21st century slaves _ Lim Kah Beng
ISBN: 9789814276870

On a scale of of one (“forget about it”) to ten (“a must-read”), I rate this a 5.

What could have been better:
The dots were a little too easy to connect (e.g. how the protagonists were able to trace events to the mastermind). Some things were little too convenient (like the discovery of hidden files in the MRI scans of the cloned Michael Gallardo). The story is not as sophisticated in terms of plot. Hardly any discovery and more like waiting for the obvious outcomes to be described.

But that said…
It deserves to be read, primarily because it’s one of the rare Singaporean SciFi works that isn’t too bad. Not a runaway hit, by my taste, but commendable and with a nice story foundation and decent character development. The science (of cloning) is also based on facts, and hence adds to the credibility-factor.

What I like about the book was how Lim makes the science and research of cloning in accessible terms. There are glimpses of […] that could very well be a medical/ science SciFi thriller. Not quite Michael Criton (that benchmark came to mind).

The book appears well-researched (I can’t be 100% sure, as I don’t have that sort of science background). Readers can check out the bibliography. Nice touch, and wish all SciFi novels had them.

I’m also glad to say the book didn’t start off with alien settings and names, which I sense is the tendency for budding Singaporean SciFi authors, based on a few that I’ve read.

Now, what could have made this a better book would be what Stephen King would advise as not telling the reader too much. Like pointing out the man’s name on his name tag.

Or describing what an OH-23 Raven helicopter was, when it didn’t really lend much to the plot and served as a distraction to the pace and flow.

Notes:

P37. Some fictional literary license, i.e. made me wonder if they were really facts, like the part on how a crocodile swimming towards a human with jaws open. I understand crocodile hunting techniques are ambush and sudden lunges.

The pace could be tightened in terms of dialogue. I think several editorial changes must have been done, as I didn’t feel there were frivolous scenes that served only as page-fillers. But a certain rewriting or phrasing may help increase the pace (I suppose one could use this book as practice in re-writing, and I mean this in a good way).

Like P26, where Elizabeth comments that Jim fights well for a journalist (after Jim saved her from some thugs). Jim proceeds to tell her about his stint in Iraq as part of an Airborne unit (Aside: Mentions the book ‘Accidental Guerilla’ (sounds like an interesting read about U.S. war involvement in Afghanistan, but then I wondered why it had to be in this book).

P65. A supposedly dead man makes a ‘live’ appearance. FBI agents turn up (a little too convenient, plot-wise).

Of course, it’s far easier to criticise than to write well. Dr Lim has written something quite commendable.

P68. Several paragraphs (about one A4 page I think) of Elizabeth explaining the development, techniques and equipment of neuro-imaging. Interesting stuff, though I’m left wondering what that has to do with the story, other than being science related. Especially when suddenly the scene switches to Jim at an unrelated setting. The science became a bit of a distraction in that sense.

P76 “They kissed and cuddled each other and then made love”; (sounds too clinical! LOL)

P141. On ethics, arguments for and against sale of human organs.

P176. What I feel are redundant dialogue. Where it’s described that Y22 was shot, and the immediate dialogue from Jim was something like “Y22 has been shot” (we already know that) and to “get him to the hospital” (I’d rather leave it to the reader’s imagination or set to a different scene).

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