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madbkwm

madbkwm

The Bradbury Report - Steven Polansky This was a fun read. I have several complaints with the details, but overall it was well done. The narrator "Ray Bradbury" had a very clear and consistent voice. He reminded me at times of Mersault from Camus' The Stranger; once again I'm finding slightly autistic, very literal voices appealing (and the fact that Anna hated Sundays I did take as a throwback to The Stranger). This book also (for obvious reasons) reminded me of Kashiguro's Never Let Me Go. The premise is the same (farming clones to use as spare parts), but Haversham is a humane place where the clones (while kept separate) are still treated fairly and raised as privileged children, while the Clearances are clearly inhumane (although we don't ever get any real answers about what happens in there, everything is always conjecture).

For the details, I found a few things to be annoyingly inconsistent:
First,they are supposed to be living in 2071, yet $60K is a large amount of money. In 2012, $60K is a moderate salary and could be expected to last a little over a year for a family of 3. I know that they are provided with a place to live and given a small stipend from the organization, but other than that all expenses must be paid out of pocket...yet at the end of 13 months there is still a lot of money left. This just seemed too unbelievable, especially given inflation.
Second, Anna is simultaneously unaware of the details of her organization and terrified of the organization. They are originally described as a smallish group, not very organized (they only know one or two others in the group), and one in which her husband was a founding member. However, someone is powerful enough to find all these safe houses and move the three of them; the Tall Man is involved at every step (so certainly he knows more than just 3 other members). Her description of them did not feel consistent with either her fear or their ability to make things happen.
Third, when Alan first comes to Anna and is in withdrawl, I found all the poop unnecessary. He is not eating (at least at first) and would not have all this waste. I think Polansky was trying to see Anna as surrogate mother cleaning up and getting acclimated to her baby. I did not find this necessary, she is cleaning up vomit (which was believable) and his urine...the poo felt over the top.
Fourth, Ray goes to great lengths to talk about how religion is no longer part of society (I loved the Bush as Pretender comment) and to state that churches are now mostly museums and public civic centers. So, why then does Anna go to church every week? Shouldn't he have commented on her oddly religious state? I think Polansky just was cheaply trying to appeal to both sides by having an aetheist and a believer come together...just annoying, though to me.
Fifth, I did not think that (again projecting into the future) Anna and Ray would be so opposed to porn. Nor did I think that Ray would be so asexual. Even now in 2012, young people are pretty accepting of sexual needs and desires. Anna seems like too much of a prude for someone born in 2004ish.
Sixth, they were conflicting about Ray/Alan's appearance. Clearly Alan was better looking that Ray at the same age (and now of course since Ray is old), but frequently they say that Alan is beautiful and yet all agree that Ray was rather awkward looking. Despite the differences in height and weight and general carriage (which do vary occasionally in identical twins), there is an inconsistency here.
Finally, I realize that the idea behind the library scene is to lend credence to the idea that in the Clearances the clones slept in stacks. BUT WHAT ABOUT EBOOKS? I would imagine in 60 years that there would not be libraries in this sense.

Polansky makes several attempts to engage the reader in a moral discussion of the cloning process. From the beginning, Ray notes "the very terms we use 'original,' 'copy' were designed to be flattering to the former, dismissive to the latter...we are guilty, individually and collectively, of a staggering narcissism." I agree that the concept of cloning on a mass scale (especially one that results in these large scale factory-farm-like living conditions) is heinous, but I'm not sure that it needs to have an existential component.

I also liked the realism in that once in control, the activist group does not necessarily treat Alan any better than the government has been treating him.

As a complete aside, I found the genderized comment "A mother is only as happy as her saddest child" to be unbelievably offensive. It implies that women are so dependent upon their children as to not have any other life without them, while simultaneously implying that men are not as concerned with their children's happiness.

Fun summer read. I didn't take any of it too seriously and was not really engaged on an existential level. I know Polansky tried, but it didn't fell compelling to me as a discussion about human rights. I also didn't think he was very accurate in his dealing with the future. I think it would have been better if it was only 20-30 years in the future (rather than 60) and he had tried a bit harder to be realistic about changes. Overall, it was a light, fun book.