I am constantly amazed by the power of the internet. I know that sounds cliche. But I’m not talking about smart thermostats that let me control my heating and air from my phone. Nor am I talking about the wealth of tutorials and how-to videos that have saved me money on repairing my car and even my clothes dryer. I’m not even talking about the convenience of the cloud. A recent event in my life reminded me, once again, of the power that the internet has to bring together people who share a common bond.
In June of 2011, at the urging of a friend or two, I joined Goodreads. It’s a database of books, and has a very active community. My two basic uses for it are to keep track of books I have read, and to use the recommendations tools to find the next great book I want to read. I love tools like this, and use them across many parts of my life, like boardgamegeek.com for tabletop games, and IMDB for tracking movies I’ve watched.
I am not an active participant in the Goodreads community, but I learned about a group called “What’s the Name of That Book?” and immediately took an interest in it. As I get older, two things are happening to me. First, I’m more interested in nostalgia for my past. Second, my memory of said past gets worse and worse all the time. I pride myself on my ability to recall things, but I just can’t remember everything. And when I can’t, it drives me nuts.
I posted the following request to the group just over four years ago, on November 20, 2012:
Hello all. I am looking for a book I read while in grade school in the mid 80s. I suspect the book was published the the 70s. The protagonist of the book is a young man, who I believe was named Danny. Danny grew up with other kids in a compound.
As the story progresses, it turns out that there are other Dannys, some younger, some older, being raised in other compounds. Danny was actually Danny 13. At the climax, a much older Danny arrives and inspires the group to revolt. All of the kids in the story were clones of rich people, in various ages, who were being raised for their organs to extend the lifespan of the original.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Six people responded fairly quickly, but none of the books they suggested rang a bell. I began to think this memory was based on a TV show or movie I had seen instead. Memory is strange, after all. I devoured plenty of sci-fi stuff back in the day, maybe I took something from Column A, a bit from Column B, and mashed it up into something that never really existed.
Then, last month, a Goodreads user named Toff posted this:
Sounds familiar, like something I might have read between 1979 and 1985 or so. I was thinking possibly one of Alfred Slote’s books, maybe Clone Catcher (main character named Dunn; clones made of rich people for organ harvesting)…
That sounded vaguely familiar. I googled Clone Catcher, it took me to an Amazon link with a generic cover. $6.32 including shipping sent the book on my way. I was skeptical that this was actually going to be the book I remembered. Ten days later, having forgotten about the book and the order, I was surprised by a package in the mailbox. I opened it up, saw the cover, and immediately it all came flooding back to me. This was, indeed, the book that I had remembered reading, probably more than three decades ago. I read half the book before our Monday game night that evening, and stayed up reading it in bed until I finished. It wasn’t quite what I had remembered.
The protagonist was not Danny 13, but the titular Clone Catcher, whose last name was Dunn. I think I was mixing in my memory of the Danny Dunn books, which I was also fond of. There is a compound of clones, being raised for their organs, and they do revolt. But that’s really not the focus of the book, which is more a mystery with sci-fi elements to it. The cover really spoils the ending, but it’s a pretty good book. It certainly made an impression on me as a kid.
Another fun part of this story is the book itself. This copy is marked as a discard from the Barnwell Junior High Library. The book seller I got it from is based in Columbia, MO, which is about 2.5 hours drive from here. There is a Barnwell Middle School in St. Charles, MO, so it makes sense that this copy of Clone Catcher originally came from there. The book is a first edition, printed in 1982, but it’s in great shape. A small ghost and candle icon on the spine denote that the book was shelved in the “Mystery” section of the Barnwell Junior High Library. Unfortunately, the due date card was removed from the back page. I would have loved to have seen the dates this little book was checked out.
Isn’t it amazing that somewhere out there, someone took the time to post an answer? That simple act brought back a treasure from my past. Thank you, Goodreads user Toff, whoever and wherever you are. I owe you one! Now if I could just remember the title of a book on prehistoric animals, told in “a day in the life” style, that I read long, long, ago, I would be all set…