some time along in the rear of the car to do some research. Albert raises a privacy screen and decides to catch some rest, letting the car go onto autopilot. Not long after, Albert is woken abruptly by an interrupt call from his ebony. The ebony updates Albert with a serious problem, namely that a prion-catalyst bomb had been unleashed in Universal Kilns (a bomb designed to destroy every single soul-mesh/ditto present). Two of Albert's dittos had been present at the building and the police had been issued warrants for the seizure of their records (and that of Pal's dittos too). The ebony adds that it appeared Albert was being set up, something realAlbert agrees with. As Albert decides to turn around, the ebony suddenly alerts him that an unauthorised missile launch had just occurred and tracking reveals it was headed straight for Albert's house. The ebony uploads what he can of Albert's work and data to an external site in the ten seconds he has before the missile strikes. Albert's house is gone (right down to the garden), the central focus of major news outlets as the news breaks across the city. As Albert turns around and begins racing back to the city he is updated with news following the prion-catalyst bomb. Workers were remarking how lucky they'd been, that the bomb's detonation had been confined to a single forklift. His race back to the city is stopped by a car placed on the wrong side of the road, lights shining towards his Volvo. Albert's attempt to dodge the car results in a spinout, ending with his car facing the person who had blocked the road. To his shock, ditKaolin steps out with a very large gun. Albert guns the car's engine and races towards Kaolin, no other alternatives open to him. His car is hit, sparking pains and flames but before Albert passes out he is satisfied by a solid hit on ditKaolin.
The story switches to Albert's first grey, who comes to inside a cramped tube, his last memories being the confrontation between him and ditMaharal before he had been shot. He is unable to determine if his recorder has been removed, but he is certain that his other devices have been taken from him. Looking out of the tube that he is being suspended in he can see a laboratory, every surface inscribed with the Universal Kilns' logo. As Albert looks around he finally spots a ditto belonging to Dr. Yosil, though the ditto has the same limping gait that the earlier ditMaharal had had (the one that had shot him), which should be impossible as that ditto had been close to his expiry. Dr. Yosil approaches and tells him that there was a speaking tube within the container for his use. The ditto tells Albert that he is the same ditto that he had met several days ago, that he has managed to develop a technique to recharge dittos, allowing them to last longer than a single day. More worryingly, he tells Albert that this isn't the first time he's had a ditto of him within his laboratory. Dr. Yosil's ditto goes on to mention that he had done more than simply develop a technique to extend ditto lifespans, but also managed to imprint from his ditto to another ditto, thereby ensuring that he didn't require his rig to continue existing.
After the detonation of the prion-catalyst bomb, Pal's ditto and Frankie are taken in by UK's security and held. Albert's green is confronted by the news of the attack on his house and believes realAlbert to be dead. They are held by UK's security in a waiting room, able to see the news unfolding about the attack on UK's headquarters and the destruction of Albert's home. Fortunately for them, Pal's shout for 'meditcal' attention is immediately responded to, indicating that hopefully they were not in too serious trouble. They are brought to a ditto of Vic Kaolin and told they have ten minutes to tell him what had happened. The two of them explain what they knew of the story and are told that under normal circumstances ditKaolin would not believe a word of it were it not for an additional source of information. The source of information turns out to be the recording device of Albert's second grey, the patsy in the crime. Evidently, Queen Irene's 'repair' had not picked up the small recording device.
RealAlbert comes to in the desert. Their car has been wrecked, though both he and ditRitu have survived. Unfortunately, it is unlikely they can make it back within a day on foot, meaning that Ritu's ditto would expire. For this reason, realAlbert decides to continue his charade of being a ditto, as a kindness towards Ritu. Ritu returns to the cave they had been sheltering in as he tells her that he hadn't been able to salvage anything useful from the wrecked Volvo. The car had been driven into a ditch by the remains of Kaolin's ditto before he had expired. Albert explains that it was likely his reckless charge at ditKaolin that saved their lives, throwing off their aim enough that the weapon didn't kill them but knocked them out. He decides to talk to ditRitu who shares some of her thoughts on her father, convinced her father knew more than he let on, though to Albert's surprise, Ritu's ditto offers to 'bang pots' with Albert. She feels that they might as well be doing something to drown away the thoughts of their impending expiration. Both are left utterly shocked when they discover that both of them are real people masquerading as dittos. Though after the confusion and anger fades, Ritu is quite glad to find out that Albert had survived the missile strike.
Albert's imprisoned grey continues to question Dr. Yosil about his research. He rejuvenates Albert's ditto, telling him that his research had revealed that each ditto could manage around thirty treatments before eventually falling apart, meaning that, worst case, Albert could spend an entire month within the chamber. Yosil continues to tell him that he has ditnapped Albert so many times that he could predict his questions and even his escape attempts. Dr. Yosil tells him this to highlight how helpless his captive is before adding that his research was close to success but he would need to copy Albert's ditto for more testing material. Most copies of dittos are badly flawed, but Albert's dittos have a tendency to imprint very well. Yosil convinces Albert to cooperate by mentioning the benefits of having a copy that shared Albert's mentality. Regardless of how much Yosil had planned, it was nevertheless possible that the copied ditto might help effect an escape (or escape itself). Dr. Yosil's surviving ditto is clearly mad as he begins to expound on his great research, how he saw religion and science as opposing forces, how his research would be able to force religion to retreat. The copy finishes, revealing a miniature ditto that Yosil immediately restrains with a manacle. Yosil takes Albert's copy away, leaving the grey alone with his thoughts.
To Frankie's surprise, he and Pal are asked by the ditKaolin that had questioned them to work as a ditective on his behalf. Albert's green negotiates for four times his usual rate and enough money to rebuild Albert's house and refurbish the interior. DitKaolin accepts but adds the proviso that the payment would depend on the results and whether Albert was truly innocent as his grey's recording seems to suggest. That last comment earns a scathing tirade from Pal's weasel-like ditto, though Frankie is quick to protest his innocence, pointing out how ditKaolin could ascertain the truth from the recording's background noise. Frankie then requests Vic Kaolin to delay releasing the recorder to the police, to give them some breathing space (by allowing the conspirers to assume that their plan had succeeded). At the end of the discussion, Frankie points out that he had been imprinted twenty hours ago, leaving very little time for him to undertake the investigation, to which ditKaolin admits that he had a way to extend Frankie's lifespan. After being refreshed, ditKaolin lends them a car to go to the Rainbow Lounge, where Frankie tells ditKaolin he intends to start. As they wait for the car, Paldit and ditKaolin enter an argument about the Prudity Bill, a bill that would require all golems to be created without any emotional capability that might lead towards violent behaviour. DitKaolin's public support for the Prudity Bill is suggested as one of the reasons that his company had been targeted. Before leaving, Paldit manages to cause trouble when he bites ditKaolin to verify whether he was clay or real, but they are let go to do the work ditKaolin hired them for. They head over to the Rainbow Lounge only to discover they are a little late. The Rainbow Lounge is closed, individuals being kept away by a bouncer of Queen Irene's, one of her many worker dittos. This is the first time that Frankie has met one of Queen Irene's dittos (as Albert's grey was unable to inload memories due to his demise). Pal and Frankie decide to head round the back of the building to see if they can find Queen Irene.
Ritu and realAlbert have, by this point, finally reached the Jesse Helms International Combat Range, the site that Clara was sent. During the walk to the combat range, Ritu shares her reason for coming in person. Ritu, like a small minority in the world, was unable to imprint reliable dittos. However, where most of these people struggle in imprinting even a simple ditto, Ritu's problem is different. She can imprint very intelligent and competent dittos but the vast majority of them are frankies, many of them are even resentful and hateful towards her. Only in recent years has she reached a form of equilibrium. Nearly half of her dittos do as she intends them to, while the other half seem to wonder off. When Ritu was told that Albert needed her for an important part of the investigation, she decided to go in person to be sure that she would find out whatever Albert did. They head towards the carnival-like area where fans of the two teams have gathered.
Pal and Frankie squeeze past a van parked at the rear of the Rainbow Club. The van seems to thrum with energy and bears the logo: "Final Options, Inc." Beyond that, they can see Queen Irene surrounded by a group of her dittos that are swaying to a dirge-like melody. No more dittos are being imprinted or thawed and Queen Irene's remaining dittos appear to be at the end of their lifespans. It all is made clear to them when they spot a purple ditto shaped like Horus (the Egyptian god of vengeance, sky, protection and war) [the novel incorrectly states that Horus was the god of death, that would be Osiris]. The Horus-shaped ditto is negotiating with one of Queen Irene's dittos about the way she wished to pass away. Rejecting his offer of cryogenic freezing, she opts for 'the antenna,' a device intended to broadcast her standing wave into the cosmos, a form of 'afterlife' though entirely unproven. Frankie attempts to talk to Queen Irene, keen to discover what she knows before she passes away, but Queen Irene claims to have been betrayed too, by Vic Collins. She had believed that she was implanting a surveillance device into Albert's grey and when the bomb went off she realised she was just another line of defence protecting Vic Collins. It is too clear that the two protest groups lacked the sophistication to deploy such a weapon against Universal Kilns but the evidence would then point to Queen Irene. She tells Frankie that he knew Vic Collins by a different name. Beta. Frankie pleads with Queen Irene's ditto, begging her to remain behind after her rig's death to help him rather than inload to Queen Irene, though to his surprise, Irene's ditto responds violently to the suggestion and is enraged when she discovers Paldit had destroyed the last available port for her inloading. The ditto races outside and climbs onto Final Options, Inc's van while Frankie is called over by an ever weaker Irene. She tells him that she had considered what he had said before adding that he should 'unscrew the ketone cap.' Her ditto hugs the antenna, begging not to be left behind as Frankie and Pal put some distance between them and the deploying antenna. It occurs to them that Queen Irene was all ego. She could not let go of even the smallest part of her, something expressed in her ditto's desparate need to be inloaded.
During all this, Albert's red half-sized ditto is being treated to a sight and explanation of Dr. Yosil's private collection of clay-related items. His greatest treasure is a gift from the Honorary Son of Heaven in gratitude for Dr. Yosil's work in Sian. Evidently the story's setting does not include the Chinese civil war (and its results), choosing instead to refer to an Emperor. He makes a reference to the terracotta soldier in his possession having come from China, the country that derived its name from Ch'in (Wade-Giles at work again, he no doubt means Qin). This is a factual error. China's name derives from Chini (چینی) in Middle Persian and the use of چینی to refer to China predates the Qin Dynasty, referring instead to the Qin State (9th Century BCE - 221 BCE). He implies that the Qin Emperor may possibly have understood ditto-ing, hence explaining the awe that his enemies held him in. Albert's red comes to realise that Dr. Yosil seems to be afraid of him and it is this fear that is driving him to exaggerate the intellectual difference between them. As a parting note, Dr. Yosil mentions that the procedure that he intends to use has caused Albert to call him a monster. Several times. Albert's red figures that this means the procedure must be extremely painful (for him to have done that), though Dr. Yosil tells him that the procedure should be easier now that Albert's Standing Wave (or soul) is no longer anchored, as his original had been destroyed in a missile attack on his home.
Within the Rainbow Lounge, Pal and Frankie continue to explore, hunting for anything that might help their investigation. Paldit is extremely happy, the work they are undertaking is exactly the sort of thing that his rig loved and Albert's green (disguised as a grey) can't help but hope Paldit is able to inload to Pal later. They discover a tap labelled 'Ketone Kocktail' and then find a small cap that moves slightly. Worried about a trap, Frankie tells Pal to stand a way back, only to find that Paldit had already positioned himself at the farthest end of the bar. They uncover a roll of film within and set to work on it. Frankie realises that Beta's dittos had had extremely fine pixel emitters coating his skin, allowing the ditto to change his 'look' effortlessly. Beta was in a league far above Albert's, though Albert had considered himself the Sherlock to Beta's Moriarty. Through the several meetings Beta had with Queen Irene, his earlier appearances all featured the plaid-skinned ditto, though with differing designs until the last few that had adopted the same repeated design without the pixel emitters. A close examination revealed that beneath the paint, the ditto's skin was a high quality and expensive white. Or possibly even platinum, the colour of choice for Vic Kaolin's dittos.
RealAlbert and Ritu manage to hitch a ride to the Candidate Camp (where hobbyists crafted and tested combat designed dittos). The truck driver that offered them a ride is disappointed to realise that they were not scouts (he had been hoping they were talent scouts for the army, as they were clearly not combat-capable dittos). Officially the government frowned on amateur ditviolence, the military doesn't publicly encourage it, but unofficially, the military watches and makes offers on any interesting designs that they notice. As they make their way into the arena, Albert spots a talent scout, designed to resemble a tax-collector. Albert demands to see Clara, and is forced to explain who he was, that he wanted to get to her before she found out. The ditto he is talking to tells him he is too late. Clara had found out and skipped town. To Albert's surprise he is told that not only had she gone AWOL (Absent Without Leave), she'd stolen a government helicopter and flown straight to the city. The ditto introduces itself as Gorden Chen and satisfied that Albert was who he claimed to be, and out of respect for Clara, he offers to help Albert with any favour. Something Albert takes him up on.
Dr. Yosil continues to talk with Albert's red, who attempts to encourage Dr. Yosil to expound on his theory, mainly in an attempt to avoid having to go through the procedure. Albert listens to him talk about how most people fail to make decent copies, how their biological imperatives anchor the copies to the original standing wave. Each ditto created from an original shared the original's standing wave and thus their subjective view of the world was shaped around that anchor. However, as Dr. Yosil concludes, he shocks the red ditto with the fact that his experiments had shown death as a method of removing the anchoring effect. Albert rails at the mad scientist, calling him a monster for murdering his rig in the name of science, earning laughter from Dr. Yosil who tells him that Albert is entirely too predictable.
Frankie and Pal make their way towards the Teller Building, calling Vic Kaolin to let him know they were still investigating and trying to follow what leads they could. The two dittos suspect Vic Kaolin of being involved, but don't dare let him know what they know for fear of any countermeasures he may have had installed on them. After contacting Vic Kaolin, they change direction and head instead for the Temple of Ephemerals, pushing past the line of dittos waiting treatment to talk to the woman who had treated Frankie earlier. Pal recognises her as an ex-girlfriend called Alexie, panicking as he asks Frankie whether she would recognise him, though Pal's ditto was still ferret-shaped. Paldit remains quiet through Alexie's inspection and the two of them are found with tracking devices and bombs on their dittos, which only helps settle any remaining doubt they had over Vic Kaolin's involvement. After the repair work, they ask Alexie if they can make use of chadors (a Persian word for robed garments, though in this setting it refers to a clothing that allows access to a VR world, effectively the Internet in visual form). He attempts to access the external site that Nell had uploaded their data to, only to be confronted by a simulacrum of the house's AI, demanding proof of his identity. His passwords and codes are insufficient because Nell notes that Frankie appears to be tuesday's green, though this would mean he should have expired. He is finally allowed to access the files though and discovers that Albert had indeed survived, disguised as a grey. He decides to spend some time narrating a report for the stored files in case any other dittos thought to check it.
RealAlbert has been taken by Chen's ditto into a subterranean military ditto storage to access a secure dataport, giving him a chance to communicate with Clara. The subterranean facility is filled with rank after rank of combat dittos kept in stasis, ready to fight any foreign invader. With extra power supply, these dittos might last a week tops, ensuring that they could not be used against a domestic population simply because they might expire (that and the dittos have imprinted personalities within them which might disagree with anyone who sought to use the dittos wrongly). As they make their way through the facility, Chen's ditto suddenly stops them. He had overheard something. They see auditors taking inventory of the military stock, no doubt concerned at the missile that had been used on Albert's home. Chen decides to take them out of the facility when they discover that Ritu is missing.
As Dr. Yosil begins his procedure on the red ditto, artificially raising the 'salmon' response (the ditto need to return to their rig to inload), Pal and Frankie are making their way through dittotown. Threading their way through several themed districts they meet realPal, Gadarene, ditLum and to Frankie's surprise, Beta. Paldit is excited, telling Pal about how happy he'd be to inload his memories, but Frankie focuses on talking to his nemesis about Vic Kaolin.
Within the base, Albert asks Chen if he had any devices that could track down real people and after some conflict between letting Albert know something that might let him get a whistleblower prize or risk leaving Ritu to be found by the auditors, he leads Albert to a series of combat suits. As Chen starts to climb into one of the suits, Albert attacks him, forced to kill the ditto to prevent realChen from ever realising Albert had been real. He takes the scout suit and tells himself to buy Chen a dinner one day, even if Chen would never understand why.
Meanwhile, Beta proves his identity by telling Frankie specific events that only the two of them should know before they begin to share what they knew. Frankie tells the assembled group that they had discovered Vic Kaolin behind the bomb, which also helped explain the 'competitor' that had been shutting down Beta's operations. Gadarene announces that Vic Kaolin had no doubt done it to destroy all of his enemies in one blow. The two protest groups were discredited, Albert killed by a missile, and the conspirators at the top, Queen Irene, Maestra Wammaker and Beta revealed as the criminal masterminds, allowing Vic Kaolin to come out on top. It is as they are discussing how the evidence gathered could open an investigation into Universal Kilns that the door is blown off its hinges. A gang named the Wax Warriors pushes in to kill them though Pal and his ditto respond, the two of them armed even as Frankie dives at Gadarene to protect the non-ditto. They fight off the horde of Wax Warriors though Paldit has to give his life to buy them some time in the fight, earning Pal's rage. Being human, the Wax Warriors do not and cannot target him (because destruction of property was merely a fine compared to murder), and Pal's anger at losing the chance to inload his dittos memories express itself as he pulls out a quasi-legal weapon called an evaporator. This panics the Wax Warriors who withdraw as Pal uses the microwave weapon to gun them down. Pal holds them off as Frankie makes an escape, knowing that the worst that would happen to Pal is being forcibly disarmed and given specialist drugs to make him forget the last hour.
While using the dataport, realAlbert discovers that Dr. Yosil had been a consultant for the design of the underground military base. His getaway cottage at Urraca Mesa happened to coincide with the tunnel networks dug out by the base. He follows a tunnel that leads in the same direction as Dr. Yosil's hideout in Urraca Mesa, finding himself brought to a dead-end room stacked with supplies, though the scout suit Albert is wearing tells him there are passages hidden in the room. Debating whether to chase after Dr. Yosil by himself, he decides against it, following some advice Clara had given him in the past. Following the maxim that courage was a best last resort, he makes a decision to call the authorities and let them know what he had found out when a tall figure looms out of the shadows towards him. A large combat golem stands facing him, freshly baked. It refuses to stop as Albert draws a pistol on it, so Albert fires, enraging it.
Albert's grey and red dittos are experiencing intense pain from Maharal's device, their memories converging between each other though Albert suspects that this cannot be all that Dr. Yosil has planned. The lengths he had gone through seemed absurd just to develop a technique to inload memories to a ditto. Dr. Yosil continues to explain as Albert is wracked by the pain of the procedure, telling him that he had to use Albert's dittos because his own copies had flawed ego-fields, they were not quite perfect copies, though Albert's dittos usually were. The concept of the anchor had come to him while Dr. Yosil was imprinting the copy that was currently experimenting on Albert's grey and red, which meant both the copy and original knew that his death would remove that anchor, explaining why Maharal's rig had suddenly become so paranoid. Albert manages to ask Dr. Yosil what he plans to accomplish, to which the mad ditto tells him, "the perfect copying machine."
Frankie continues to evade the Wax Warriors. After blasting two of the chasing dittos to pieces, he is left with a single shell in his scattergun (read: shotgun). He expends his last shell on two battle-dits that were close together before he is left trapped in a single building, all to aware of the dittos approaching cautiously. However, he is granted a last second save when Beta arrives in a hovercycle. He jumps aboard, trusting the sanctuary of his longtime foe.
RealAlbert is carried rather unceremoniously by the large, now one-armed golem (thanks to his shooting) and brought into a side passage. The golem doesn't respond to Albert's queries but hides him as a column of soldier dittos stalk past and head to the room Albert had been in earlier. Tearing apart a side partition, they storm through the hole towards where Albert suspected Dr. Yosil to be hiding. As they enter, Albert hears intense gunfire breaking out before the golem carrying him continues to take Albert further away. Albert is brought to a room where several autokilns are already at work, though he spots a ditto hovering menacingly over an active imprinter. The golem carrying Albert drops him to charge the other ditto and so Albert uses the distraction to approach the imprinter where he finds Ritu strapped in. He frees her, furious that someone had been forcibly imprinting her before the golem that had carried him manages to destroy the other, though not without collapsing itself. With what life the other golem has left within it, it taunts Albert, making him realise he is dealing with his adversary, Beta. When Albert demands to know how Beta managed to enter the subterranean base, Beta simply tells him to ask Ritu before expiring. Though the chance to ask questions is taken away when the nearby autokilns power up, not that Albert is inclined to believe any of the cryptic taunts that Beta gives him.
Within the laboratory, Albert's grey asks Dr. Yosil about the 'perfect copier', something Dr. Yosil calls the Glazier, which he explains, with pride, means 'God-Level Amplification by Zeitgeist Intensification and Ego Refraction.' Albert tells him he thinks it is an awful name, but he can work out its intentions clear enough. The grey and red ditto act as some sort of mirror to amplify whatever is between them. Surprised by Albert, Dr. Yosil decides to come clean about his project. The Standing Wave (or soul) is more akin to a fermion (a reference to particle physics) than a boson, the main difference being rejection and acceptance (an example of a fermion particle is an electron, which cannot be superimposed on itself due to its negative charge, while an example of a boson is a light quanta, which can be superimposed upon itself). Dr. Yosil's Glazier allows the standing wave to be coherence-multiplied (effectively able to increase the intensity of the standing wave). Maharal adds that by using Albert to create a perfect carrier wave, he would use that wave to amplify Dr. Yosil's soul. Effectively, at the cost of Albert's grey and red, Dr. Yosil intends to elevate himself above humanity, transcending his natural existence. Though an alarm begins to sound, announcing that there were intruders, that Dr. Yosil had an estimated 48 minutes before his laboratory was breached.
Frankie, rescued by Beta, finds himself flying around with his adversary as the ditto beside him concentrates on finding where Albert's rig had gone. He also requests Frankie to contact Inspector Blane of the Labour Subcontractors Association with the information he had, to submit a report that would exonerate both Albert and Beta, though the copyright infringement mastermind promises to help answer some questions for Frankie when Frankie works out that Beta isn't out to track Albert, but tracking Ritu, provided he goes ahead and transmits that report. He does so when they land near Albert's crash site (where his Volvo had crashed) only to find Beta armed with a gun, telling him he had wasted enough time on the green and was leaving. Left with little options in the desert and with Beta's hovercycle taking off, he decides instead to jump, grabbing one of the skids and hanging on, an illicit rider. Meanwhile, with no escape options open to realAlbert and Ritu, they are forced to head down the tunnel that leads towards Maharal's laboratory so that they could stay ahead of the platoon of imprinted Beta dittos that had just finished baking.
Within the laboratory, Albert's grey and red are no longer alone, their thoughts are mingled with countless other copies of his own consciousness, an amplified state of existence that has expanded his consciousness metaphysically (though it remains trapped between the grey and red 'mirrors' of the glazier). Albert's multi-layered consciousness is to be a vessel for Dr. Yosil's consciousness to ascend into a new strata of existence... except there is just one small issue. Though the device is attempting to reduce his ego, his sense of self, Albert is retaining his consciousness and perhaps worryingly... starting to enjoy the process.
Frankie continues to cling desperately to the underside of Beta's vehicle. He realises that Beta knows more than he lets on, that somehow Beta must be a key to understanding more of the events unfolding and so he remains, holding on, occasionally having his clay body burned badly by the jets of the hovercycle whenever Beta turns the craft. Though to Frankie there is no other alternative, with a lifespan measured in hours staying at the Volvo would be to admit defeat. Strangely, Frankie observes a curious sense of determination in him, as if a voice were telling him to hang in there. But eventually, Frankie can hold on no longer and drops... Only to find the drop much shorter than he anticipated. He has managed to hold on, against all odds until he had arrived. He spots Beta making his way to an small holiday house, no doubt that of Dr. Yosil (though he himself is unaware of this). Unfortunately for Frankie, parts of him have been glazed solid by the heat from the rotors during his trip...
RealAlbert and Ritu have meanwhile found themselves caught between two groups of Beta battle-dits in the tunnel leading to Dr. Yosil's laboratory. The battle-dits ahead of them are clearing the tunnel of traps and defences, while the group behind them stand ready to act as reinforcements, though the result means that RealAlbert and Ritu are stuck. He keeps trying to contact Base Security through his implant but is unable to reach them as they are too far away from the base, deep under the Urraca Mesa. Albert asks Ritu what Beta wanted her for, and after a moment's evasion, Ritu gives him an analogy using caterpillars and butterflies, explaining how the two were necessarily connected but neither creature cared for the other. Ritu explains that she is the butterfly, the one who gets to flit about in blithe ignorance.
As the echoes of gunfire come closer and closer to Maharal's experiment, Albert's trapped consciousness admires the genius of his experiment, such an undertaking must have been both beautiful and terrifying. Even know, Albert's multiplying consciousness can sense Maharal's fear battling with the awe-drenched draw of opportunity. Albert's expanded consciousness is able to reach out beyond the house, sensing people beyond the base. He is also aware that the experiment must have gone wrong somewhere as his consciousness has in no way been lessened. As the standing wave resonance continues to build, Albert begins to wonder who should benefit from this experiment. Should the inventor? Or should it be the one who currently dwelt within that standing wave?
Frankie manages to right himself and leaning against the cockpit of the Harley hovercycle for support, he starts slapping the controls, attempting to reach the radio. Unfortunately, he activates an emergency escape, resulting in his arm being trapped within the cockpit as it lowers. He directs his trapped left arm to continue pressing any button he could reach on the cockpit as the craft takes off, desparate to free himself. Eventually though, the limb is shorn off by the clamped grip and the Harley's wild motions. Frankie falls onto Maharal's cabin, able to brace his fall with his useless clay-baked right leg. He is aware of tremendous damage to his body and the ditto finally realises his time has come, there was little point in struggling on with the damage he had received. To Frankie's surprise, his inner voice tells him to get up, not to give up, and to even greater surprise, Frankie finds himself doing exactly that, crawling with one arm and a half-usable leg to enter Maharal's cabin, too stubborn to die.
Meanwhile, realAlbert is putting together the clues that had been hovering tantalisingly before him. Beta's name for example, implies number two (the second letter of the Greek alphabet - even the word itself is derived from Alpha and Beta). Ritu's middle name was 'Lizabetha,' though the reason Albert never really caught on was the gender differences. It is clear to Albert that Ritu suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder and that her other personality expressed itself through the dittos she made, explaining why her dittos tended to be aggressive towards her. It also explains why the Beta battle-dits had left them alone after trapping them between the two groups. Ritu's sub-personality (Beta) was the reason that the dittos that did function correctly tended to have gaps in their memories and is also the driving reason behind how Beta infiltrated the base. The Beta personality simply exerted pressure in the form of an urge to imprint until Ritu had no choice but to give in. Lastly, Albert realises that this explains why he had never been able to tie Beta to a physical body or name, because the rig was almost a polar opposite to the criminal mastermind. When Albert sees a side passage that branches off, he quickly tugs Ritu with him, trying to evade the Beta dittos around them. Albert's passage leads to a room but he realises belatedly that a damaged Beta golem lies between him and Ritu. Beta taunts them before telling Albert that Dr. Yosil was still alive thanks to Project Zoroaster, the ability to copy dittos reliably and replenish them. However, Beta continues to taunt his Alpha (Ritu) until she flees in a panic, headed towards the Beta battle-dits. The direction that Albert runs in ends in a storage room for bio-weapons, something that chills the detective to his bones, but he finds the entrance blocked by Beta dittos that quickly grab, restrain and carry him away from the room.
Albert's trapped consciousness is now able to observe death occurring amongst the souls/standing waves it can perceive, learning rapidly as it develops between the two mirrors. He is also able to use his expanded consciousness to determine a soul's attributes, able to see harmonious connections which he dryly realises would be a good use of the technology to set up a dating service, through it all though, this Albert has changed from the original. This Albert is able to not only understand Yosil's dream, but even appreciate it. He even comes to believe that he would make a better god than Dr. Yosil. The trapped consciousness realises that the two souls being copied were not sufficient alone, and is able to 'see' from Dr. Yosil's thoughts the fact that he intended to utilise a missile strike on the city to sever the anchors of other souls. Albert's consciousness doesn't believe that Dr. Yosil should be allowed to kill all those innocents... at least until it could be sure that the deaths would achieve the desired result. Through this all, Frankie has managed to crawl into the start of the compound, though his inner voice directs him to go right, away from Beta's path, urging him that it might be important. With no real choices, the crippled green ditto begins to crawl his way up a staircase.
Beta's battle-dits have been heavily expended in the fight to gain access to Dr. Yosil's lab, leaving only a single damaged Beta to watch them. Albert takes the opportunity to ask Ritu when she realised that Beta was a part of her personality. As a child, Ritu had always known something was wrong with her, something that made her sabotage her own friendships or saying things she didn't intend or would later regret. It was when she started imprinting dittos, realising that few worked as intended, and those that did had gaps in their memory, that she realised that something was wrong. Though she denied her problems by choosing to believe it was a bug in the ditto, that the next model of ditto would resolve those issues. Together they reason out that the reason ditKaolin had attached them in their car was because Vic Kaolin had found out about Beta, and had taken Ritu's ditto disguise as Beta. However, as they talk, Beta's battle-dit interrupts, telling them that actually, Maharal had formed an alliance with Beta. Maharal would provide Beta with high quality dittos shipped to Ritu's house, including the ones with the pixelated skin and in return, Beta would teach Maharal how to avoid the world's eyes. Beta admits that over the past few weeks Ritu had begun to fight back, including terminating her own dittos and refusing to imprint herself. Finally though, the last vestiges of Maharal's automated defences are beaten down and Beta tells them to come with him, to treat it as a family reunion and to see what their father had become.
Frankie makes it to the top of the staircase to find himself within an automatic missile control room, and as he watches, the system arms itself. Meanwhile, Albert's trapped consciousness becomes aware of the fact that Dr. Yosil might still be able to contend with him for 'god-hood' (for lack of a better word), and might even be able to win! The consciousness prepares itself for battle with Dr. Yosil, momentarily surprised by the fact that realAlbert is still alive but otherwise aware of how divergent the two personalities are now. Dr. Yosil straps himself into a chair and initiates a vocal command to launch the missiles and begin the final stage. Frankie, far above, witnesses the missiles preparing for launch. He can see a control system to stop the missiles, but he complains he cannot possibly reach it, only for that inner voice to tell him to improvise. RealAlbert breaks into the lab to witness the glazier in operation, along with Beta and Ritu, though Beta shouts, demanding his father stop, that they had a deal. Mentally, the two consciousnesses, Albert's separate one and Dr. Yosil's battle, though Albert's is aware that realAlbert is actually holding it back and like Dr. Yosil's ditto, rationalises the need to get rid of his rig. Frankie is busy attempting to tear his own leg off to use as a tool, both painful and difficult, until his inner voice steps in, teaching him how to manipulate the expiration enzymes to weaken just his leg. Armed with his leg (or perhaps legged with his leg) Frankie realises he will have just one chance as the missile system locks target and arms.
The two proto-divinities continue to battle as Albert approaches the computer that runs the glazier. Albert's consciousness reaches out to his rig, seeking to explain all that might occur and the cost involved. RealAlbert finds himself picking up a pencil and holding it before his right eye, influenced by the copy of his own soul. His decision is the deciding factor, for the two personalities, his and Yosil's would destroy each other without external help. Frankie throws his leg and down below the effects are felt as the launch is cancelled, pending immediate repairs that the computer system initiates. A delay, not an ending. Dr. Yosil's consciousness learns of his rival consciousness' plan and starts to harm realAlbert's body, channelling agony into him even while Dr. Yosil called for his daughter to come to him and place herself between the mirrors. This would fulfil the deal that he made with Beta and allow Dr. Yosil to defeat Albert. Albert's consciousness reacts by teaching his rig that pain is an illusion, and how he could defeat such a thing by thought alone, but in sharing with his rig, Albert's consciousness also shares the imagery of Frankie's heroism. And it is then that realAlbert realises that he cannot be a God, nor would he want to be one. He reaches instead for a folding metal chair, intend on smashing the computer, something that alarms his own consciousness. Albert's proto-god decides there and then that he had to mimic Dr. Yosil and kill his own rig. Ironically, even Yosil agrees though to the surprise of both consciousnesses, the inner voice that had been talking to Frankie tells them it won't be done and Albert is freed to smash the computer.
Frankie himself watches as the display indicated he had managed to delay the launch, though the repair system would continue the launch soon until suddenly the system shut down due to an interruption with the command source. The rockets are disarmed and returned to their silos. His contentment is shattered when the inner voice returns, telling him to get moving once more. Frankie gets moving, though he is crippled beyond belief, with only an arm now to drag his deteriorating body along. The two combatants battling for the position of god-hood discover that there was in fact something already there. Something that takes the collected consciousnesses, including realAlbert's and teaches him. Teaches him not to directly interfere, but to nudge, to guide. To make a waiter collapse for example, letting Albert's green survive. Though the consciousness guiding Albert informs him that even that was too overt, the mystery of the waiter becoming a paradox that would gnaw at him. It takes Albert to the site of their crash with the Volvo, taking command of ditKaolin's body to drive the ruined car off the road and safe from prying eyes to prevent rescue coming too early. It takes Albert along to the base, finding Ritu as she lay fighting her compulsion to imprint with Beta, before taking command of her first ditto, the first battle-dit out of the kiln that had 'rescued' Albert.
Frankie meanwhile has managed to pull himself into Maharal's inner sanctum. There he spots the imprinter, and realises he could imprint himself, copy himself as a method of ensuring he did not die and also so that his copy could go back to the missile room and smash the control surfaces. Unfortunately, being unable to stand and with only one arm, he realises that the proposition had one small issue. Namely that he did not know how he would get himself up onto the slab.
The god-like being that talks to Albert, smoothing his own ascension, tells him that he is an echo of Albert, that Albert should not be so surprised in this plane of reality as paradox is the norm. It takes Albert to a few moments before, where he can see Frankie defeated and lying in the dust of the departing hovercycle. It urges him to mimic its voice and nudge Frankie, telling him to get up and keep going, not to give up. Albert is then taken to witness the moment after the destruction of the computer, watching both Beta's ditto and Ritu charging towards Albert, too late to stop him. He is given a glimpse into Ritu, allowed to understand how and why Beta had developed from her. Not just genes but a trauma in her past when her father had attempted to imprint some of his talent into her, a very painful process, done before it had been made illegal.
At the very end, Vic Kaolin's ditto has arrived, brandishing a weapon, screaming about betrayal, though he is too late, as are the soldier dittos that have finally broken through Beta's rearguard. The World Eye is for once, too slow to stop the conspiracy. The various groups plunge towards the mirrors, though only realAlbert seems to appreciate what is happening. Frankie continues his desperate attempt to copy himself, finding an imprinting slab with a chair beside it then adding an upended waste basket to the chair so that he might climb atop it and get onto the slab. Some of his fingers on his only arm fall off, as do some of his teeth, revealing how little time he has left. With one great and final effort, he uses the technique taught to him earlier to discard his useless lower torso and manages to fling himself into the air, his last arm shattering in the process. The armless, torso and head fly through the air only to miss the imprinter and as a final irony have his head roll into a wastebasket.
The glazier beam fires, tearing both the grey and red mirror apart and flattening Dr. Yosil's ditto into the wall due to a misalignment before the beam instantly turns on an axis that lies at right angles to every known direction and disappears from sight... except for realAlbert who appears to track the beam. RealAlbert is still connected by virtue of being the 'anchor.' The wave travels across the Earth, invisible but observing before heading into space. As Frankie lies in his wastebasket, awaiting his coming end he is treated to a vision of an angel, Clara, wrapped in combat armour. She is accompanied by Chen, though the remains of Albert's green believe he is imagining it. However, Clara's voice keeps him focused on her as she reaches in to pick up his head, soothingly telling him that everything would be alright.
Some time later, Frankie sits in a car beside Clara, embodied in a high quality ditto having clearly been copied successfully. Along with them are Pal and realAlbert, though realAlbert seems to have been affected by the glazier beam, smiling enigmatically and as Frankie puts it, able to shave and clothe himself when gently coaxed. They are headed to Vic Kaolin's estate, timing their car to the arrival of two other cars. As they get out, Clara asks Pal if he and realAlbert would be alright on their own. Pal confirms, saying that the two of them could stroll around the grounds, though when Pal asks realAlbert what he thinks, he receives only a comment about dust and how 'they' left shapes in it. However, as they enter the grounds, Pal gives a discrete signal to a ferret-like ditMorris that had been clinging to his chair's undercarriage. Dropping down, ditMorris heads towards the building, scaling the walls.
Major Clara Gonzales and ditMorris talk with Vic Kaolin's ditto after he finishes supervising the delivery of a crate. He mentions that he hadn't been expecting them so early, but was nevertheless pleased to see them. Clara claims to have been using East Coast time, hence their mistake. The two of them have matters to discuss with ditKaolin, though the ditto first enquires how Albert is finding his body. Frankie's body is a very high quality ditto with realistic hair and skin texture that came with full sensory perception. It pushes the boundaries of legality due to its realism. DitKaolin mentions that Albert is to be provided with these high quality dittos until his rig had recovered from the events, though as far as Clara and Frankie knew, two weeks of expert study had only confirmed that realAlbert's mind/soul had 'gone away' in a manner that was not understood. The crate is opened as they talk, revealing the terracotta soldier that had belonged to Dr. Yosil. DitKaolin announces that he planned to keep it until his heir was ready to take it. He continues on to mention that Ritu was being treated by psychotherapists and that contact had been made with the Beta personality. When ditKaolin expresses his sorrow over Beta, Clara tells him to stow it, accusing him of deliberately maintaining a relationship with Beta for the convenience of having access to an individual who could so effortlessly avoid the World Eye. Naturally, ditKaolin admits to no such thing, but after Clara threatens to sub-poena him, adds that hypothetically he might have had dealings with such a figure. He knows that he has broken a large number of civil torts, that Maestra Wammaker and others could sue him for the copyright infringement work that Beta had done but he questions Clara, asking if she would want to risk their beneficial relationship by making such knowledge public, i.e. threatening to withhold the dittos he was providing for Frankie (who was unable to inload due to Albert's condition).
DitMorris manages to scale the building without being detected and is able to use surveillance equipment to find the group that had arrived ahead of them, stashed away to avoid being found out. Gadarene, Lum, Maestra Wammaker and three other shakers and movers. Downstairs, Clara and Frankie continue to talk with ditKaolin. The missiles with virus warheads proved to be a big change for the world, several members of the Dodecahedron both current and retired were imprisoned, while ditKaolin mentions that more people were choosing to adopt his own lifestyle choice, to cloister themselves away and only interact through dittos. Eventually ditKaolin is dismissed and replaced by a hologram of realKaolin who continues to talk with them. The ferret-like ditMorris manages to prove that realKaolin is not dead which Clara and Frankie use to piece together the last reasons. They are aware that the group he has stashed away upstairs have arrived in order to set their stories straight, but they accuse Vic Kaolin of using the plague missiles to forward his own agenda for immortality. Legally, dittos are not people and so are not allowed legal rights, but if Vic Kaolin managed to make his method of living (hiding away like a hermit and only interacting with dittos), he could continue to live on after death in the form of copies of dittos. It gives a motive for Vic Kaolin's actions and explains how he might utilise the fear caused by the news of the plague missiles to his advantage. They leave, Pal and Albert's ferret-like ditto going along with him to visit Alexie at the Temple of Ephemerals, while Frankie, realAlbert and Clara head home to Clara's houseboat. At their home, the three have managed to come together, clearly ideal for each other, but when Frankie checks on realAlbert, he finds his rig lying in the imprinting machine, the device switched to inload. His rig turns to him and tells him: "She's all yours, Pinocchio." It is a farewell and a gift as realAlbert's mind is emptied for Frankie who would finally be a real boy, to belabour the Pinocchio metaphor.
Food for thought:
The great thing about Kiln People is that many of the conceptual ideas raised by the book are also compared and contrasted with, examined in subtle ways here and there that make the book's setting both fascinating and identifiable.
At its heart, it is a Noir crime thriller. We have a story filled with vast, over-reaching conspiracies set within a dark and cruel world. A world built on sex and cynicism (classics of the Noir crime genre), a world that is unashamed by its behaviour and seeks more out of life. There are few subtleties to the mimicry of the Noir crime thriller. Detective Albert Morris wears a trenchcoat and fedora, a lone crusader for justice in a world tainted by casual violence. Frankly, it doesn't really get more cliché than that.
Mentioned above, the basis for the dittos that mankind creates at whim is the Jewish 'golem' mythology. The mythology varies, but all agree that a golem is a being made of clay and animated to life. In the Genesis myth (from the bible), Adam is likewise sculpted from clay in his creator's image (though modern translations from the Hebrew use 'dirt'). Hence, dittos are effectively mankind's Adam, images of their creator.
Within the golem mythology though, there are disagreements with the method of animation. Some golems are said to be animated by having emet (אֱמֶת) inscribed on them. Emet is a Hebrew acronym for 'God created to do' and also means truth. But the sense of 'truth' refers to a physical action, that there is truth in doing an action, thereby being a reason for the golem to animate, that it is given purpose by truth. Another way to look at it would be to understand that dittos (and golems) are given a purpose in life, and that purpose is to do. Within the emet concept though, a golem is ended by removing the first letter, by changing אֱמֶת (emet) to מֵת (met), changing the meaning from truth to 'dead.' The letter removed is the Aleph, the first letter of the alphabet and represents God. Therefore, to remove God is to die. How fitting then that all dittos within the story do not exist without their creators. To refuse their creator is to never inload your memories, which is to die without continuity.
The other mythology with golems is the provision of a shem which gives the clay life. Shem translates most commonly to: 'the essential reality of who someone is.' We see this in the way that everyone had a standing wave, a scientifically quantified soul, but within that is an ineffable part of one's identity that continues to feature through all of one's dittos. For example, in Albert Morris' case this is expressed as his stubbornness.
There are however, a few errors through the text. The first starts with a ditto shaped like Horus, mentioned as the Egyptian god of death. Horus is the god of vengeance, sky, protection and war. The god of the afterlife and death is Osiris with Anubis being the protector of the dead.
The second features incorrect statements about China. One of the characters has received gifts from China, specifically from the Emperor (implying that the Republic of China was never founded). To be precise, the character has received a terracotta soldier. David Brin makes a reference to the terracotta soldier in his character's possession having come from China, the country that derived its name from the Ch'in Emperor. This is an incorrect spelling based on an out-of-date romanisation method called 'Wade-Giles' and David Brin really refers to the Qin Emperor (specifically Qin Shi Huang Di [秦始皇帝], whose name translates to: Qin Starts the Dynasties). In addition to the spelling error there is another factual error. China's name derives from Chini (چینی) in Middle Persian and the use of چینی to refer to China predates the Qin Dynasty, referring instead to the Qin State (9th Century BCE - 221 BCE).
Furthermore Sian is the Wade-Giles version of "Xian." The Wade-Giles method of romanisation had been replaced in 1958 with the more efficient and correct Pinyin system. While the Wade-Giles has been in use for over one hundred years, anyone who speaks Chinese today can tell you the subtle sound differences between Pinyin (which attempts to mimic the sounds that are spoken by Chinese) and Wade-Giles (which mimics the sounds that Westerners hear). Obviously, as a result, the Wade-Giles system is considered to be vastly incorrect (it would be impossible to argue that the originators of the language somehow are wrong when they speak compared to those who are translating what they perceive to hear).
Outside of these issues, the book as mentioned above, raises parallels to its own setting quite often, many of which are fascinating insights into the influences that the author drew on to write the story. The most notable is Fritz Lang's Metropolis, a black and white film of 1927. The film is an epic science fiction set in a dystopian future where the wealthy industrialists rule the city of Metropolis and are supported by a lower class of downtrodden workers that dwell underground and must toil constantly to keep the city running. The parallels with dittos are immediately apparent, this idea that though the dittos are sentient they are not treated as equals to mankind, instead used up as mere tools to further the wealthier original's needs. They are a new form of underclass that has emerged in mankind's society. On the one hand, there is a tragedy within this viewpoint, that mankind has so casually turned dittos into robots (here I mean the original meaning of the term, robota*). On the other hand though, dittos have liberated human society. They allow the originals to live lives of luxury compared to our present day existences. It is a society where every human being who can imprint and can obtain jobs for their dittos is otherwise free to do as they please. Clara for example, (in addition to her dittos fighting within the army), is a permanent university student, filling her life with learning different subjects one at a time, but mankind's freedom has come at the cost of their sentient mimics.
The book draws an analogy with the Roman Empire, which was built on the backs of slaves. Though the only real analogy is through the use of the violence that the dittos play out on behalf of their owners whims. In a sense, the setting of Kiln People is a dark setting where violence is sated through sanctioned (or at least, 'accepted') methods, such as the drama and fights that break out in dittotown. In that sense, the use of dittos to fulfil the whims of the owner create an essence of the Roman Empire before its collapse, of a world filled with immorality and violent excess with all of that hidden behind a thin veneer of civilised behaviour that 'real' people engage in.
*The term robot is not actually an English word. It derives from a Czech playwright who coined the word in 1920 after his brother suggested the term robota over labori which defines 'serf labour.' Effectively, when we name a thing 'robot' we really mean to call it a slave, like a serf, it is owned and has few rights to itself. To some extents, dittos are robots, able to have aspects of their sentience limited or even outright blocked, or able to have their sensory perception disabled. They toil for their owners without complaint (with the exception of rare 'Frankensteins')
Ditto technology represents an interesting take on the Frankenstein story. One thing that needs to be clarified first though is the common mistake people make with the original story. The title of that novel is actually: Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. Frankenstein was not the monster, he was the doctor who created the monster. The monster has no name throughout the original tale, referred to only by derogative terms such as 'wretch,' 'demon,' and 'fiend.' A faulty ditto is referred to as a Frankenstein, in reference to the monster that Victor Frankenstein created. However, the Frankenstein link at first seems rather separate to the general ditto theme, but we must recall that it is the subtitle to the text that matters. 'The Modern Prometheus.' In Latin versions of the Promethean myth, Prometheus created man using clay and water, and was later punished by Zeus for disobedience (giving the fire Zeus had withheld to man). In much the same way, Frankenstein dittos are dittos that disobey their creators and are punished accordingly (by being fair game to any human or ditto that chooses should the ditto be reported as a Frankenstein).
Though, of course, I cannot help but agree with the cynicism in this book. The idea of using dittos as a means to express violence in order to preserve real lives is quite acceptable, provided one believes that dittos are not equal to human beings (which for example, Tolerance Unlimited doesn't believe). An interesting political aspect within this book is the concept of the Whistleblower Prize, a good take on the benefits of a Capitalist society. The idea being, if something illegal is going on within one's workplace or community, the Whistleblower Prize richly rewards any individual who blows the whistle, giving instant celebrity status to anyone who uncovered illegal acts or corruption which represents an innovative way to manipulate human greed into a positive action.