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Cannonball Read IV: How to Defeat Your Own Clone by Kyle Kurpinski and Terry D. Johnson

By heathpie | Book Reviews | August 28, 2012 | Comments ()


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In full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I wouldn't have even considered reading this book if I hadn't known the author from college, because science is really not my cup of tea. And Kyle is not just brilliant, he's hilarious. I remember bonding with him freshman year over our love for "The State" and how we couldn't believe that it wasn't yet on VHS. (Yes, VHS.) So for science (ick) I knew that it couldn't be too painful.

Terrifyingly informative and absolutely hilarious, How to Defeat Your Own Clone is a preparative guide for the future. And it's a pretty great book. When the first page of the prologue had me laughing, I knew that I was in for a treat. The main takeaway here is not that cloning and biological advances could happen, it's that they will happen.

Ahem. They already are.

As an aside (and if asides bother you, don't read this book. There are many asides), I was not a fan of science. Were you like me, doodling in your notebook during chemistry, never really understanding those things called "moles," and hoping to God that the next lab assignment wouldn't have you reaching for a fire extinguisher? Well, that was definitely me, so the premise of this book was a bit off-putting. I thought, "Do I have the brains for this book?"

Answer: ten year-olds have the brains for this book. Well, brainy ten year-old brains. It is so well-articulated that the layperson should have no trouble with the scientific prose. It is written in such an intelligent way that the non-intelligent will feel brilliant!

Kurpinski and his co-author, Terry Johnson, have written an informative, interesting, entertaining book. They stick to the facts, but offer real-world examples to help the layperson understand all those science-y type words. For example, in the first chapter entitled, "Cloning and You," the reader learns about viruses:

"A virus is a lot like an unwanted house guest. Some don't seem so bad at first, like the guy who crashes for the weekend on your pull-out sofa bed. The first night he's passed out and appears relatively harmless. But two days later he's still hanging around, and the next thing you know he's overloaded your washing machine and flooded the basement. In the virus world, these seemingly unassuming little visitors incorporate their genetic material into a host genome and may lay dormant for years before causing any noticeable problems such as AIDS. Other viruses are more like the ultimate party crasher who barges in uninvited, messes with all your stuff, and moves on when the booze dries up - except that the virus makes thousands of copies of itself and they all set fire to your house on the way out."

One of my favorite chapters is "Common Misconceptions About Cloning and Biotechnology [Popular Culture is a Poor Teacher]" which explores and debunks the myths about cloning and the like that we gleaned from science fiction movies and books. Would your clone have a soul? Would it be able to harvest your thoughts and memories? And most importantly, would your clone be... evil? All of these questions are answered!

You will also learn what is needed to clone yourself (or what someone else needs to clone you). Be warned: they don't need much. Because "...complex organisms don't exist as a single cell, but they start as one..." that is all that is needed to start building your clone.

Something important to keep in mind is that because clones will most likely have to be built from scratch and inserted into someone's uterus (for the time being, of course), the clone will always be younger than you. But in case science discovers a way to create your clone just as you exist today, remember that the whole nature vs. nurture thing will eventually be your clone's undoing.

I'll leave you with the authors' careful words of warning: "In the end, your genome can be copied, but the precise series of cellular events that built you cannot, and that just might be enough to spot a rogue clone."

At 180 pages, How to Defeat Your Own Clone is a quick, fun read. Now I'm off to put my retinal scan on file before my clone beats me to it.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it, and find more of heathpie's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • This sounds kinda clever. I do enjoy a good witty scientific read. Nice review!

  • Bert_McGurt

    You know, when I was in science class, I often hoped that my next lab assignment would have me reaching for the extinguisher. And one glorious day it did.

  • BWeaves

    I was on a conference call with my co-irkers in other countries, when a Canadian lady announced that she needed to take more time off. She had a baby, had taken her YEAR of maternity leave, and then had to take another month off or she'd lose all the vacation she'd accumulated.

    One of my American co-irkers was a young, single man, and he came up with a plan to try and take advantage of these perks. "What if," he asked, "I move to Canada and clone myself and raise the baby there? As a single dad, could I get my 12 months off, plus all my accumulated vacation?"

    Another co-irk blurted out, "OH NO! You don't want to clone yourself. I would NEVER want someone exactly like me." Punchline, she's an identical twin, who lives next door to her twin sister, and they work in the same cubicle, by choice.

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