Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Clone - Richard Cowper

Alvin works with chimps. They treat him kindly as he isn’t very bright. Which is why only Norbert really takes Alvin seriously when he says he has seen an angel. Not that Norbert, religious though he is, believes that Alvin has seen an angel, but… Before they can work out what has happened, Norbert the chimp is asked to escort Alvin from their forest work camp, across London to the laboratory of Professor Poynter.

The Professor believes in Alvin’s vision because she knows what Alvin really is – a clone, one of four young men who together form a gestalt entity. Mind wiped and separated years before after demonstrating immense psychic powers, the four are getting their memory back. But then things go wrong. Alvin and Norbert get caught up in a mass extermination, Alvin finds his angel only to be kidnapped by militant apes, the Security Services lumber into action, and a chase across Europe ensues.

This is a marvellous romp, a comic novel of great inventiveness, full of the deep questions one associates with Cowper’s work, deftly executed with some wonderfully drawn characters. Politics, the nature of identity, animal rights, the ethics of experimentation, and the relative merits of apples and bananas are all explored with a lightness of touch that makes this a wonderful read. The story is fairly simple, yet it is an excellent vehicle for exploring ideas and issues. And demonstrating the range of Cowper’s talent.