We love stories about clones because they can go in so many different directions. Are the clones the heroes, oppressed people just fighting for understanding? Or are they not-quite-human usurpers, looking to replace a human in their own life? Were they created to save humanity from an apocalyptic future? Or are they a doomed immortality scheme, teaching us mortals the folly of tampering in God’s domain? It should come as no surprise that sometimes these tales are all of the above…
We’ve rounded up thirteen of our favorite clone stories below, but be sure to add your own picks in the comments!
All of these titles can be found in the Tor Store on iBooks.
Old Man’s War—John Scalzi
The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce—and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place. So we fight. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force, which shields the home planet from too much knowledge of the situation. What’s known to everybody is that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve your time at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.
John Perry, a 75-year-old retired advertising writer, is taking that deal. On board the CDF ship Henry Hudson, Perry and his fellow recruits are given new, younger bodies—essentially clones of themselves, but genetically engineered with enhanced musculature, green skin, and yellow cat-like eyes. Perry now possesses enormous strength and dexterity, nanobot-enhanced artificial blood, enhanced eyesight and other senses, and a BrainPal—a neural interface that, among other capabilities, allows Perry to communicate with other members of the CDF via thought.
Brothers in Arms (Vorkosigan Saga)—Lois McMaster Bujold
Miles Vorkosigan is having enough trouble keeping his two identities separate—the charismatic Admiral Naismith of the Denarii Mercenary Fleet and a Vor lord of the Barrayan aristocracy when assassination attempts begin. But are his enemies after Miles Naismith or Lord Miles Vorkosigan? The problem of split identities becomes even more confused when a clone of Miles is discovered, created and trained as an assassin by Komarran diehards determined to free their planet.
For more adventures in cloning from the Vorkosigan Saga, you can also check out Mirror Dance!
Kiln People—David Brin
In a perilous future where disposable duplicate bodies fulfill every legal and illicit whim of their decadent masters, life is cheap. No one knows that better than Albert Morris, a brash investigator with a knack for trouble, who has sent his own duplicates into deadly peril more times than he cares to remember. But when Morris takes on a ring of bootleggers making illegal copies of a famous actress, he stumbles upon a secret so explosive it has incited open warfare on the streets of Dittotown.
Dr. Yosil Maharal, a brilliant researcher in artificial intelligence, has suddenly vanished, just as he is on the verge of a revolutionary scientific breakthrough. Maharal’s daughter, Ritu, believes he has been kidnapped-or worse. Aeneas Polom, a reclusive trillionaire who appears in public only through his high-priced platinum duplicates, offers Morris unlimited resources to locate Maharal before his awesome discovery falls into the wrong hands. To uncover the truth, Morris must enter a shadowy, nightmare world of ghosts and golems where nothing—and no one—is what they seem, memory itself is suspect, and the line between life and death may no longer exist.
Woken Furies (The Takeshi Kovacs series)—Richard K. Morgan
Once a gang member, then a marine, then a galaxy-hopping Envoy trained to wreak slaughter and suppression across the stars, a bleeding, wounded Kovacs was chilling out in a New Hokkaido bar when some so-called holy men descended on a slim beauty with tangled, hyperwired hair. An act of quixotic chivalry later and Kovacs was in deep: mixed up with a woman with two names, many powers, and one explosive history.
In a world where the real and virtual are one and the same and the dead can come back to life, the damsel in distress may be none other than the infamous Quellcrist Falconer, the vaporized symbol of a freedom now gone from Harlan’s World. Kovacs can deal with the madness of AI. He can do his part in a battle against biomachines gone wild, search for a three-centuries-old missing weapons system, and live with a blood feud with the yakuza, and even with the betrayal of people he once trusted. But when his relationship with “the” Falconer brings him an enemy specially designed to destroy him, he knows it’s time to be afraid.
After all, the guy sent to kill him is himself: but younger, stronger, and straight out of hell.
Never Let Me Go—Kazuo Ishiguro
As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. The children are revealed to be clones, created to be “donors” that provide vital organs for “normals” later in life. After graduation, tensions rise among the trio as they all struggle to find acceptance and understanding outside Hailsham and with each other.
Years later, Ruth and Tommy have reentered Kathy’s life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang—Kate Wilhelm
Massive environmental changes and global disease, attributed to large-scale pollution, cause the collapse of civilization around the world. One isolated community works together in an attempt to survive the coming catastrophe. However, as the death toll mounts due to a disease and other causes, they discover that they have all been rendered infertile.
The only way to survive is through cloning…but after several generations are born this way, they have become very different people than their creators, and reject the expectations of the now elderly community leaders. Will the young clones’ empathic existence give them a strength unknown to their forebears? Or will their dependence on each other doom them all?
Spares—Michael Marshall Smith
Ex-cop Jack Randall is the dangerous veteran of a savage war, burnt-out, dropped out, and way overdrawn at the luck bank. Now Jack works at the only job still available to him: as a guard at a Spares farm where bodies are raised to allow for dedicated replacement organs. When he realizes they are people with feelings, he goes on the run with seven of the Farm’s inmates (well, six and a half), and the people who own them will do anything to get them back.
What’s worse, Jack is on a head-on collision course with a cold-blooded killer with one purpose: to cancel Jack once and for all. Jack Randall has a choice to make, and he might still make a difference…if he can run fast enough.
The World of Null-A—A.E van Vogt
It is the year 2650 and Earth has become a world of non-Aristotelianism, or Null-A. This is the story of Gilbert Gosseyn, who lives in that future world where the Games Machine, made up of twenty-five thousand electronic brains, sets the course of people’s lives. Gosseyn isn’t even sure of his own identity, but realizes he has some remarkable abilities and sets out to use them to discover who has made him a pawn in an interstellar plot.
Grandmaster A. E. van Vogt was one of the giants of the 1940s, the Golden Age of classic SF. Of his masterpieces, The World of Null-A is his most famous and most influential. It was the first major trade SF hardcover ever, in 1949, and has been in print in various editions ever since.
The Cloning of Joanna May—Fay Weldon
When Joanna May’s husband, nuclear entrepreneur Carl, discovered that she was having an affair, he filed for divorced and had her lover killed. Now, sixty-year-old Joanna has no children and lives with her decades-younger gardener, a wannabe rock star. Carl, who also lives with a much younger partner, has never quite recovered from the affair—and Joanna is about to discover just how tightly he’s held on. Thirty years ago, when Joanna thought she was having an abortion, Carl and her gynecologist conducted a terrifying experiment. The result? Jane, Gina, Julie, and Alice; one person replicated four times.
And all of them, Joanna included, are suffering at the hands of the men in their lives. The Cloning of Joanna May is a spellbinding novel about the elusive nature of identity, the consequences of playing God, and the ongoing struggle for power between women and men.
Great North Road—Peter F. Hamilton
A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family—composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone “brothers” have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies…. or maybe not so friendly. At least that’s what the murder of a North clone in the English city of Newcastle suggests to Detective Sidney Hurst. Sid is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand off this hot potato of a case. The way he figures it, whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career.
Yet Sid’s case is about to take an unexpected turn: because the circumstances of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to a killing that took place years ago on the planet St. Libra, where a North clone and his entire household were slaughtered in cold blood. The convicted slayer, Angela Tramelo, has always claimed her innocence. And now it seems she may have been right. Because only the St. Libra killer could have committed the Newcastle crime.
Problem is, Angela also claims that the murderer was an alien monster.
The Fifth Head of Cerberus—Gene Wolfe
Far out from Earth, two sister planets, Saint Anne and Saint Croix, circle each other in an eternal dance. It is said a race of shapeshifters once lived here, only to perish when men came. But one man believes they can still be found, somewhere in the back of the beyond.
In The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Wolfe skillfully interweaves three bizarre tales to create a mesmerizing pattern: the harrowing account of the son of a mad genius who discovers his hideous heritage; a young man’s mythic dreamquest for his darker half; the bizarre chronicle of a scientists’ nightmarish imprisonment. Like an intricate, braided knot, the pattern at last unfolds to reveal astonishing truths about this strange and savage alien landscape.
The Iron Dream—Norman Spinrad
What if Adolf Hitler had emigrated to the United States in 1919? And what if he used his meager artistic skills to land a job as a pulp illustrator, and begun spinning tales fascist pulp tales in the guise of science fiction? Norma Spinrad’s The Iron Dream takes us to an alternate history where Hitler’s poisonous beliefs were confined to the pages of pulp magazines. He presents one of Hitler’s own works, Lord of the Swastika, which takes us to the year 1142 A.F. (“After Fire”) when a global nuclear war has corrupted the gene pools of nearly every inhabitant of Earth, humans are mutants with blue skins, lizard scales, and parrot beaks, and only the pure Feric Jaggar can save the world through mass mutant extermination. Finally, Spinrad gives us the faux scholarly analysis by fictional literary critic Homer Whipple to put the entire fantasy in perspective. The Iron dream was nominated for a 1973 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and won the 1974 Prix Tour-Apollo Award.
Cloned Lives—Pamela Sargent
Astrophysicist Paul Swenson creates five perfect clones in his own image, but they quickly become the targets of criticism, hostility, and abuse from a frightened public that does not understand their strange existence. This is the story of their loves and battles, triumphs and terrors, as they struggle to save their futures and the collective destiny they were created for…
Pamela Sargent has won the Nebula and Locus Awards and was honored in 2012 with the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award, given for lifetime contributions to science fiction and fantasy scholarship. Her many novels include Venus of Dreams, The Shore of Women, The Golden Space, The Sudden Star, and The Alien Upstairs.