[REVIEW] The Bradbury Report – Steven Polansky

Steven Polansky
The Bradbury Report
Perseus Weinstein Books (US: 4th October 2011)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

When someone needs a new organ, he can obtain one from his clone – or any clone. The copies live in the Clearances, deliberately separated from their originals, and never the two shall meet. But one of the copies has escaped, and anti-cloning protestor Anna recognises him. Thus sixty-something-year-old widower Ray meets his twenty-something-year-old clone.

The anti-cloning group plans for Ray to write a report about life with his copy, Alan. Anna and Ray become Alan’s teachers, caretakers, and family, meant to groom him for becoming an anti-cloning spokesperson.

The framing device is pseudonymous “Ray’s” report. On page 2 he states, “I have never had a sense of humour,” which immediately makes it difficult for readers to want to connect with him. His specialty is teaching mathematics, so he admits he’s not much of a writer. That could explain why Steven Polansky’s publishers let him keep infodump – and naming characters Anna and Ann, both mentioned in the same sentence – under the guise of being true to Ray’s character or whatever, but it doesn’t work. I came close to quitting this on more than one occasion.

My favourite TV shows are boundary-pushing animated comedies, thus The Bradbury Report is an unexpected delight that may well suit fans of South Park and the works of Seth MacFarlane – you’ll understand why. But it’s also heart-breaking, particularly when echolalia-ridden Alan is told of how and why he came into existence.

The Bradbury Report has a sci-fi heart in a literary body. The subject matter is fascinating, but often presented in a way that didn’t immediately connect with this genre-preferring reader. This is similar to my experience with Liz Jensen’s The Rapture – the structure often made me lose interest, but when the story’s good, it’s very bloody good.

The Bradbury Report is a slow novel, almost seeming like vignettes rather than a cohesive whole, and Mr. Polansky has won awards for a short-story collection. But The Bradbury Report creates a strange but unforgettable reading experience. A paperback edition is due out later this year – you’d be wise to give it a crack.

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