Book Review – What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black by Gregory E. Pence

when we talk about clone club - book coverUsually I read a book before watching a film or television adaptation but every once in a while there’s a great book written about a movie or television series. As a fan of Orphan Black, I’m still in mild denial that the show is going to be starting its fifth and final season in a few short months. A provocative series about the lives of a series of clones, Orphan Black gives its fans plenty to talk about. Gregory E. Pence, a professor at UAB and an expert in cloning and bioethics, has compiled quite a few talking points in his book What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black. Delving into the science and history of cloning, he uses Orphan Black, its plots, and characters to help illustrate concepts and bring debates to life in ways that make it easier for readers (and viewers) to relate to and understand.

Pence begins the book by looking at the ways clones have been depicted in science fiction and literature, searching for the root of many of society’s assumptions about human cloning and the dangers it poses. He examines the origins of a variety of medical advancements that preceded the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep and the reactions from various sectors to those advancements. Using the science behind cloning and similar technologies, Pence critiques the plot and execution of Orphan Black in its depiction of clones. Some of the debates examined, such as nature versus nurture, will be more familiar to readers than others. Finally, Pence ends the book by throwing out a few areas of interest that the show and its writers could explore in the future.

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The Real World Inside Your Head: Revisiting the Magic of Childhood through Harry Potter

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Albus Dumbledore Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


So my hiatus lasted longer than I intended. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week with my weekly reviews and some more flash fiction. I wish I could say that I managed to get a lot done in the last month and a half but it still isn’t as much as I would have liked to accomplish. I did manage to re-read all seven Harry Potter books before seeing the final film last weekend and plan to continue my summer of re-reading. There are a few realizations that came to me while re-reading, most of which made me laugh though they’re probably common enough.


I was surprised by both how much I’d managed to remember and how much I’d forgotten. The things I remembered best were the bits of the books I had most been looking forward to seeing on the big screen as was disappointed with, either because they were left out or because they had been changed in a way I didn’t appreciate. It was only with the benefit of hindsight that I was able to appreciate the way Rowling dropped little pieces of information through the novels that weren’t relevant until the later books. Characters mentioned in passing in one book that grew in importance with each subsequent novel. Of course, with months or years between being able to read each book the first time, many of these tidbits slipped from memory having little perceived importance. I could have re-read the previous book just before the release of the next but I’m not sure reading all seven in succession would have been quite so spectacular if I had.


For the most part my favorites remained my favorites (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was, is and I believe will always be my favorite, both with the books and the films). But it did amaze me that I had a harder time getting through what was one of my favorites the first time around. After waiting so long, I flew through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with my first reading. But now I see how much of that came from the simple desire to uncover what came next. It appeared to cloud my perception of certain characters. At least, I want that to be the reason I didn’t register how whiney Harry was in that novel. It could also have been that during those days a few weeks before I turned sixteen Harry’s I was more sympathetic to Harry’s frustration and angst.


On a parallel note, one of the books I’d found a little tedious the first time through was more enjoyable the second time through. With so much going on, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire feels like the odd-man-out in many ways but now I’m able to appreciate that it is because it stands as the turning point of the series. As the middle book, it divides the series into two halves. The more lighthearted and innocent antics of the first three books have a cushiony barrier between them and the darker, dire circumstances of the later three. It is also the novel where Rowling first proves that she is not afraid of killing characters off, though she does a wonderful job of easing her young readers into the ideas that those who are evil aren’t the only ones to die in battle, the way a person acts doesn’t always show you what they’re feeling, and that people don’t always get what they deserve.


I would have thought that I’d fly through my re-reading since I already knew what happened, but instead I found myself lingering over phrases and passages that I’d skimmed in rapid succession last time. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published the year I turned ten. The first film came out just months after I turned fourteen and helped to inject magic into a generation whose innocence ended with 9/11. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows published just before I turned twenty and this final film installment coming just a year after college graduation, I must face the reality that I am now an adult who will forever find it easy to be young at heart as long as there is someone around willing to discuss Harry Potter.


As I move onto re-reading The Hunger Games Trilogy in August, I hope they hold up as well the second time through as the Harry Potter series did.




Again and Once More Again: The Joys of Re-reading

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” – Oscar Wilde

As much as I always enjoyed a trip to the library, there was always something infinitely more satisfying about walking out of a bookstore with an armload of books. To go to the library meant having to return them when I reached the end and, in many cases, even though I had finished the book, I was by no means done with it. I have my own living library now, continuously growing and expanding (I’m getting ready to add a seventh bookcase to the family). It isn’t as though I hoard my books with no one allowed to touch them but me; they take vacations of their own but they (almost) always come back. And when they do, we have a chance to become reacquainted with one another and I find myself feeling akin to how I felt when I first took it/them home.

After a streak of reading only new books, it’s nice to relax with an old, familiar favorite, a book that’s become a part of you and has crossed the line into family. This summer, I’m planning a family reunion. It has been more than ten years since I first read a Harry Potter book and with the final installment in the film series due out in a matter of weeks, I’m finally going back and reading them all again. Having grown up with it and witnessing what it has done to popular culture as well as the book and film industries, it is only fitting to celebrate this last piece with a trip down memory lane. It will be a test to see just how well I actually remember them and this time around I think I will appreciate the path that was laid out from the start now that I’m not losing track of my bread crumbs in my excitement. I wonder if my favorite parts will still be my favorites now that hindsight is involved?

Since Harry Potter will only take up a fraction of the summer, I think I might pull a few others down from the shelf for a second (or third or fourth) go-round. It would be nice to take my time through The Hunger Games as well as read them without a gaping eleven month break between Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Maybe I’ll revisit Russia with Crime and Punishment or walk from Longbourn to Netherfield once more if the weather is clear enough. I haven’t made up my mind that far yet but I do plan to relax a little and switch up my regular book reviews with a sprinkling of re-reading.