Because of my lifestyle, it usually takes me a couple of weeks to read a book. I do wish I could read them in a few days, but I just don’t have that kind of time. But the last book I read was relatively short and took me two days, between work, my own writing, looking after four kids, and being a husband.
That book was Mickey 7. (What’s with the post image, I hear you ask? We’ll get there… soon.)
I can’t remember how I found it — probably from a Bookbub email or something — but the cover jumped out at me, and the blurb was great. It tells the story of a man called Mickey 7 (surprisingly enough) who is an Expendable. It’s his job to do the dangerous stuff that others won’t do. Like subjecting himself to diseases. And he does, because if, and when he dies (he is number 7), then they just regenerate a new Mickey, download all his memories, and give him the next number. And they treat him like he’s the same person, and he thinks he’s the same person because he has all Mickey’s memories. Then on one mission, he is presumed dead. But he survives and makes it back to the colony to find Mickey 8 asleep in his bed.
As premises go, that’s way up there with the best.
Now, SPOILER ALERT!!
If you want to read this book and to read it fresh, then go no further and click the link (no affiliate links here, just good old-fashioned recommendations). But if you want to read on, then do so knowing I’m probably going to give away some fairly important concepts of the book. I’ll try my best to avoid all plot points.
But you have been warned.
So, the blurb is good in that it only really covers the opening of the book. Some blurbs can go all the way to 25 per cent, but I think that’s too far. When I did my own, I did the research and took the advice, and my first few drafts went all the way to the end of act one. But then I cut it right back. After all, you want to maintain suspense and intrigue. No point in giving away a quarter of the story.
So what happens when Mickey 7 and Mickey 8 meet? Well, I’m not going to ruin the plot, but all I’ll say is that a significant part of the book is them trying to stay alive.
Much of the story takes place in a small colony on a planet identified for human habitation. But the way it works is that when a planet is identified, no one really knows how habitable it is. And it takes several years to get there, and it pretty much takes all their fuel to get there. So if they arrive and it’s not quite what they were hoping for, then… tough. It’s their new home, for better or worse.
You can probably imagine their colony isn’t in paradise.
It isn’t. It lacks resources, it takes a lot of effort to create a new Mickey, and it takes a lot of effort to feed everyone. So, having two Mickey’s seems rather pointless (as well as being an abomination). Basically, if the colony commander found out, one Mickey would have to die. And to the colonists, other than the Mickey’s, this seems reasonable. He’s probably going to die sometime soon, anyway. What’s the difference?
I think what I find so interesting about this book is that the author gives the sense of having fun with everything, despite the fairly macabre premise. He even finds time to put to us a weird and uncomfortable sex scene with Mickey 7 and Mickey 8 and a certain lady. That certainly poses some questions about sexuality.
But ultimately, beneath all the fun, is a serious thought experiment. And here the author doesn’t beat about the bush. This, I suspect, is where the story was born. A classic what if?
And that thought experiment is the Ship of Theseus.
If you are unfamiliar with the Ship of Theseus, it is a thought experiment that actually makes your head hurt. It comes from Ancient Greece (how those guys ever got anything done I’ll never know) and concerns a ship that undergoes so many repairs that every single component (from every bit of wood, every nail, to every bit of rope and cloth) is replaced. So, the ancient philosophers asked, ‘Is it the same ship?’
Some would say, of course. Just because it underwent repairs doesn’t mean it’s a different ship. It still has the essence of the ship. While others could argue that it’s a completely different ship. Not one of the single atoms that made up the original ship is still there. It is now an entirely different ship, made of different matter right down to the atom.
But a counterargument is, when did it go from being Theseus’s ship to not being Theseus’s ship? There clearly cannot be a definite moment when it was one ship and then a nail was replaced, and now it was another ship. This is where the argument clearly states it is the same ship. But it’s all a matter of perspective.
But a ship does not have consciousness. A human does. Mickey 1-6 are all dead. But are they just reborn, now living as Mickey 7? As far as Mickey is concerned, he has lived a full life, died six times, but yet lives. And what would be the difference between him and another Mickey? Same material. Put together the same way. And identical memories. It can be uncomfortable to think about, even knowing that you and I today are, atom for atom, not the human that was born however many years ago, or even the human that lived several years ago.
And onto the obvious theme.
What makes you… you? Is it something physical or something metaphysical? Do we have a soul? (Even those of us who are atheists still struggle with the concept of what makes me, me.) Can consciousness be replicated, or would it be an entirely new consciousness? These ideas are deftly explored in the sense you are asked to think about them, yet, wisely, the author doesn’t really offer any answers. You can judge yourself. Depending on faith, or lack thereof, might sway you one way or another.
The same theme was explored with Vision in WandaVision. Not to the same level as with this book and far less effective. Basically, it was posed in one scene and didn’t really have any impact. But this book poses the question in style, and if you’re not up for doing a course in philosophy then just read this book. It doesn’t have the answers, but then that’s philosophy (Hakuna Matata, it ain’t).
So, the book is funny, and it’s having fun, and you have fun reading it. Yet it takes you on a philosophical journey, whether you know it or not. It’s a real treat for a book.
If there is any criticism, then it’s that I don’t think the actual plot comes anywhere close to reaching the same level of intrigue as the theme. In fact, I’m struggling to remember the plot. But the book has a great character and a terrific theme, and it’s definitely worth a read. I can see why it’s now being made into a motion picture (movie).
Mickey 7 is by Edward Ashton and is not one to miss.