Infinite Matrix, May 23, 2005

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"Matched" by Nisi Shawl

In "Matched," Nisi Shawl generates a world where people manufacture clones for entertainment.  The clones’ "biological allies," "lallies" for short, design their expensive pets with a genetic weakness like cancer or osteoporosis.  Enter Panther, a Treasure Seeker who kidnaps clones to allow them to live longer, freer lives.  The premise is similar to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, though Shawl’s tale skims the surface of a philosophy that Dick analyzes in greater detail.

When the clone Mo Kree is kidnapped, the story switches to her point of view and the reader witnesses life through the eyes of a young toy.  Mo Kree thinks in colors and friends while missing her lally.  Shawl’s prose is odd at times and lyrical at others, but the intimate personal level of narrative is consistent, although somewhat confusing.  Mo Kree is only beginning to think for herself and her words reflect her precipitous metamorphosis.  As the Nesbit flies for the rendezvous point, the clones bond with the Treasure Seekers, but ultimately they must face their future alone.

The story is an ambitious stab at questioning the ethics of cloning and pets.  Though the clones are written as sympathetic, and the moral stance is obvious, the tale is infused with subtlety.

Eileen Gunn’s photo adds a touch of playful rebelliousness to the offering.