Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid
This week I am celebrating the 130th anniversary of the killing of Billy the Kid by Pat Garrett. I’m reading books that feature either the historical Billy the Kid or a fictional version of Billy the Kid. Yesterday I looked at a comic series featuring the character of Billy the Kid. Today we look at a science fiction story involving A clone of Billy.
Today’s book is called The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid by Rebecca Ore. I found it during my search for Billy the Kid books and I’d never heard of it. The basic story line seemed interesting enough so I got it off paperbackswap.com and read it a few months ago.
On the surface it sounds awesome. The story takes place in the future. Cloning is legal but heavily policed. A government scientist creates an illegal Billy the Kid clone which escapes, and wrecks havok. Because the clone is illegal, the government sends out assassins to capture or kill it and find out who made it. The clone goes on the run like the real Billy the Kid, receiving help from a clone activist group, until Billy finally confronts his pursuers. But the book doesn’t completely go that route. For starters, we find out pretty early that this clone isn’t actually a clone of Billy the Kid. The clone was grown from generic government clone DNA and given flash memories based partly on historical record and partly on pop culture myth. Immediately that disconnected me. This clone could literally have been anyone and that hindered my enjoyment of the story.
Two, nothing really happens. “Billy” does get help from an activist group, then he has to get a fake id and a job. He is constantly lamenting the fact he’s just a clone and not the actual Billy the Kid. He’s not really “on the run”. He’s in hiding. Notice the difference. One implies action, the other doesn’t. Guess which. Also, the story does imply that the government will, in fact, send out clone assassins (assassins who are themselves clones) to eliminate potential risks. Awesome. But this story only mentions it. The bad ass subplot of the clone assassin hunting down one of his own kind who happens to be a created copy of one of the most notorious outlaws in American history never happens. It’s just left to dangle there. We then get the clone “Billy” working a deal with the government to reveal the scientist that made him in return for protection. Just not enough there to actually make me care about the characters or what was going on.
I think I see where Ore was trying to go, though. Maybe using this story as an analogue for societal classes or maybe even racism. Clones are thought of as not really even human. They are called meat dogs or meat pigs. Some even consider them pets. You also have the clone activist group helping clones get away from abusive owners, much like the Underground Railroad back during the Civil War did for blacks. A lot of this is just barely under the surface in the story, but I didn’t care because the story was so goddam boring I just wanted it to end.
That pretty much wraps up the longest 210 pages I’ve ever read in my entire life. This story would probably have worked better in 100 pages. And maybe a re-write of the ending. But I can’t recommend it. I was bored to tears through the majority of the book.