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4.13  ·  Rating details ·  3,279 ratings  ·  235 reviews
Spares - human clones, the ultimate health insurance. An eye for an eye, but some people are doing all the taking.

Spares - the story of Jack Randall: burnt-out, dropped out, and with a zero credit rating at the luck bank. After five years lying low on a Spares farm, looking after inmates that can't even spell luck, he is finally faced with a chance at redemption....if he,
Paperback, 317 pages
Published November 2nd 1998 by HarperCollins (first published 1996)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,279 ratings  ·  235 reviews

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Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Philip Dick, Annihilation
Calling Spares a ‘hard-boiled detective’ story is like calling Ben&Jerry’s Wavy Gravy ‘chocolate swirl ice cream.’
Sure. I guess--if you ignore philosophy, organics, ingredients, and taste.

I mean, the lead is an ex-cop/ex-soldier. It's pretty standard detective; just replace the bottle of Scotch with a foil-wrapped pouch of Rapt. Usually.

“Then on an afterthought I reached behind me and took down a bottle of Jack Daniels. Actually, it wasn’t an afterthought. It had been a first thought and an in-
5.0 stars. This was an incredible novel. I would describe it as science ficiton "noir" in the family of Blade Runner or the Takeshi Kovacs novels by Richard Morgan. Brilliantly written and peopled with superb characters, this one is highly recommended.

Nominee: Britsh Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Jul 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book was TERRIBLE.

I had 2 chief complaints with the book:
1) The writing is piss poor.
2) The story has almost nothing to do with the "Spares". A more fitting title would have been "Crackhead Ex-Cop".

Let's just assume for a moment that Michael Marshall Smith actually wrote a book about the Spares. Here's a rundown of the *completely* believable premise.

In the near future, rich people pay lots of money to keep clones of themselves in "farms". Whenever injured, the rich people just carve a piec
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Michael Marshall Smith totally blew me away with Only Forward, so Spares was going to be a tough act to follow. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as great as Only Forward (few books are), but the quality of writing was right up to par.

I get the feeling that MMS' stories are an outlet for him to get a few things off his chest. His characters tend to wax philosophic during lulls in the action, and where this seems to annoy some readers, I found these lulls the best parts of the novel.
Like Stephen Ki
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Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, mind-bender
3.5 ish
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The stars only go up to 5 and I want to give it more. I mean, I gave 5 to “Only Forward” but I like “Spares” even more. After I finished “Only Forward” I had to agree with some reviews saying that the book was not entirely polished. “Spares” definitely has the finished polished feel. Good read all around with an ending that is satisfying and not at all Hollywood!

(view spoiler)
May 22, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book marks my 400th rating! Time flies when you’re slinging insults at Stephen King fans, I guess.

I have no idea how to rate Spares. I picked it up at a second-hand book fair because I loved the premise; a corporation creating human clones as spare body parts for the rich. This had the potential to make some really interesting commentary on class and science. But unfortunately, it just didn’t.

More akin to a D-grade Blade Runner, the original premise is irrelevant. Spares could have been rep
Mark Woods
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Spares was written way back before Michael Marshall dropped the Smith from his name, was just starting out as an author and was single-handily responsible for some of the best British sci-fi that had been seen in years! The third of his offerings after One Of Us and the ground-breaking Only Forward, Spares was a novel that redefined the term Cyberpunk and gave us something entirely different from anything we had seen before. Part comedy, part tragedy, part post-modern satire, Spares takes us on ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius
It was ok.
While the premise and the plot sounded really exciting I found the execution was so hit and miss, with patchy writing and odd segues that I actually did not enjoy reading most of it very much at all. It was one star until the ending, which earns another star all on it's own.

A lot of the concepts were good, very good even, but that clumsy patchiness of the writing style really detracted from the concepts. If the narrative had been able to carry me along I would have had less time to th
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm giving Spares three stars because its batshittery was on par with the crazy I tend to enjoy in urban fantasy, and I did indeed inhale this book. the main character is not admirable, though he does admirable things; the story is fascinating yet mad, the characters are pretty expertly layered assholes who spend a lot of time under the influence of something or another; the setting is futuristic enough to almost be dystopian-but-not-really. Honestly, well-played. Smith's use of language is by t ...more
I found this book to be pretty dire if I'm honest. I am never interested in having a junkie as the so called hero in a book as I find nothing heroic in snorting crap up your nose or sticking needles in yourself. I hate hearing these so called heroes whine about their tough life and expect to get my sympathy. Instead the phrase 'get stuffed' comes to my mind. If this is the best, most reliable man for the job that they can find to guard the cloning investment of rich people, then there is somethi ...more
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
So this book had great promise for me. The book follows Jack an ex Police officer who looks after a clone farm. The book starts as Jack breaks out a few clones after getting sick of the way that they are treated. He takes them to his old town to get supplies and starts getting hunted. The clones get stolen and Jack has to work out who stole them and how to get them back.

The book starts with a bang, straight into the action and the violence of a great action packed book. Jack is a complex charac
Ljubomir Simin
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it
A mixed bag of noir fiction, dystopian society, sci-fi and philosophy, not terribly great at neither of those, but it has some interesting moments.
Nov 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
*Minor spoilers early*

I say minor spoiler because what I mention here is revealed between 50-60 pages in, but if you want to remain in the dark, skip ahead. At the core of this story, it reminded me of Never Let Me Go and the 2005 film "The Island". However, I was surprised to see this book was published in 1997, years before either of those came out, so it may be the first, or at least one of the first, stories to feature the element common to all three. Unlike those stories, this one was told
Nov 14, 2020 rated it liked it
The premise(s) of Spares is fascinating. I appreciated the author's devices to allow the reader to gradually discover the world and characters, that the storyline is not spoon-fed exposition with handy explanations for every single device or occurrence, and that there are multiple concurrent/intersecting plot points. The execution of this composition was somewhat hit and miss for me at times, with moments of brilliance and then moments of disjointed seemingly half-conceived transition, although ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I guess you could call it Sci-Fi Noir with a touch of Dystopia. A future where rich people clone their children so they can have spare body parts should they need them requires a heavily damaged anti-hero, and Jack Randall is just that. Cop turned junkie turned spare farm caretaker, he has to return to the past he tried to escape to try to rescue the spares he has come to care about. Fast-paced and gritty, it's almost impossible to put down even when ...more
Ian Casey
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition's a sad fact of life that you can't always learn from your mistakes, because by the time you've made them you've changed the playing field forever."

Such a bluntly spartan title as Spares undersells Michael Marshall Smith's second novel. To be sure, the titular concept of cloned humans kept mentally crippled and used for spare biological parts is one with potential. A competent sci-fi author would have extrapolated from that and built a decent novel of it.

But MMS could hardly be contained t
Alain DeWitt
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Where do I begin? I recall hearing on a podcast or reading somewhere that this book influenced Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs trilogy (a huge favorite of mine). And in reading 'Spares' I had to remind myself that 'Spares' was published before 'Altered Carbon'.

'Spares''s hero (well anti-hero actually) reminds me a lot of Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs. 'Spares' doesn't have the same wide scope as 'AC' (no space travel and no colony worlds for Randall to explore). Most of the action takes place in New R
John Dalton
This is an excellent and strange book. It's a sci-fi noir detective thriller with some serious excursions into surrealist territory, and liberal helpings of humour thrown in between all the drugs and violence. Despite this confusion, the author has managed to pull off a cohesive story with fully fleshed-out characters in a vividly described world.[return][return]A cop goes off the rails after a mob hit on his family takes away all he had left in life. He wasn't exactly on the rails to begin with ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it

_Spares_ is like _The Island_. No, not that one. Or that one. I mean this one, the one where Michael Bay directs a rip-off of The Penultimate Truth and Tom Cruise kills himself, though sadly he also survives. Anyway, yes, they're both high-octane sci-fi thriller things involving human beings being grown for parts by the rich. The main distinction between the two is that in Smith's version it's a hell of a lot more horrible, and also that in Smith's version the main character is incidentally a me
May 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: pre-2012
The point of art is to create a reaction in people, good or bad, the stronger the better. Michael Marshall Smith always accomplishes that with me, but unfortunately in this case it was a hate reaction. I had previously read and loved "One of Us" and "Only Forward", so dove into this book eagerly.

MMS always creates interesting, oddball worlds that are very full and developed around the characters. I found the clone concept to be very upsetting in and of itself - the entire way it was set up and
Apr 07, 2009 rated it liked it
This is pretty similar to Only Forward, Smith's first novel, except that this one doesn't descend into tedious drivel halfway through... Both feature a very interesting setting and a street-smart but self-depracating male protagonist who knows how to handle himself as a result of a somewhat shady past and who embarks mostly unwillingly on a mission that involves wise-cracking, shooting and often jammily stumbling through a series of encounters with quirky people in odd locations. Both hence have ...more
Feb 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
I've come to count on Michael Smith for imaginative, quite bizarre stories that are well written with an interesting main character. This story is set in the future and is about Jack Randall, an ex-soldier in the war in The Gap. You don't actually find out what this means until the last quarter of the book. After his wife and daughter were murdered, Jack was quietly sent out of New Richmond to a Spares farm, where important people keep their genetic clones handy in case of accidents. You never k ...more
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Blade Runner meets Apocalypse Now! Clones, but clones with a much more realist existence... as the ultimate health insurance for the mega-rich!
The Gap war veteran and huge drug addict Jack Randall takes some time out of life working at a clone facility, when he decides that he just can't let them live caged up anymore. Set in a digital-led future where a fallen mega-mall has become the city of New Richmond, over 200 floors of humanity - the higher up you live the more wealth and privilege you h
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
MMS doing his trademark blend of SF and outright batshit crazy. It's a testament to his writing ability that he sucks you in with the story so effectively that it takes you most of the book to realize just how weird the world is, and just how little he respects traditional genre boundaries. The beautifully dry humor is only on show in the early part of this book, unlike his later novels, and some of the exposition is a little stretched, but still an excellent read. ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf, 2019
I really wanted to like this one. Even when I tapped the 2 stars I was thinking about how it was a “cool” book. But honestly, it just didn’t hold my attention. I made the dreaded decision to shelf it for now. Maybe my timing is just wrong and I’ll come back at another date. I just can’t try forcing through it right now. Looking forward to his newest one.
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
This was very dark and miserable, yet compelling, not sure I want to read another from him for a while, not much light in here.
Jenny M
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Bult
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

Spares blends science fiction, humor, and a bit of horror in a noir detective novel that entranced and delighted me when I first discovered it 15 or so years ago, and totally engaged me again upon re-reading it recently. Jack is a tragic hero, flawed and broken in deep ways, yet his core is good even if it’s wrapped with shit and flypaper. The voice of the book is deeply engaging, an intensely dark and brooding narrative of loss and heartache and pain, yet constantly tinged with ironic,
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I love Michael Marshall smith, he is a great imaginative writer. This is a 90s sci fi, with twists and turns and you won't guess where it's taking you. The story has some really imaginitive concepts, the City New Richmond is like a floating cloud city for the rich come crashing down to earth so the real people moved in. And the Gap is this weird space leaking into our world, of all the gaps, all the things never perceived, and we went to war with it, like a really bad trip gone really wrong. And ...more
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Michael Marshall (Smith) is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. His first novel, ONLY FORWARD, won the August Derleth and Philip K. Dick awards. SPARES and ONE OF US were optioned for film by DreamWorks and Warner Brothers, and the Straw Men trilogy - THE STRAW MEN, THE LONELY DEAD and BLOOD OF ANGELS - were international bestsellers. His most recent novels are THE INTRUDERS, BAD THINGS and K ...more

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