A light-hearted in a darkly cynical way science fiction adventure that reads like The Martin in the best possible way, but also does its own thing. Many thanks to Jess at Rebellion Books for an ARC.
RELEASE DATE: 22/02/2022
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
SUMMARY: 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.
OPINION: What makes you, you? Is it your memories, the things that happen to you? Or is it your thoughts and dreams? What happens if someone has exactly the same memories as you but you think they’re a self-absorbed ass? These aren’t irrelevant questions for Mickey. After accidentally being left behind, Mickey7 has to work with Mickey8 to avoid being detected which isn’t easy when there’s not enough food for both, the commander has it in for both of you, and your girlfriend is getting particularly inquisitive about why you don’t remember conversations. The plot is fairly straightforward, but the joy in the book is the interaction between Mickey7 and 8. Watching the variations which emerge as well as each’s approach to the challenges ahead shouldn’t be so amusing considering they’re to all intents and purposes the same person.
The colony of Niflheim is lightly drawn although with enough small details to give a sense of how perilously life is balancing here and the existing species’ desires and purpose is a mystery right up until the end with a satisfying resolution hidden from everyone except the reader. Interspersed between Mickey7’s daily life and struggles to ensure he has enough food, is how exactly he ended up in the situation of Expendable alongside a history of other colonies and ways they failed. While this adds to Mickey’s backstory (he was a historian on the planet he left behind) ultimately I didn’t feel they added all that much to the story but neither did they slow down the pace of the narrative so readers may be divided on this.
I enjoyed the ride this book took me on and it’s very cinematic in its approach to life on a colony so it’s not too surprising that it’s already been optioned for a movie. I look forward to seeing how it plays out as well as the next book Edward Ashton writes.