Mickey 7 - themes of Edward Ashton's novel

10 September 2023
In the realm of science fiction, few novels manage to seamlessly weave together complex themes into a narrative that not only entertains but also provokes thought. Edward Ashton's "Mickey 7" stands as a remarkable example of this, offering a multi-layered exploration of identity, sacrifice, and the ethical implications of cloning.

These themes are not isolated elements but are intricately interconnected, adding a level of complexity that elevates the novel from mere storytelling to a profound commentary on the human condition.

This discussion aims to delve deep into each of these themes, examining how they individually and collectively contribute to the narrative's complexity and relevance. Through this lens, we will explore how "Mickey 7" serves as both a compelling story and a philosophical treatise that challenges us to confront uncomfortable ethical questions that are increasingly relevant in our rapidly advancing world.

mickey 7 themes


The theme of identity in "Mickey 7" serves as more than just a subplot or a secondary layer of the story; it is, in fact, the central axis around which the entire narrative revolves. Mickey, the protagonist, is not just another character; he is a "disposable" clone, the seventh iteration in a series of beings designed to be identical in every way. This existential condition is not merely a backdrop for the story but the lens through which all of Mickey's actions and decisions must be viewed.

Mickey's status as a clone forces him into a constant struggle with questions of individuality and self-worth. For instance, there is a moment in the book where Mickey engages in an internal dialogue, questioning the essence of his being. He wonders if he has any unique qualities that set him apart from his previous iterations, or if he is merely a carbon copy, devoid of originality. This moment is not just a fleeting thought; it is a pivotal point in the narrative that encapsulates the identity crisis that many people—clone or not—face at some point in their lives. However, the stakes are higher for Mickey because his very existence is predicated on the idea that he is expendable and replaceable, amplifying his internal struggle to a near-existential crisis.

The societal norms within the world of "Mickey 7" add another layer of complexity to the theme of identity. In this society, clones are not just second-class citizens; they are often viewed as expendable commodities (like replicants in Bladerunner), tools to be used and discarded. This perspective is not a mere backdrop or a minor detail in the world-building; it is a critical element that shapes the plot and drives the narrative forward. For example, this societal view directly impacts how Mickey is treated by his crew members. They often put him in dangerous situations, knowing that he can be replaced, which in turn affects how Mickey perceives his role in the mission and his value as an individual.

This devaluation of clone life by society has a profound and lasting impact on Mickey's self-worth and self-perception. It's not just that he is treated as expendable; it's that this treatment confirms his worst fears about his own lack of individuality and value. This creates a vicious cycle: the more he is treated as expendable, the more expendable he feels, which in turn affects his actions and decisions throughout the mission. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that serves as a powerful commentary on the dangers of societal norms that devalue individual life.


The theme of sacrifice is not merely an ancillary element in "Mickey 7"; it is a critical narrative device that Ashton uses to explore the complexities of human morality in a world where life can be easily replicated. Mickey, the protagonist, is acutely aware of his "disposable" nature, a realization that colors every decision he makes throughout the story. This awareness is not just a character trait; it's a narrative mechanism that Ashton uses to challenge our traditional understanding of sacrifice.

One of the most poignant moments in the book occurs when Mickey willingly decides to undertake a perilous task for the mission, fully cognizant that another clone will replace him if he fails. This decision is not just a plot device to move the story forward; it serves as a profound commentary on the value—or lack thereof—that society places on individual lives when they can be easily replicated. In a typical narrative, a character's decision to sacrifice themselves would be seen as an act of heroism. However, in "Mickey 7," this act is complicated by the fact that Mickey is replaceable. His sacrifice, therefore, is both heroic and unsettling, forcing the reader to question the very nature of heroism in a world where life is expendable.

The concept of sacrifice takes on an entirely different weight and dimension in the universe of "Mickey 7," where the existence of clones challenges our traditional ethical frameworks. The crew's willingness to put Mickey in life-threatening situations precisely because he is "replaceable" raises a host of unsettling moral questions. It's not just about whether it's right or wrong to sacrifice one for the many; it's about the ethical implications of devaluing a life simply because it can be recreated. This challenges the reader to confront uncomfortable questions about the sanctity of life and the moral responsibilities we have toward all sentient beings, not just those we deem "irreplaceable."

This theme of sacrifice also serves as a mirror to society's ethical dilemmas about the value of individual lives in various contexts, such as war, medical research, and even capital punishment. In each of these scenarios, individuals are often considered expendable for the "greater good," much like Mickey. 

However, "Mickey 7" forces us to question this utilitarian approach to ethics by presenting a world where the lines between expendable and irreplaceable are blurred, challenging our preconceived notions about the value of individual lives.

Ethical Implications of Cloning

The ethical questions that "Mickey 7" raises are not just a subplot or a thematic layer; they are arguably the most compelling and thought-provoking aspect of the novel. The treatment of clones in the story serves as a lens through which to examine broader ethical dilemmas that are increasingly relevant in our own world as scientific advancements in cloning and genetic engineering continue to progress.

One of the most striking examples of the dehumanization of clones in the novel is the way the crew refers to Mickey not by his name but by his iteration number. This might seem like a small detail on the surface, but it carries significant weight. By reducing Mickey's identity to a mere serial number, the crew—and by extension, the society in which they live—strips him of his individuality and humanity.

This is not just a narrative choice; it's a deliberate commentary on how society can dehumanize individuals when they are categorized as 'other' or 'less than,' whether it be due to race, class, or, in this case, their origin as a clone.

The ethical implications of cloning in "Mickey 7" go beyond the mere dehumanization of clones. The very act of creating life for the explicit purpose of sacrifice introduces a host of complex moral questions that have no easy answers. For instance, the crew's internal debate about whether it's ethical to keep sending Mickey into dangerous situations isn't just a plot point; it serves as a microcosm for broader societal questions about the morality of using clones—or any life forms—as mere tools for utilitarian purposes. 

This ethical dilemma is not confined to the fictional world of "Mickey 7"; it echoes real-world debates about the use of animals in scientific research, the ethics of organ transplantation, and even the moral implications of using AI in warfare.

Moreover, this ethical quandary forces the reader to confront their own moral compass. It asks us to consider whether the ends can ever truly justify the means when it comes to the sanctity of life. It challenges us to question whether a society that treats any life form as expendable can ever be considered ethical or just. In doing so, "Mickey 7" serves as a cautionary tale, warning us of the potential ethical pitfalls that await us as we venture further into the realm of cloning and genetic engineering.

Interconnectedness of Themes

The true brilliance of "Mickey 7" is not just in its individual themes of identity, sacrifice, and ethics, but in how these themes are intricately woven together to create a complex tapestry of human experience and moral dilemma. This interconnectedness is not a mere narrative device; it's a structural element that elevates the story from a simple science fiction tale to a profound exploration of the human condition.

Mickey's identity crisis serves as the emotional and philosophical core of the story, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. It directly feeds into and amplifies the ethical dilemmas faced by the crew and, by extension, the society they represent. For instance, Mickey's internal struggle with his identity as a "disposable" clone isn't just a personal crisis; it's a crisis that has far-reaching implications for how the crew navigates ethical decisions. If Mickey is grappling with his own sense of self and worth, then the crew's willingness to sacrifice him becomes not just a strategic choice but a deeply moral one. It raises questions about the value society places on individual lives, especially those deemed "lesser" or "expendable."

This interconnectedness of themes adds multiple layers of complexity to the narrative. Each act of sacrifice becomes more poignant because it's not just a physical act; it's an act that has emotional and ethical weight. When Mickey is put in dangerous situations, the tension is not just about whether he will survive, but about what his survival or sacrifice means in a world grappling with the ethics of cloning. Each ethical question becomes more troubling because it's not just a theoretical dilemma; it's a dilemma that has real, tangible impacts on characters we've come to understand and empathize with, particularly Mickey.

For example, when Mickey's internal struggle with identity reaches a peak, it casts a shadow over every ethical decision the crew makes thereafter. The crew's choices become morally ambiguous not just in the context of the mission, but in the context of their own humanity and the society they are a part of. This creates a cycle of complexity that keeps the reader engaged from start to finish, constantly challenging them to reconsider their own ethical frameworks and understandings of identity and sacrifice.

Moreover, this interconnectedness serves as a mirror to our own world, where issues of identity, ethics, and sacrifice often intersect in complex ways, such as in discussions about social justice, medical ethics, and even geopolitics. By weaving these themes together so seamlessly, "Mickey 7" invites the reader to consider how these issues are interconnected in their own lives and in the broader societal context.

Mickey 7 has been adapted into a film by acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), Mickey 17. Mickey 17 which explores the themes of the novel.


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My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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