Astrophysicist Paul Swenson—who has demonstrated unusual brilliance in other fields, including poetry and music—is persuaded by his friend Hidey Takamura to allow himself to be cloned once a U.S. moratorium on this kind of experimental venture lapses with the coming of the new millennium. Takamura argues that one lifetime is insufficient to develop Swenson’s multifaceted abilities and that if transplant surgery is morally acceptable, then cloning also ought to be. Jon Aschenbach, a minister, urges Paul not to do it, on the grounds that genetic engineering is an unwarranted interference with nature, but Paul decides that he will be a father to the children as well as a brother, nurturing the native abilities they will inherit from him.
One of the five surviving clones (one dies in the embryo state) is given an extra X chromosome to replace a deleted Y and thus is born female. The middle chapters of the novel work from the points of view of each of the clones in turn, picking up the story at different stages in their development, from 2016 to 2136.
In 2016, Paul has taken the children away from the publicity circus that surrounded their birth, but they still are made to feel their “abnormality” by many people they meet. This has made them draw closer together, although Paul has made every effort to differentiate them from one another by encouraging each of them to develop a different talent.
Edward, who remains closest to...
(The entire section is 580 words.)