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The Clone Elite by Steven L. Kent
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441016082
Date: 28 October 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The galaxy is in danger. Star systems and worlds are being swallowed one by one. The enemy is so different and advanced, that there may be no hope for Earth and her children. When things are that bad, it is time to call in the clones. All clones are needed, retirement is no grounds for exception. Wayson Harris, retired clone marine is called back to service, whether he wants to go or not.

The United Alliance (UA) is still struggling with the aftereffects of its partial disintegration and the battles that followed. Now a new enemy is driving towards Earth. On the last planet before Earth, the armed forces of the UA dig in and try to hold out. The enemy comes forth 50,000 at a time. Slowly they begin to wear down the military forces. Only the wild imaginings of a pair of scientists can offer any hope, but nobody knows if there is enough time.

If that isn't enough, Wayson's commanding officer seems to want to kill one of his own men. So Wayson must not only protect his men from the enemy, he must protect them from allies as well. Wayson Harris rose up through the ranks to become an officer, then was broken back into the ranks, and now is an officer again. On top of all the other problems, Wayson is a Liberator clone, a series of clones known to be unstable.

One of the most interesting aspects of this series is the use of clones as the backbone of the military. Clones are disposable and used as such. Officers are human, and thus more flawed. I like the use of a failsafe to prevent the clones from thinking to much about their nature. All clones think that they are normal humans raised with the clones. If a clone figures out that he is a clone, he dies. The Liberators do not have this failsafe. The idea resonates because it acknowledges the xenophobic nature that we humans sometimes display. This failsafe is meant to reduce our fears of the clones taking over, just like the three laws of robotics kept us safe from robots.

This is the fourth book in the Clone Series. There are some similarities to John Scalzi's Old Man's War series. The military detail is similar to the several of Ian Douglas's series. All of which are descendents of the works of Robert Heinlein. If you enjoy military science fiction, then this is the book for you. In order to appreciate the details of the character and the universe, readers should start with the earlier works in the series. This may seem daunting, but each novel is a fast paced page turner that may keep the reader up late to "just read a couple more pages".

Like other military science fiction, this is fast paced and hard hitting. Punches, bullets, and nuclear bombs are not held back. The characters face hard choices and don't regret them after they are made. Although not to everyone's taste, this novel fits well into its genre. It delivers, and of course leaves room for further adventures.

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