I couldn’t find the cover of the old paperback version I read on the internets so no picture. I saw this book referred to in some blog in the last few weeks so when I was looking for something to take on a recent trip to Portland I grabbed it for a reread. Fun with cloning and brain backups. I lost count of how many different versions of the main character there are by the end of the book. Less than six I think. Some of them die (quite a few, now that I think about it). In the universe of this book we can grow a clone of your body up to the equivalent of 18 years in a week or two. Add to that the ability to do backup and restore of the state of your brain (all your memories and personality), and people have become essentially immortal. But that’s all just background. Multiple concurrent copies of a person are illegal, but not impossible. The book concerns itself with the ways in which the criminal element games the system.

The title refers to a message stream from deep space that contains info about how to do all sorts of useful things (like make quick clones and brain backups). It’s not clear until pretty late in the book why that should be its title.

I love reading Varley for the way he plays with these kinds of cool sfnal ideas by plunking smart capable Heinleinesque characters into impossible situations and letting them try to find ways out of them with the tools at hand.