I read this book by accident. Yes, that is possible. Someone mis-nominated this book as one dealing with some interesting philosophical concepts, namely a society dealing with the consequences of people being telepathic. I got it on the assumption that it was going to tackle those subjects only to find that it dealt with similar topics as Richard K Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs trilogy. As if I hadn’t had enough of that already.
Kiln People is set in a society that utilizes a technology that allows people to upload and download their consciousness into other bodies. But unlike Richard Morgan’s books, here the bodies are temporary and artificial . There is also no limit to the amount of versions of oneself a person can have running around. The story follows a detective (who is an actual detective and not a Superman) who follows some standard intrigue regarding the technology and some people in power.
David Brin has consistently disappointed me. The other book I read by him was the absolutely god awful ‘The Postman’, which aside from being a terrible book resulted in a movie that I still hold as the worst thing ever to be professionally made. This book maintains that legacy of awful. It wasn’t merely that I was still annoyed with dealing with Richard K. Morgan’s incompetent handling of the matter. This was a whole new, and equally moronic mishandling of the material. While it was interesting to see that Brin understood that there really is nothing wrong with one person with multiple versions running around doing things, he decides to try to explain the technology in his story. This is never a good idea, and the explanation for impossible technology is often just kind of hand-waved away in science-fiction. Brin’s waving away comes in the form of declaring that this technology works on people’s souls.
‘Soul’ is about the most dead concept in all of philosophy. And this isn’t really a new concept. It’s been dead ever since people have started to have a better understanding of the brain and its relationship to our perception of reality and consciousness. There really isn’t any room for the concept of a soul anywhere in our current model of understanding consciousness.
But that is the avenue Brin decided to go down in his novel. And thus with every mention of how the technology worked, I was kind of brought out of the work. Nor was it the only thing to do so. The book mentioned just how economically crippling this technology would be, but then never really explored the idea in much more depth, deciding instead to follow the standard intrigue of people doing nefarious things for conspiratorial reasons.