#SciFiMonth Review: The Mirror Man by Jane Gilmartin
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: MIRA (October 20, 2020)
Length: 352 pages
How many times have you wished you could clone yourself? To have a double take over your life, just for a little while, so you can catch a quick breather? In Jane Gilmartin’s The Mirror Man, the ability to achieve this has become a reality, albeit the technology is highly illegal. The possibility of creating a perfect copy of a human being, complete with same personalities and memories, is not something the world is ready to accept, so the company behind the scientific breakthrough can only conduct their experiments under the utmost secrecy.
Now, the experts ViGen Pharmaceuticals believe they have found the perfect subject. Jeremiah Adams is a middle-aged husband and father living a disaffected life, who is also willing to be discreet. For ten million dollars, he agrees to be a part of their top-secret study, which involves being cloned. The catch? Jeremiah will need to be removed from his life for an entire year, while his clone takes over. After all, part of the experiment is “quality testing” to see if the copy is indeed indistinguishable from the original. If successful, no one should suspect Jeremiah has been replaced. Behind the scenes, a team of ViGen scientists will also be monitoring the clone’s every move to ensure adherence to expected personality and behavioral patterns.
At first, Jeremiah thought it would be easy. A year isn’t all that long, plus ten million dollars is a ridiculously large sum of money, enough to set him and his family up for life after the experiment was over. And if he’s being completely honest, he’s also been having a rough time lately, at home and at work. He figures a break will do him good, especially with ViGen setting him up in a luxury apartment where his every need will be met. He’ll finally be able to do what he wants, when he wants—though he would have to meet periodically with a company psychologist, as per his contract agreement. Through these sessions, however, Jeremiah soon realizes that watching him clone live his life from afar isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though he’ll need the experiment to succeed in order to receive his money, he also can’t help but feel unsettled, not to mention hurt, to see someone else replace him so completely. Then, Jeremiah’s mother dies. Already angry and devastated from being forced to grieve at a distance, our protagonist receives another shock as stumbles upon the dark truth behind the real purpose of ViGen’s cloning technology.
As a fan of sci-fi stories that read like “what if” scenarios, I really enjoyed The Mirror Man and blew through it rather quickly. While it doesn’t place as much emphasis on the science aspect, the energetic pacing and thrills more than made up for it. As the reader, you’re thrown into the thick of things pretty much right away, as the author wastes no time in establishing the premise. As such, I didn’t mind the lack of background into ViGen’s cloning technology, once I realized that wasn’t the point of the novel anyway. Instead, its focus is almost entirely on Jeremiah and the internal conflict raging within him, as he watches his clone with a new perspective on himself, thinking he doesn’t really like what he sees.
Subtle as they were, there were some meaningful underlying philosophical themes at play, exploring the question of what makes us human. Observing his life from an outsider’s perspective forces Jeremiah to confront the truth of his malaise and re-examine his personal choices as he finally realizes what he’s been missing. I wish the narrative had carried this thread a little further, but the plot then swiftly adopts a thriller tone and style, taking off like a runaway train from there. Technology meets conspiracy in The Mirror Man, which I can see being a hit with readers who enjoy the intense pacing and high stakes of books like Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, The Fold by Peter Clines, or The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein.
Overall, I thought this was a great read, and in fact, my only criticism is that the conclusion could have been tweaked to pack a harder punch. In the end, the resolution might have come just a tad to easy for our protagonist, but I was nevertheless happy with how everything turned out. After all, it’s not every day I read a book about cloning! I had a blast with The Mirror Man and will most certainly be keeping an eye out for Jane Gilmartin’s future work!