The first book in the "Projects" series by Jude Austin.
The main character, college freshman Kalin Taylor, accepts a crazy frat-initiation stunt: to break into a top-secret, interstellar scientific company called GenTech. It goes about as well as you'd expect. Imprisoned with the human clone (aka Project) Tau, Kalin's all set to lose not just his freedom, but his whole identity.
Unless, of course, he can somehow manage to escape...
We got a lot to talk about, and all the tropes on the site to do it with...
- Armor-Piercing Response: Kata does this to Chatton. Even Dennison is impressed.Chatton: "'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain'. Exodus, chapter twenty, verse seven."Kata: (looking pointedly at a badly beaten Tau) "'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Luke, chapter six, verse thirty one."
- Blatant Lies:
- Dennison, when he convinces Kalin that the latter really is a Project.
- Mason, when he promises Kalin that he'll be released from the lab after two weeks.
- Blank Slate: Tau has no memories or life experiences outside of the lab. Justified in that he's a Project and has only been alive for about six months at the start of the book.
- Break Them by Talking: Dennison to Kalin when he forces him to concede that he's nothing but a Project.
- Chekhov's Skill: Kalin has some impressive hacking and programming skills. They come in handy when he hacks into the mainframe and reprograms the lab's automated security system.
- Clones Are People, Too: The central theme of the book. Humanity in-universe is a legal status not extended to Projects, who are seen as livestock.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: Tau. Justified in that he's never known anything else.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Renfield. Oh, so very much. Not only that, Chatton also mentions predecessors, meaning there were other people who were eaten alive.
- Deadpan Snarker: Kata, all throughout the book.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Dennison is this to Mason. Technically, Mason is in charge of the labs, but he shows no interest in the day-to-day running of the facility, much less the Projects' training, preferring to leave that all up to Dennison.
- Easily Forgiven: Averted with Renfield. He forcibly mutates Kata, uses the handlers much like Dennison, refuses to listen to Kata's explanations, abandons him to be beaten, starved and overworked and on top of all that, threatens to have Tau tortured if a barely-conscious Kata doesn't do what he says right now. When he finally tells Kata that he believes him and wants to help, Kata doesn't take it well.
- Electric Torture: Standard punishment for Tau and Kata. It starts off as mildly painful, then escalates through the book to the point where Kata is electrocuted to the point of unconsciousness more than once.
- First Friend: Both Tau and Kata are this for each other.
- Friendless Background: Kalin has one of these, right up until he meets Tau.
- Friendly Enemy: Kata and Chatton's relationship develops into this as the book progresses. Chatton makes an effort to get food to Kata when Dennison's trying to starve him into submission, and Chatton ends up being the only scientist that Kata goes out of his way not to upset.
- Good Is Not Nice: Renfield, one of the scientists in Project Tau is often a jerk to his colleagues, and he's fine with ordering corporal punishment on the Projects, but he also goes out of his way to try and protect them from Dennison's more sadistic treatment, and he's the only one to try and help Kata escape.
- Humans Are Special: Oh, so very much.
- The shock and anger displayed by both Chatton and Renfield upon learning of Kata's real identity is solely because they realize they've been doing what they did to a human, not a clone. When Kata says he plans to take Tau with him when he leaves, neither scientist can understand why Kata would risk his life to steal a Project.
- Kata's original status as a human leads him to treat Tau with a certain amount of arrogance at the beginning.
- Ignored Epiphany: Chatton. Even after hearing Kata's story, his fury and guilt is centered around the fact that he's been involved in the torture of a legal human, as opposed to just another clone like Tau, and not the act of torture itself.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Kalin's main reason for trying to join the frat house.
- Insistent Terminology: They're not human clones; they're Projects.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: The Projects are only ever referred to as 'it,' in keeping with their legal status as livestock.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Renfield doesn't show the Projects any more sympathy or compassion than his colleagues, but he does stop Dennison from going too far, and attempts to set things right for Kalin.
- Lightning Bruiser: Kata becomes one of these by the end of the book, thanks to his training and the fact that he's been modified to have claws and super-speed.
- Offscreen Villainy: The torture sessions are an established part of Tau - and later Kata's - daily routine, but are never described in the book.
- Only One Name: Tau, and later Kata.
- Pay Evil unto Evil:
- Kata, when he kills Mason for taking him prisoner and reducing him to the level of an animal.
- Averted with Tau, who does kill Dennison but doesn't take any real pleasure in it.
- Precision F-Strike: Tau does this to Kata toward the end of the book.Tau: I am not your fucking tool, Kata! You can't just use me!
- The Reason You Suck:
Tau: "I'm not your fucking tool, Kata! You can't just use me!"
- Kata delivers quite a few of these about the Projects' treatment and the scientists' hypocrisy, usually to Dennison.
- Renfield gives one himself to both Dennison and Mason when he finds out what they did to Kalin.
- Tau gets one in at Kata towards the end of the book.
- A Simple Plan: Renfield, with his plan to help Kata escape. Unfortunately, he combines it with a Too Dumb to Live moment, and it doesn't work out.
- Too Dumb to Live: Renfield's big The Reason You Suck speech to Dennison and Mason may have been satisfying, but telling them outright that he's going to help Kalin escape and screw the consequences really wasn't the smartest move.
- Took a Level in Badass: Kalin goes from being a weak, eager-to-please nerdy freshman, to a clawed killing machine.
- Training from Hell: Tau and Kata undergo a brutal physical training regime, often being worked to the point of collapse.
- What Have I Done: Renfield, when he realizes that Kalin was telling the truth all along, and that he's been participating in the illegal imprisonment and torture of a fellow human being as opposed to just another Project.Renfield: "Oh dear sweet Jesus. Mason, what have you done? What have I done?"Mason: "Your job, of course."
- You Have to Believe Me!: Kalin keeps insisting that he's a college student and a legal human to the scientists. None of them believe him until it's almost too late.