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The Damsels love when authors submit their books for us to review, especially when it’s well-written speculative fiction. Stephen Kozeniewski’s “Billy and the Cloneasaurus” is biting, thoughtful dystopian fiction from Severed Press. Clones, dinosaurs, and a corrupted “Williamerica” paint a frightening alternate reality where the idea of individuality and capitalism are distorted to the nth degree. It’s a call-to-arms, if you will, and a well-timed one at that. Critics of dystopian fiction always bemoan the genre’s inherent “preachiness” and bitch far too much about the potential for pretentiousness on the authors’ part. Be assured, dear readers, that “Billy and the Clonesaurus” doesn’t fall prey to preachiness or pretentiousness. I would happily say so if it did. Mean-spirited zingers are fun to write but funnier to read. And I do try to please.
The novel’s satirical undertone is entertaining and relevant. HOWEVER (and there must be a capitalized however in any review, right?) given the author’s unsubtle disdain for clichés, I couldn’t help but be irritated by his approach to one of the minor (but which should have been major) characters, which is, perhaps, the novel’s biggest flaw.
Six billion identical clones make up the entire population of Earth, and William 790-6 (57th Iteration) is exactly like everybody else. In his one year of life he will toil in suburban mediocrity and spend as much cash as possible in order to please his corporate masters. When 790’s first birthday (and scheduled execution) finally rolls around, a freak accident spares his life.
Living past his expiration date changes 790 profoundly. Unlike other clones he becomes capable of questioning the futility of his own existence. Seeking answers in the wilderness, he discovers a windmill with some very strange occupants, including a freakish, dinosaur-like monstrosity. Which is especially strange since every animal on earth is supposed to be extinct…
Without giving away spoilers, one of the “occupants” in the mysterious windmill happens to be a woman. And like most dystopian stories (written by men) women are treated as an afterthought to the Grand Political Message or as mere accessories to the Crippling Male Angst that drives the subversive action to its conclusion. Willa suffers from the same fate, unfortunately, which knocked the five-star rating I had going in down to a four.
It seems Willa’s only function is to literally have sex with the male hero. Odd. Because she would be in a better position than any of the other Williams to Save The World (or at least play SOME part in it) due to her radical upbringing and fondness for politics. But no. Willa is just the well-read virgin who waits in her room while her father and Billy make all the important decisions. I’m ignoring the weird incest/clone, uncomfortable age difference here for propriety.
The ending wasn’t surprising or satisfying, but happily-ever-afters and dystopian horror don’t play well together. This book entertained and I would recommend it to lovers of bizarro and speculative fiction. Four stars out of five for “Billy and the Cloneasaurus.”