Tag Archives: Private Investigator

Brin, David; Kiln People (2002)

As with many of his novels, David Brin’s Kiln People is an excellent science fiction story about a highly possible future. David Brin seems to keep himself up-to-date on neurological research and extends that information into alternatives we might well encounter if humans do not destroy themselves (also highly probable) before such technology becomes possible.

Racism is a huge part of the short lives of dittos in Kiln People. Dittos are clones, made of nano-clay, who live only 24 hours. A person’s  consciousness is copied into them and all of their experiences may be copied back into your consciousness again – as long as it is done within 24 hours after their birth. At that time, dittos turn into a kind of sludge. The color the ditto equals its value and abilities. Prices go from the cheapest Orange dittos, that are generally used for manual labor where independent thinking or sensing is seldom required, to the most expensive Platinum ones, that are like a better version of their Archie (original). Dittos are have varying degrees of independent thinking but must always be obedient to their Archie’s commands. They can be forced to do anything you can possibly imagine. Dittos are made to fight each other to the death, to be sex-slaves, to dig in the mines or to be substitute private detectives. Their sensory system can be hyper-sensitive or practically non-existent depending on exactly what you want them to experience, which leaves a lot of room for shitty owners to make their ditto’s life a living hell. While an Archie may do anything to a ditto they meet, instant destruction follows if a ditto harms an Archie. Even though people are allowed to make their dittos do anything, only wealthy people get away with “real” criminal activities. So, just like today. No matter how nice their owner is, dittos are still at the bottom of the social ladder. Albert Morris is a fairly decent owner.

“… I figure if you make a creature, you’re responsible for it. That ditto wanted to matter. He fought like hell to continue. And now he’s part of me, like several hundred others that made it home for inloading, ever since the first time I used a kiln, at sixteen.”

“… The copier sifts your organic brain to engrave the Standing Wave onto a fresh template made of special clay, ripening in the kiln. Soon a new ditto departs into the world to perform errands while you have breakfast. No need even to tell it what to do.

It already knows.

It’s you.”

Albert is the main character. As a private investigator he uses dittoes to go where he does not want to go. In fact, with enough money, he would never have to leave his home. Depending on the case, Albert uses different colored dittos. In Kiln People, Albert uses Ebony (huge processing abilities), Greys (used as representatives) and Greens (used for his dirty work).

Albert has two missions in life. One is to reveal the identity of Beta. Beta and Albert have a long history of killing each other (i.e. their dittos), and Albert really wants to know who is behind his arch-nemesis’ alias. Being as good a private detective as possible is his second mission. Corporate espionage and digging up dirt on  competitors is something private investigators continue to do in the future.

“Ugh. What put me in this mood? Could it be Ritu’s news? A reminder that real death still lurks for us all?

Well, shrug it off! Life’s still the same as it was in the old days.

Sometimes you’re the grasshopper.

Sometimes you are the ant.”

Albert gets hired by incomprehensibly wealthy Aeneas Kaolin, co-inventor of dittos and owner of Universal Kilns, to look into the disappearance of Kaolin’s long-time friend, Yosil Maharal. When Maharal turns up dead in what seems to be a car accident, Albert wonders if it might be something more.

One thing I really liked about Kiln People was the way Brin told the stories of Albert’s dittos in Albert’s voice. At one point, there were four Alberts at the same time. None of them knew what was going on with any of the others because they had not been reintegrated into their Archie. Brin’s world-building happened through the eyes and ears of the various Alberts. What they learned, we learned.

I would not have wanted to live in such a society. I find ours challenging enough. It was an interesting society, though, and one I think most people would embrace. No room for Aspies though. Genetic tinkering had become common enough that our worst ailments were eradicated. That, I wouldn’t mind. Just as I think of today’s society, some of the political choices of the society of Kiln People did not make sense. At least the fanatics behaved predictably.

Towards the end, I felt preached at. I don’t mind crazy men’s ranting, but this felt more like Brin telling, not showing. I also enjoyed Brin’s sense of humour.

“Albert? Is that you in there?”Illusion or not, I couldn’t refuse her anything. Though lacking a body – or any other means to make sound – I somehow gathered strength to mouth four words.

“… just … a … fax … ma’am …”

In conclusion, I think I can safely say that there is plenty of action, no romance, much social commentary, humour, and some preaching. I liked it.



  • Audible: Read by Andy Caploe; Brilliance Audio, 2016
  • Bulgarian: Килн хора; Translated by Венцислав Божилов; Бард, 2002; Goodreads
  • English (British): Kil’n People; London, Orbit, 2002; Review
  • French: Le Peuple d’argile; Translated by Thierry Arson; Presses de la Cité, 2004; Review
  • German: Copy; Translated by Andreas Brandhorst; Heyne, 2005
  • Hebrew:  אנשי הכבשן; Translated by Ṿered Ṭokhṭerman; מודן הוצאה לאור, 2004; Review
  • Hungarian: Dettó; Translated by Haklik Norbert; Budapest, Metropolis Media, 2009; Reviews
  • Japanese: キルン・ピープル; Translated by 酒井昭伸 (Sakai Akinobu);  ハヤカワ文庫 (Hayakawa bunko) SF1628, 2007; Cover art: 加藤直之 (Katou Naoyuki); Review
  • Russian: Глина; Translated by С. Самуйлов; АСТ: Люкс, 2005 г; Cover art: SharksDen и Д. Бернса; Reviews
  • Spanish: Gente de Barro; Translated by Rafael Marín Trechera; Nova, 2003; Review

McGuire, Seanan: October Daye

Seanan McGuire (that has to be an Irish/Scottish name) is the author of the October Daye series. She has a great website with all sorts of fun “facts” about fantastical things.

“Acacia” by Tara O’Shea

October Daye is part fairy part human. It seems the fairies like to mingle with humans, leaving their off-spring to make it in the world as best they can. This series is full of racism and prejudice. The unfortunate halflings need to hide their fairyhood from the humans and are thought of as “less than” by the fairies.

What I like about the October Daye series is that Seanan knows how to write. I’ve already written about her “Newsfeed” books written under the pseudonym of Mira Grant. You’ll find the quality of writing is as good in these books. The Daye books are lighter in spirit. They are about the parallel magic world of the fairy. Humor and action abound and some romance gets slipped into the text as well. San Fransisco is Toby’s base and love.

I like Toby’s character. She’s quite different from a lot of the urban fantasy characters that are out there. Somehow she seems more believable


We meet October (Toby) for the first time in  Rosemary and Rue. Living with two cats, Cagney and Lacey, Toby is trying to make it on her own as a changeling in San Francisco.

After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, she’s retreated entirely from the fae community, spending her nights stocking shelves at a San Francisco grocery store and her days asleep in her apartment downtown.

Her days of trying to stay away from the fae community are about to end. When Countess Evening Winterrose phones Toby one evening trying to get help Toby is worried. But Toby wasn’t home when the Countess tried to get hold of her. Next time Toby sees Evening, she is dead. The gaes the Countess placed on Toby makes it inevitable that Toby finds herself yanked back into the world she thought she was leaving behind.


April by Tara O’Shea

A Local Habitation is the second book in the series about October Daye. It’s important to Toby to maintain contact with her changeling friends. There are all too many of them who find themselves caught between two chairs, unable to fit in anywhere. Fortunately for Toby, she has friends who are part of the pure-blood fae world. One of them is Tybalt, the king of the Cait-Sidhe, and Duke Sylvester Torquill, her liege lord.

Sylvester comes by her apartment seeking Toby’s help. He needs her to go to Fremont, near San Jose. His niece, January, seems to have gone missing, and the Duke wants to know what has happened to her (if anything). January is the Countess of Tamed Lightning, making this something of a diplomatic problem – trying to avoid war with the neighbours. Fortunately, Sylvester does not expect Toby to go alone. Quentin, a teenage Daoine Sidhe, is sent to help Toby if she should need it. Off they go into the land of adventure.


The Blood Road by Tara O’Shea

Everything seems to be going well for Toby. Her PI business is busy, she visits with her friends and gets to sleep days. Then her friend (past lover) calls asking to meet her. When a fetch knocks on her door, Toby knows nothing but trouble is coming her way.

An Artificial Night brings Blind Michael into Toby’s life. The Firstborn son of Oberon and Maeve begins claiming the children of the Mists as his own – something he tends to do at regular intervals. Some of these children belong to friends of Toby and she is taking this quite personally.

Her fetch, May Daye, makes her worry about the success of her challenges. That is because fetches only arrive when you are expected to die, giving you the chance to set your life in order. But that will be difficult when Toby is running to one crisis or the other.


“Lily” by Tara O’Shea

Late Eclipses is the fourth book in the October Daye series. After her challenges in An Artificial Night Toby is trying to live as normal a life as she can. But with her fetch, May, living with her, that isn’t exactly easy. May is pretty much Toby’s opposite – bright and cheerful and fond of healthy living.

Then a messenger from the Queen of Mists arrives. Toby is expected in her presence immediately. Toby brings May and her troll friend Danny along to back her up. Even though the Queen is the reason Toby has ended up with her own knowe, she despises Toby for being a changeling. Warned by Tybalt that the Queen is out to get her, it comes as a surprise when the Queen of Mists actually installs her as Countess Winterrose. But Tybalt warns Toby that she is being set-up for something.

In Late Eclipses we learn more about Toby’s mother. There is also relation stuff between Toby and Tybalt/Connor – you know, the whole who will she choose thing. A close personal friend to Toby dies and that brings more loss into Toby’s life – and responsibility.


One Salt Sea by Tara O’Shea

One Salt Sea begins as Toby is getting a grip on the management of her knowe. The Countess of Wintergreen is taking in refugees and letting changelings take an important role in dealing with the management of her knowe.

Then war threatens between the land and the sea. The sons of the Duke and Duchess of Saltmist have been kidnapped and the Luideag calls in her marker and tells Toby that she needs to find the boys before fighting breaks out. The Queen of Mists is suspected of being behind the kidnappings and Toby needs to both prove that this is not the case and to find the boys before their parents lose their patience.

One thing Seanan is good at is to show that not all consequences are fun for her characters. There will be a lot of that in One Salt Sea. I really liked the sadness along with the humor in this book.


Toby is still recovering from the events of One Salt Sea. After having risked her life time and again, she finally realizes that she needs to ask people for help in doing things. And Toby does ask for help.

When Etienne comes asking for help, Toby brings the whole crew in on the job. His daughter has gone missing. The fact that he did not know of her existence is irrelevant to his wanting the girl back. Her name is Chelsea and she is around 15 years old.

The problem with Chelsea is that her fae side is strong. Her teletransporting is off the scale and it seems she has been kidnapped for nefarious reasons. It is up to Toby to solve the mystery and to recover Chelsea (hopefully alive).

Ashes of Honor was an easy read, like all of the October Daye books. Seanan’s writing is seamless, and that translates to flowing reading for me. I’m dragged down this river of words, not wanting to get off the river. Unfortunately, duty does call and sleep is more and more necessary as I age. Bummer.