Maul – Tricia Sullivan (2003)
In Sullivan’s Dystopian future men are an endangered gender due to a gender specific retrovirus. Men are kept in reservations and those women who can apply for viable sperm opt to give birth to girls.
One cloned male in a laboratory has been infected with a tailored form of the virus in order to try and understand and cure the disease.
The clone is allowed certain privileges and is playing a computer game.
Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated time and place, a group of girls have challenged another girl on the internet and have arranged to meet her at the local shopping mall. Originally intended as a friendly meeting, misunderstandings have conspired to convert the meeting into something nearer to a fight challenge.
At the mall, events escalate to near riots and a siege situation. This is obviously not the world in which the cloned man exists, since in the Mall there are boys and security guards and other men not sequestered away behind a sterile screen.
The two stories run in parallel, and the reader quickly begins to realise how the two worlds are connected.
It’s a hectic read that barrels along energetically, raising questions about the medical ethics of cloning, but it is not a novel one would have thought capable of setting the SF world on fire.
There were no characters for which one could feel any empathy, apart from the badly treated clone, and that was sympathy rather than empathy. One would surely expect anyone to feel sympathy for a badly treated clone.