The Klone and I: A High-Tech Love Story
by Danielle Steel
Published by Delacorte Press
Buy it online
Send in the Klones
Reviewed by Linda L. Richards
There's a reason Danielle Steel sells so many books. Some 370 million copies of her novels at last count. She is, in the way these things are gauged, one of our planet's most popular novelists.
Steel writes well, builds compelling characters and knows how to tell a story. What brings critics to her door along with her fans is the glimpse she offers of her own world: insular and insulated, a world filled with Versace and trips to Paris. A world that doesn't worry too much about recycling or mortgage payments or how to come up with the cash for the kids' orthodontics bill.
In this way The Klone and I is classic Steel. The Klone and I 's main character is Stephanie, a 40-something Manhattan matron with a big, fat trust fund and no discernible flaws of form or character. Stephanie loves Elaine's and 21, shopping, summers in the Hamptons and she wears Dior.
In the opening scenes of the book, Stephanie's husband of 13 years leaves her for another woman: a younger one with an even bigger trust fund. But Stephanie isn't beaten: she cleans herself up, shaves her legs and launches herself on an unsuspecting world; once again ready for the singles market. Unimpressed with what she finds there, she resumes her life with her two children until they go to spend the summer with their father and his new wife in Europe. Bored while they're gone -- that trust fund eliminates the need to work, and thus she has no job with which to occupy her time -- Stephanie decides on a whim to jet to Paris and spend a few days there before meeting her children and flying back with them.
While in Paris she spends a lot of time buying great underwear and meets the perfect man. An American, it turns out, who lives not far from her in New York. Peter is the head of some sort of high tech enterprise, the nature of which never becomes quite clear. Steel assures us that he's brilliant, attractive, sexy and emotionally unhampered but -- beyond that -- we're on our own. They resume their relationship back in the states and soon find themselves falling in love.
It's not long after this that the klone in the book's title appears. In a move quite daft-seeming for a man we've already been led to believe is otherwise quite brilliant, Peter sends a perfectly operational klone of himself to keep Stephanie company while Peter himself is out of town. To the unconnected reader, it has to seem like a bad idea from the start.
The love-triangle that results from this move -- Stephanie, Peter and the Klone named Paul -- is the central theme of the book and the reason, one supposes, for the A High-Tech Love Story subtitle.
Not surprisingly, Steel is amazingly out of her depth with high tech. She doesn't really try to explain very much about the klone beyond that he is the result of some sort of blend of robotic and biological research. But even her small attempt at an explanation is hollow and disjointed: words without meaning that she bandies about, albeit quite well.
And, as well: this is Danielle Steel. Her work gives one the impression of effortless riffs of storytelling. It reads that way, as well: breathlessly, easily, engagingly and with no lasting value whatsoever. A happy little book that you can read without thinking. If the clichés and gender stereotypes don't make you ball your fists, sometimes mindless reading can be a relief. | July 20, 1998
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel, Death was the Other Woman, will be published early in 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur.