A Borrowed Man


A Borrowed Man 2015 2nd Cover
2015 Tor edition
  • First publication by Tor Books (hardcover), 20 October 2015. Published cover design by FORT.

Publisher Synopsis

A new SF novel, a first person narrative in the mode of the detective story, from the celebrated author of the Book of the New Sun series.

It is perhaps a hundred years in the future, our civilization is gone, and another is in place in North America, but it retains many familiar things and structures. Although the population is now small, there is advanced technology, there are robots, and there are clones.

E. A. Smithe is a borrowed person. He is a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library, and his personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is a piece of property, not a legal human.

A wealthy patron, Colette Coldbrook, takes him from the library because he is the surviving personality of the author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was in the possession of her murdered father, and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. It is lost, and Colette is afraid of the police. She borrows Smithe to help her find the book and to find out what the secret is. And then the plot gets complicated.



Complete plot summary -- SPOILERS


  • Meanings of names
    • "Cob" : a crude silver or gold Spanish-American coin of the 16th to 18th centuries, characteristically irregular in shape and bearing only a partial impression of the dies from which it was struck. Also, a male swan.
    • LeFevre (Georges Fevre) : a French name meaning "smith."
  • References to other works
    • Perrault, Charles. "Puss in Boots".
    • Smith, Clark Ashton. "The Hashish Eater -or- the Apocalypse of Evil".
    • Dickens, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood.


Unresolved Questions