greatly enjoyed reading Mickey 7. Once I got it home from the library, I did not put it down to read from any of the other books I am currently reading in parallel. When I focus on just
one book, that is a good sign. The book really captured my interest. The hardcover edition of Mickey 7 is 293 pages, and I finished it in four nights. And yet...I am greatly frustrated with Mickey 7. This story could have
been so much better! I shall explain in the spoilers section.
Mickey 7 is a crew member of the Drakkar, an interstellar colony ship that recently arrived at the frozen planet of Niflheim, which is an icy world that their
colony is struggling to gain a toehold upon (the planet Niflheim turns out to be much colder and forbidding than it appeared when the Drakkar was launched) . The novel begins with Mickey 7 lying at the bottom of a deep crevasse that he has just tumbled into - and he quickly realizes that climbing back out is not going to be possible. Unable to climb out, Mickey 7 wanders through endless tunnels until he encounters a gigantic creeper; one of the fearsome native lifeforms on Niflheim. Yet rather than ripping Mickey 7 to shreds, the creeper picks him up and carries him nearly
back to the dome where the human colonists have settled on this forbidding planet. The creeper releases Mickey 7 and he easily walks back to the base. Mickey 7 has survived against all odds!
Unfortunately, Mickey's best friend, Beto, reported Mickey's demise when he returned from his mission. The colonists have already printed up his identical replacement, Mickey 8. When Mickey 7 returns to his room, he discovers his bed is
already occupied by an exact replicate of himself. This is a problem. Ethics of the colonists include the idea that there shall be only one personality / one body per colonist. Multiple copies of the same person are considered an abomination. And yet, that is exactly the fix Mickey 7
finds himself in. If he is discovered, he know that he and his successor, Mickey 8, will both be immediately fed to the recycler.
The Niflheim colony is already on reduced rations, and now Mickey 7 and Mickey 8 must split their calorie ration. Most of the colony already loathes Mickey for being an expendable, so he has few allies amongst his fellow humans. Nasha the pilot is his
most trustworthy friend (after being abandoned by Beto at the bottom of the crevasse, Mickey is re-evaluating Beto's "best friend" status). Mickey 7 and Mickey 8 talk a lot about hunger. Yet, oddly, Mickey 8 never demands that Mickey 7 explain what happened and how he survived. Nor does Mickey 7
tell his own copy about his encounter with the sentient creeper. Mickey 8 shares all but Mickey 7's most recent memories, yet Mickey 7 does not trust Mickey 8?
When Mickey 7 gets back to the dome, why doesn't he immediately upload his memories? His knowledge is priceless - the risk that it might be permanently lost is great, especially in a dangerous job that he has. Mickey 7 has just made first contact - he knows the creepers are sentient!
I don't get why probes weren't sent to the Niflheim prior to colonization? I have read proposals that suggest that even with our current technology, we could accelerate tiny, light weight probes to an acceptable fraction of the speed of light (using lasers to drive sails on the tiny probes). Send wave after wave
of these tiny probes, each wave relays back the information collection by the preceding wave. If some probes fail in interstellar space, no problem. The probes cannot slow down when they reach the destination system, but even a high speed fly-by would reveal incredibly useful information. If Earth can (possibly) send these probes today, why can't the
citizens of Midgard? Instead of blindly sending their colony ship into space, they would have a much better understanding of awaits them once they get there.
I read physical books only, no eBooks. So I can tell from the number of remaining pages when a novel is heading toward its climax. I remember thinking at the start of chapter 19 that there was no way Ashton could resolve all the open story threads. I concluded that this must in fact be the first book in a series (next one probably
called Mickey 8), even though I have seen no markings advertising it as the first book of a set. However, Ashton does indeed race to an unsatisfying conclusion of the story in the final pages. I wish he had written a longer, better novel.
*** Spoiler alert ***
Here is what annoyed me most about Mickey 7 - this is a first contact novel, yet there is no contact between Mickey 7 and the creepers! The entire interaction between Mickey and the prime alien covers perhaps 3 pages!?!? All this
buildup, and then all we get is the first tentative sentences - "Understand?" - "Are you Prime?" - and then that's a wrap! What a huge letdown. I remember as a child, my mother told me that the Sound of Music was about a family that escaped the Nazis by climbing the
Alps and making it to Switzerland. And so I watched an endlessly tedious movie of stupid songs and wondered - when do they climb the mountains? Finally, FINALLY(!) the movie got to the part where the von Trapp family started hiking the mountain - and then the credits
started rolling. It was literally the end of the movie. I still hate The Sound of Music movie. My antipathy toward Mickey 7 isn't that intense, because at least it is interesting along the way. But this novel wildly misses on delivering an alien first-contact story.
My second issue with Mickey 7 is the amount of backstory that Ashton stuffs into this novel. From the opening scene, where Mickey 7 finds himself trapped at the bottom of a crevasse that he just tumbled into, at least the half the pages
are devoted to describing events that occurred prior to his fateful plunge. We learn all about the Diaspora. About the fate of all the previous Mickey's. About seemingly dozens of other failed colony attempts. As the novel is ripping through the final pages toward
a stirring climax, Ashton takes yet another detour to describe the matter/anti-matter "Bubble War" on Earth 600 years ago. Needlessly to say, long digressions like this, however interesting and well thought-out, really put a damper on the pace of the plot.
There is so much background detail in this book that I wonder if Ashton is describing a "Mickey 7 Universe" - a setting where he plans multitudes of novels, sort of like Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space future history. I can easily guess
at some future stories: Turns out Earth did not perish 600 years ago in the Bubble War. Or, it turns out that "The Bullet" did not obliterate all copies of Alan Manikova, and now he has invaded another solar system. However, one topic that I am certain won't the
subject of a book in the "Mickey 7 Universe" is anything about the creeper civilization, because Ashton appears to have quite an aversion to talking about them.