Mickey7, an “expendable,” refuses to let his replacement clone Mickey8 take his place.
Dying isn’t any fun…but at least it’s a living.
Mickey7 is an Expendable: a disposable employee on a human expedition sent to colonize the ice world Niflheim. Whenever there’s a mission that’s too dangerous—even suicidal—the crew turns to Mickey. After one iteration dies, a new body is regenerated with most of his memories intact. After six deaths, Mickey7 understands the terms of his deal…and why it was the only colonial position unfilled when he took it.
On a fairly routine scouting mission, Mickey7 goes missing and is presumed dead. By the time he returns to the colony base, surprisingly helped back by native life, Mickey7’s fate has been sealed. There’s a new clone, Mickey8, reporting for Expendable duties. The idea of duplicate Expendables is universally loathed, and if caught, they will likely be thrown into the recycler for protein.
Mickey7 must keep his double a secret from the rest of the colony. Meanwhile, life on Niflheim is getting worse. The atmosphere is unsuitable for humans, food is in short supply, and terraforming is going poorly. The native species are growing curious about their new neighbors, and that curiosity has Commander Marshall very afraid. Ultimately, the survival of both lifeforms will come down to Mickey7.
That is, if he can just keep from dying for good.
Cloning has always been a fascinating topic for me, and the concept of Expendables is a new one. The combination of the two made this book irresistable.
No doubt about it – Mickey7 has a crappy job. He knew what he was in for when he took it, but dying doesn’t get any easier. He retains his memories (he uploads periodically), but every death has also been painful and occasionally messy. I immediately liked Mickey. His voice reminds me of Mark Watney in The Martian – snarky, self-depracating, and humorous. He also breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the reader, something I especially loved.
Things aren’t going so well on the colonization mission. Food is in short supply, rations are being cut, and vegetation is dying. They’re also being threatened by local lifeforms, the Creepers. Think centipede-like creatures but a million times bigger. And they tear people to shreds and eat them. Mickey’s existence is threatened even more when Mickey8 is taken from the tank after Mickey7 goes missing and is presumed dead. Multiples are forbidden to exist at the same time. Many of the crew are kind of weirded out by clones, and most of them steer clear of Mickey, anyway. A religious group of Natalists on board consider clones to be soulless abominations, and it doesn’t help that Mickey’s commander is a believer. To say the two of them have a tension-filled relationship is an understatement.
This novel wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. I was prepared for more action and exploration into the Creepers, but the majority of the story focuses on the Mickeys keeping their dual existence a secret – which, of course, is impossible. Especially since he/they have a girlfriend. The story brings the Theseus’ Paradox into play (a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object), something that was really thought-provoking. I also enjoyed the stories about the different colonies throughout history.
I’ve seen comp titles of Dark Matter and The Martian (two outstanding reads), but I can’t say Mickey7 is exactly like either of them. I’d categorize this novel as light sci-fi filled with loads of tension, a little action, a splash of romance, and a healthy serving of humor.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.