A gripping, deeply moving adventure raises startling questions about what it means to be human. Taylor Walker seems like any ordinary 14-year-old. Ordinary-if you overlook the fact that she lives on the island of Borneo, on a primate reserve run by her parents, and knows how to survive in the jungle. Obviously, Tay isn't just like everyone else. But she is like one other person. She's exactly like one other person. Tay is a clone, one of only five in the world, and her clone mother is Pam Taylor, a brilliant scientist.
This mostly taut but ultimately disappointing sci-fi thriller opens with a complex, riveting set-up. Taylor Walker, 14, lives with her parents, wardens of an orangutan refuge in Kandah State, an independent nation "squashed" between Malaysia and Indonesia. A year and a half ago, Taylor learned that she is actually a clone-as are four other children born at the same time, to parents who worked for the same company as the Walkers. As the novel opens, news of the company's success in cloning has been announced to the media, although Taylor's identity has been kept secret. Taylor's genetic "mother" is someone she's known for years, a famous scientist. Before Taylor can come to grips with this development, regional fighting intrudes upon the refuge and the story takes a very dark turn. Soon Tay is on the run with only the super-intelligent orangutan Uncle for company, and-anguished about the fates of those in the refuge, as well as hungry, exhausted and desperate to reach safety-she begins to speculate about the source of his mysterious intellect.As in her Dr. Franklin's Island, Halam (a pseudonym for Gwyneth Jones) conjures the atmosphere so tensely that readers will be white-knuckled. Unfortunately, she also leads the audience down one too many garden paths, planting suspicions which she then uproots much too easily. Readers may wish for a more focused approach to the many provocative issues and premises here. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Informatio. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Wendy Lamb Books
December 31, 2003
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