Author: Jill Williamson
Title: Replication: The Jason Experiment
Would cloned humans have a soul?
Did Christ die for both humans and clones?
These were some of the questions flittering through my mind while reading Replication, Jill Williamson’s new Christian sci-fi thriller. Questions that may not be as abstract as they used to be.
For all we know, Williamson’s premise—cloning taking place deep in Alaska’s woods—might really be more science than fiction. How do we know it’s not really happening at this moment?
That’s one of the scariest aspects of this book. Beneath a conventional barn near a nondescript village in America’s last frontier, Replication introduces us to a sterile laboratory where a colony of male clones spanning the adolescent age spectrum have been spending their entire “lives.”
Everyone in town knows it’s an experimental facility, but they have no idea what really goes on there. When a new scientist, the widowed Dr. Goyer, arrives with his teenage daughter, Abby, it’s just another executive career move, until one of the clones manages to capitalize on Dr. Goyer’s mistakes as a newcomer to the underground bunker.
Suddenly, Abby comes face-to-face with the reality of what her ethically challenged father is doing for a living. With the help of a newly befriended classmate, she must do her best to keep the clone under wraps. At least until they can provide cops proof of what’s really going on at the lab. And before her father’s nefarious bosses recapture their AWOL organ donor.
If you’re a loyal science fiction reader, you’ll likely shrug as two teenagers take the helm in this rambunctious tale, while adults who should have maintained some semblance of parental responsibility fade into the background, and the surprisingly resilient clone achieves greater leaps of logistical analysis despite being cowed its entire existence by repressive scientists.
Nevertheless, Williamson does a decent job of exploring the world you and I take for granted through the eyes of a teenager who’s lived his entire existence completely underground. Parallels Williamson draws between the chilling subject matter of cloning and the frozen landscape of Alaska become particularly effective. There’s even a vague correlation between our hero clone and Jesus Christ, although Williamson smartly lets that one hang in the frigid air.
True to the Young Adult Fiction genre, several poignant interludes fade in and out as our protagonists struggle with romantic adolescent emotions. Teenagers may also get a primal rush as Abby dashes about in a glamorous BMW, while Williamson dubiously incorporates politically correct themes of female empowerment and ethnic diversity. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with these embellishments, of course, but here they tend to play more like an after-school TV special than legitimate literature.
Which makes it hard to tell how effectively Williamson’s bluntly worded narratives about Christ and salvation fit into Replication. On one hand, reading about the basics of our faith is a great thing. But combine the Gospel’s reality with the fiction—hopefully, it’s fiction, anyway—of human cloning, and might skeptics simply lump the two together as figments of a stoked imagination?
In answer to the question about whether cloned humans have souls, Williamson’s plot revolves around her personal belief that they do. Whether she’s right or not, at least she attaches a story to a debate that, as science continues to progress, could likely become something our teenagers may be forced to face later in their generation.
So, if you know of a young sci-fi aficionado who can parse the legitimacy of orthodox Christianity from the adolescent fancifulness with which Replication is laced, Williamson’s newest offering will likely provide a captivating read.
And hopefully, that’s all human cloning will ever be.