The year is 2020, and leading scientific minds work on their top secret project: the cloning of King Tut. With hopes of furthering their research, they happily engage in borderline practices, using fertility clinic hopefuls in their eccentric and inscrutable experimentation. Following early successes, the project is disbanded, and the clones are left to their own devices… but not for long. When the clones are brought together by the wiles of fate, they begin to realize the truth of their birth, and plan to live up to their birthright. A bizarre adventure to Egypt is underway in The Tut Clone Contracts by Jan Issaye Berkhout.
The mere audacity of the blurb should be setting off fireworks in the minds of pulp fans, as claims of rescues from the secret base of drug lord, presidential assassinations, and the re-establishment of ancient Egyptian rule in a futuristic society are made alongside the promise of a robot gun-fight at the Munich Oktoberfest. Really, the book has set itself up as either being the greatest read of the last 6000 years, or having to fall short of expectations. The writing present is wonderful, the characters highly unique and all working their own angles, and of course the idea is top-notch with a healthy portion of ridiculous.
The problems come in the minutia, as the book is fraught with obvious plot holes that one can only try to skid over as the book speeds along. Berkhout clearly tries to make the history work for the fiction and it shows. The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense and some readers will not be able to let the read carry them over that hump.
There are also puzzling choices in the edit of the piece, including some instances of what feels like unnecessary censorship alongside an otherwise fairly open and occasionally graphic read, which itself feels a little unnecessary. To boot, the cover is a mish-mash of colors and themes that turns the eye on sight, though undeniably draws curiosity at the same time.
The unapologetically bizarre premise and the promises of an action-packed, non-stop cyber-Egyptian romp are extremely admirable, which makes it such a shame that the book falls short. It would be great to see this book tightened up and given another try, maybe a spiritual sequel that has a solid final edit to really take out the last bits of chaff from the seemingly boundless wheat the author has going for them. After all, it’s undeniably cool, completely novel, with true greatness to be found deep within, and another title would be a joy to see.
Content warning for graphic violent and sexual content, and some depictions of sexual abuse.