This is a novel about doubles, but more specifically this is a novel about an actor who gets hired to replace a dying and/or incapacitated politician. It takes place mostly on Mars, which led me to wonder if this is the same Mars of Stranger in a Strange Land, but mostly I was thinking about how much I didn’t care that much about the politics of the world.
If the plot sounds familiar, it is. This book is basically Dave, at least in the broad strokes. And it’s also Kagemusha by Akira Kurosawa. It did send me on a long deep dive into stories about doubles to see if there’s a kind of original of originals for this basic plotline. Some stories about doubles: The Double by Dostoyevsky — but not this plot. The Duplicate by William Sleator — but not this plot. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain — so far the closest, but hugely different. Rather than looking for someone to take over, Double Star is about replacing the leader to quell potential chaos. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas — actually pretty close! But rather than a scheme, that book involves a nefarious plot. The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope — aha! so this is my best guess for what book started it all. I think the idea of doubles is ripe for sci fi plucking — we have Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance and Brothers in Arms as well to consider — because of the ways in tackles some primeval fears — being replaced, losing one’s sense of self, losing one’s sense of identity, and the fear of losing those around us or having them fundamentally change.