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The Science Of Orphan Black: The Official Companion by Casey Griffin and Nina Nesseth (book review).

July 21, 2021 | By | Reply More

You know how it is. You enjoy a TV series, so there is a desire to see what books there are on the subject. ‘The Science Of Orphan Black: The Official Companion’ by Casey Griffin and Nina Nesseth seemed like a good place to start.

Here, the authors blend real science with the unauthorised experimentation called the Leden and Castor Projects that led to a series of female and male clones. Having identical genomes doesn’t mean clones can be all alike. Education and upbringing can all have different effects. Oddly, they don’t really examine that difference. It does become obvious that the edge comes from having intelligent parents and certain doctoring of the genes to either sort out any medical problems or even give sterility to restrict offspring. This wasn’t perfect with most of them having a common congenital illness that needed a remedy.

Even with clones, you’re not going to get exact duplicates. A single gene change gave twin clones that became Sarah Manning and Helena and also made them unique in being able to become pregnant. A 0.7% factor out of the 273 viable known surviving clones, the number being a grey area because we don’t know how many Helena assassinated. Only three of the clones would be regarded as scientific geniuses but that is also put down to education.

There is still a matter of Sarah Harding having similar fingerprints to Beth Childs which, as the writers point out, isn’t likely to happen because there are so many environmental factors involved in how they are fashioned. Like lifts/elevators having doors in their ceilings, this is another fall-back position of writers who don’t bother to check the facts and just re-enforce the myth. Conceivably, the city police there is only identifying certain points on the fingerprints and comparing to what is in their database and just got a close enough near miss for a match. Whether that would be true for all the Leden clones was never shown.

It’s interesting looking at the dates of birth for the clone. They might be born in the same year but, other than the twin clones, not on the same day. Then again, I doubt if their birth mothers were inseminated on the same day neither.

Don’t underestimate this book. The writers do know their stuff and you will come away from this book with a great deal of knowledge on genetics and cloning. I do wish there was a bit more information as to why human cloning is banned and the ethics involved to the reader. Yes, I know because it opens up all kinds of experimentation and growing duplicates but ‘Orphan Black’ shows where all this leads, especially to the rights of the Leda clones to have their own lives and not be purely lab rats. The process as we have it is not perfect even for other animals but the ability to clone body organs so you can replace the heart and kidney amongst others would relieve the problems of not enough organ donors.

It’s an unusual thing for an American show to have a mostly accurate use of science. This book gives the actual details of what is carried out, the series showing it in practice has at least done the right kind of research. Even with Science Fiction, you have to work out from the real science before going to advances.

I did have a ponder on the brain damage Rachel got from the pencil through the eye into the brain. As is pointed out with the rest of the clones, despite the genetic illness, they are rather robust and given time to heal can get some functionability back. The bionic eye is rather advanced and I do have to wonder on its power source, unless its telemetric with power directed in. When you consider it was also being used as a camera to P.T. Westmorland, one would have to assume that was the power option and could keep track of her.

The link to the TV series is more to act as a drama of the ‘real’ events. Oddly, the episodes have titles although these are not displayed on the screen, although its noted where the quotes come from.

This is a riveting book that does what its title explaining the science. ‘Orphan Black’ certainly sets the mark for SF when it comes to cloning and all its problems and certainly why it shouldn’t be done in the real world. Here, we have enough complications just to produce a single clone and not the number that was created here. Don’t forget to get a copy.

GF Willmetts

July 2021

(pub: Temple Street/ECW Press, 2017. 301 page illustrated small enlarged paperback. Price: I pulled my copy for £ (UK). ISBN: 978-1-77041-380-1)

check out website: www.ecwpress.com

Category: Books, Science, Scifi, TV

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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