Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Literally the Best Reviews: The Mirror Man

 The Mirror Man - Jane Gilmartin

MIRA Publishing

352 Pages

I recently did an interview with our friend, Howie Balaban, about my reading history, likes, and interests. One of the things I told him was that once I finished the books in the children’s section of the Lockport Library, I was still a bit too young to venture to the adult section. I did it anyway, and found my first, real passion for reading: science-fiction. Once I discovered the works of Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asmiov, I was all-in. When I go to the library now, the first place I head to is the new release shelves for science-fiction.

It was upon these shelves that I found The Mirror Man by Jane Gilmartin. This novel is a techo-thriller set in the very near future. This is exactly the type of science fiction book that I absolutely love. It’s set in the very near future with something that could really happen. The technology is so close yet still tantalizingly out of reach. Gilmartin delivered that and more with this novel, sending a message on the dangers of being enamored with burgeoning technologies.

Jeremiah Adams is being given the opportunity of a lifetime. ViMed Pharmaceuticals, the company for which he works has had a breakthrough in technology. A cloning technique has seemingly been perfected, and Jeremiah is asked to have a clone of himself made. The clone would take his place in his normal life for one year, while the real Jeremiah would isolate away from the world, watching every move the clone made in order to determine the level of success for the project. At the end of the year, he would return to his life along with a very generous check.

In his mind, this seems like a pure win. Who wouldn’t like to be able to put their feet up for a year with no worries as a clone takes on all your troubles? It doesn’t take long for the ugliness to creep. In fact, it’s almost immediate. 

It’s extremely difficult to watch yourself and see yourself as others see you. The self filters are completely removed. You get to see how you truly react to situations and judge those reactions. Jonathan agonizes as his already troubled relationships with both his son and wife crumble before his very eyes. And he can do nothing about it. He sees events unfold, knowing in his heart that would be exactly how he would have reacted, but knowing through the benefit of a new perspective that there are better choices. 

Interestingly, I read this book while we were still in partial lockdown due to the pandemic, and as it seemed to be gearing up for another wave. The claustrophobia that Jonathan felt while being sequestered away from the world while the experiment hits home even more as we each feel a little of that. This allows the story to ring just a little truer than it would in normal times. 

I would note, however, that the characters in this book are wildly unlikable. Not a single one is worthy of empathy - even Jonathan while he lives through his darkest moments. The message and plot make up for it as the narrative weaves together the dangers of too much technology without oversight, and the dangers of taking the easy way out. Jonathan thought being cloned would give him a chance to finally sit back, relax, and reassess his life. Insead, it brought even more stress and an unfathomable heartbreak.

The Mirror Man by Jane Gilmartin is a study in human nature. It brings a fresh, new insight on self-awareness, and how often we view ourselves so very differently than those around us do. When Jonathan finally sees himself without the blinders, he abruptly changes the way he makes decisions. This novel is an intriguing look at the lines between technology and humanity, the perks and the dangers. 

This novel is well worth the read. It’s a science fiction story set so very near in the future that we can see the potential, even if it’s not yet practical. It is the edge of the wild frontier, so to speak. How will we react when that day actually arrives? I think Jane Gilmartin has captured that quite perfectly.

Craig Bacon still wants to travel to Mars. Even though we are getting closer to that capability, it will more likely be one of his kids who has a greater chance. But with VR...who knows what lives we can live?