Having enthusiastically lent my own copy of Kasuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel "Never Let Me Go" to a friend after finishing it, I don't have it here to check the exact page where the Japanese-born British writer actually uses the word "clones" for the first time. I did circle the word when I came upon it, and I'm betting it's within the last 25 pages out of just over 300. As novels go, this is something of a triumph, because of course you "know" well before that moment, but not having seen the word itself for so much of the story creates a kind of tension.
The last time I recall reading a novel that I so could not put down, it was Caleb Carr's historical murder and detective mystery "The Alienist." That was in 1994. I read "The Alienist" all the way to Vancouver on a plane and was, I'm afraid, fairly anti-social for the first day or so between sessions of the conference I was attending until I finished it. As NPR and "Washington Post" book reviewer Maureen Corrigan reminds us, such novels are really about thinking - about how we know what we think we know - and "The Alienist" combines a cracking good serial murder yarn with the very roots and early invention of detective work.
But Ishiguro's novel, which has a huge following of fierce partisans - among them the remarkable English actress Carrie Mulligan, who plays Kathy H., the narrator, and has said she "could not bear" to think of anyone else getting the part - is not really about thinking, except on the surface as something to occupy us and the characters alike, even though there are a number if plot lines that seem to be about finding something out. In fact the 28-year-old Kathy H. is clearly not honest and searching with herself much of the time.