Gene Wolfe’s work is reliably weird, and this is another example. It’s nearish-future SF with a noirish mystery plot — I say noir because of the characterisation and treatment of women, and some of the protagonist’s ways of talking. He sounds like he stepped out of Chandler, and some of the narration feels like that too. The background idea, that an author can be scanned, cloned, and then the clone be made available like a book to be borrowed from libraries, is intriguing and weird and creepy all at once. Honestly, I’m not sure this book really used to the idea to its fullest extent: in a way it’s just Castle, only with a clone of the author coming along to solve things based on his books instead of the author himself.
(Except Ern is less charming than Rick Castle.)
I was hooked as long as I didn’t think too much about it, and then I took a moment to think about the way Colette (the main female character) and Arabella (love interest, ex-wife) are treated and just felt kind of grossed out. Curves in all the right places, every man’s daydream kind of women — bleh. They’re just there to be desired, particularly in Arabella’s case.
I worked out the mystery fairly easily too. Overall, it’s entertaining, but I doubt I’ll keep thinking about it or come back to it in the future. The idea is pretty awesome; the execution is pretty slender.