Trish Moran has conceived a tantalising plot and from it woven an exciting story for teenagers. Rich celebrities have donated stem cells, which are being preserved at the Centre so as to be able to repair the donor’s body in the event of injury or disease. However, these cells are secretly cultivated into multiple super clones of the donor, which are stored in a dormant state and used when needed as a source of Spare Parts, the remainder of the body being discarded.
As fate would have it, some of these clones waken accidentally and escape. They then adopt sophisticated tricks – a bogus sentry, false CCTV footage, decoy scents for the guard dogs – to enable them to enter the Mature Ward and liberate further ‘Labs’, as the clones call themselves, in contrast to the natural human beings known as ‘Non-Labs’. A colony of Labs lives concealed in a warren of caves, emerging at times to steal food and clothes or to meddle with the Non-Labs’ computer systems.
The conspiracy thickens when several Labs adopt conventional names and start living as normal college students, aided by a teenage Non-Lab girl, who has run away from her uncaring aunt. When their identity becomes known, a variety of social issues arise, such as that many people are prejudiced against those ‘freaks’; their legal status is questioned; a romance develops between a Non-Lab and a Lab and she becomes pregnant. Also, the subscribers/donors make claims to their rights over their cloned Labs and demand compensation for their invested fees. One subscriber even discovers his dead daughter’s clone is alive and they take contact with each other.
When the facts of the clandestine cloning are made public, the Centre is closed down by government decree. However, some of the staff – aided by a disgruntled and over-ambitious Lab – set up a replica Centre in a Middle Eastern country with laxer ethical principles. The resulting international crisis is dramatically resolved by more of the Labs’ ingenious tricks, and everyone ends up living happily ever after in a united society with universal rights.
Although somewhat fantastic in detail, Mirror Image is a truly dramatic story written in a style appropriate for young people. We get to know and sympathise with the main protagonists, each of whom have a unique character. The book would have benefitted from further textual revision.