St. Martin’s. Feb. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781250275035. $24.99. SF
Ashton’s (Three Days in April) new SF thriller contains a dying old world, a strange new world that’s not quite in the Goldilocks zone, desperate would-be colonists, and a tin-pot dictator. Mickey7 is an Expendable in a beachhead human colony on an absolute iceball of a planet. His job is to do the many, many things that a human can do better than a drone or a robot, but that a human cannot survive. The plan is that this current Mickey won’t survive them either, but his memories will be uploaded into a new body fresh out of the printer so his work, and the colony, can go on. When Mickey7 doesn’t die as reported, and Mickey8 is created by accident, the Mickeys have a problem. The existence of two Expendables is grounds for destruction, unless they can manage to hide their secret or leverage it so that it becomes too dangerous to wipe them both out.
VERDICT Ashton’s novel begins as farce and ends as something considerably deeper; as an Expendable, Mickey7 is able to ask what makes someone human or who has the right to destroy a place in order to occupy it. Highly recommended for readers of colonization SF.
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