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...
- A Simple Plan: Several.
- Ambiguously Christian: Chatton is a very devout Christian who can (and does) quote chapter and verse if anyone calls him on his faith, but his exact denomination is never given.
- 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/Kata that the latter really is a Project.
- Blank Slate: Tau was created with the body of an eighteen year old, but has no memories or life experiences.
- Break Them by Talking: Dennison to Kalin/Kata.
- Chekhov's Skill: Kalin had some impressive hacking and programming skills. They come in handy when he hacks into the mainframe and manages to turn the lab's automated security system on everyone except him, Tau, Chatton and Dennison.
- 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 Renfield wasn't the only one to suffer this
- Deadpan Snarker: Kata. Although just about every character gets a snappy one-liner or two in this book.
- 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. After all this, 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. While it starts off as mildly painful, it escalates through the book to the point where Kata is electrocuted to the point of unconsciousness more than once.
- Friendly Enemy: Kata and Chatton's relationship develops into this as the book progresses.
- Good Is Not Nice: Renfield. He's something of 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 and he's the only one to try and help Kata escape. He's also the only scientist who seems to be troubled by the ethics of human cloning.
- 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.
- Possibly justified on a practical level in that Tau cost a lot of money to develop and train, and so if GenTech can't deliver him as promised then that could land them in some very deep legal trouble.
- Kata's original status as a human also leads him to treat Tau with a certain amount of arrogance, particularly in the beginning.
- Ignored Epiphany: Chatton. Even after hearing Kata's story, his fury and guilt is centered around the fact that he's been torturing a legal human, as opposed to just another clone like Tau.
- Insistent Terminology: They're not human clones; they're Projects.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Renfield. Also Kata to a lesser extent
- Offscreen Villainy: Despite being an established part of Tau and later Kata's daily routine, the torture sessions are never described in the book
- Only One Name: Tau, and later Kalin Taylor, when he becomes Kata.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Kata at the end.
- Averted with Tau, who kills Dennison without torturing him, much to Kata's surprise. Tau says that simply killing Dennison was enough for him.
- The Reason You Suck: Kata delivers quite a few of these.
Tau: "I'm not your fucking tool, Kata! You can't just use me!"
- Tau also gets one in at Kata himself towards the end of the book.
- Too Dumb to Live: Renfield.
- Took a Level in Badass: Kata, and Tau to a lesser extent.
- Training from Hell: Both Tau and Kata suffer this
- What Have I Done: Both Renfield and Chatton, although Renfield feels it far more.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The book begins with the escape, and the next chapter takes place two years earlier, retelling the events that led up to the opening.
- You Have to Believe Me!: Kalin's insistence that he's a college student and a legal human.