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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Adam's Stepsons is a military science fiction novella written by M. Thomas Apple. To the military establishment at Armed Forces HQ, the clones were things, to be addressed using the pronoun "it", but their creator, Dr. Heimann, had considerable difficulty conforming with that protocol. Granted, they were the result of a scientific act rather than begotten as a true human would have been, but they were still flesh, blood and brain, fully functional human beings. Heimann's quandary was increased by the fact that the cloning had used the cells of his nephew, a young man he had raised ever since the boy's parents died in a skirmish years before. Patel had died in a crash and using his cells for the process was the most expedient means of getting the cloning process going. While his theories had formed the basis of the entire project, Heimann had been vocal in opposing it. The clones would be subliminally programmed and engineered to be killing machines. They would be sent to Mars as a genetically enhanced and deadly force whose target would be anyone of the Far Asian Consortium. The process was riddled with problems, however, as these cloned organisms sprang forth as fully formed adults with no childhood or developmental phase. The AF’s rigorous dehumanizing treatment seemed reckless and insufficient, prone to failure. Number Six was one such possible aberration. He had inexplicable memories of a crash on Mars. He also wondered why Dr. Heimann called him Seth instead of Number Six, and he began to question the restrictions imposed upon him and the others. Much as Dr. Heimann cared for that being who so recalled his nephew, he began to fear the clone who might have retained the worst of human emotions.
M. Thomas Apple's high-tech science fiction novella, Adam's Stepsons, confronts the ethical issues surrounding cloning head-on as Dr. Heimann's "sons" are systematically dehumanized and considered as little more than high-functioning military equipment. Apple's thoughtful and ethically minded Dr. Heimann is the perfect narrator for this thought-provoking and chilling science fiction story, and anyone who remembers Patrick McGoohan's mesmerizing futuristic television series, The Prisoner, will appreciate Heimann and Seth's conversation about the significance of Number Six. As I read, I could hear McGoohan's character proclaiming loudly and angrily, "I am not a number; I am a free man!" and found it a startling contrast with the way the clones are treated in this gripping futuristic tale. The characters of Heimann and Six are well-defined, and the developing tensions between the erstwhile father and son make this tale hard to put down. Adam's Stepsons is most highly recommended.