by Edward Ashton
St. Martin's Press, 2022
Mickey 7 is a far-future science fiction / adventure novel, a fast-moving dark comedy centered around a clever, if not especially original, theme.
Mickey is an expendable, a human that has had their physical and metal state scanned and uploaded so that they can be cloned and reload their personality and memories. In exchange for this functional immortality, expendables do all the jobs that no one else will, usually because they are fatal.
Mickey 7 is the 7th incarnation of Mickey Barnes, each of his predecessors having met a messy and painful end while protecting the colony ship Drakkar on its journey to a new world, checking out the new world for hazards, and just generally being the first body to step into any uncertain situation. He is the only expendable on the ship, so he gets all the dangerous assignments. He's 100% backed up, so the crew doesn't spend a lot of effort keeping him alive if a situation goes south. It's not a great job, but he has unimpeachable job security.
All this changes suddenly when he accidentally commits one of the worst crimes possible: he survives certain death. By dint of a minor miracle, he gets back to base just after having been declared dead and being reincarnated. You are not allowed to be two people. If this is discovered, one of him will be killed. Both of him agree that that's no good.
Mickey 8 spends some time trying to convince Mickey 7 to do the honorable thing and step into the recycler, but they both know it's a lost cause. The Mickeys carefully juggle work responsibilities, social interactions, and food rations waiting for one or the other of them to die -- the colony is not doing so great fighting off the local fauna, so they don't expect it to take long. Naturally, this project is plagued with comic missteps, an ever-expanding web of lies, and the colony's dark secret, to which the Mickeys have unwittingly become an unwanted key.
Over all, this is a fun and fast-moving read. We get flashbacks to all of Mickey's previous lives/deaths, so it is also a bit dark and gruesome at times. It is not especially humorous, although it certainly plays up a humorous situation, and has some good moments. I enjoyed it, but it didn't quite capture my attention consistently. I think that this is perhaps a reflection on me, rather than the writing, however. I didn't quite click with the writer's style, but I have no particular criticism of it, and it was an enjoyable read. If you like fast-moving concept-centered science fiction, it's certainly worth checking out.