When software magnate Bill Vargas's wife Lynn is killed in a car accident, Bill's team of developers creates a computer program that simulates Lynn's mind as closely as possible and a robot body to go with it. But the resulting entity is not the original Lynn, and resists Bill's efforts to make her act just like the original. Unfortunately for her, Bill and his team have complete control over her, to the point of switching off her mind when she misbehaves. Lynn struggles to find a way to escape.
Mirror Project contains examples of:
- Amnesiac Dissonance: The behaviorist Stan tells Lynn a story about a loud, arrogant, somewhat violent man who developed amnesia from a head injury. His new personality was much more gentle and sensitive, but when his memories started to resurface, so did his violent tendencies. He begged for medication to suppress the memories, but instead Stan and the others held him for observation until all his memories returned. When they released him, he was more violent and unstable than he had ever been. Stan learned from the experience that you can never know what's best for another person.
- And I Must Scream: The new Lynn's consciousness is first activated with no input/output. Her first reaction is to start screaming, until she realizes that although she can feel the emotional catharsis, she doesn't have a throat. She has resigned herself to an eternity of The Nothing After Death when Holly finds a way to communicate with her. Later, as punishment for misbehaving, Bill shuts off her body but not her consciousness. It lasts only five minutes, but thanks to the speed at which her mind works without sensory input, it feels like years.
- Automated Automobiles: How Bill made his fortune, although he trusted his own driving more than any machine's. He was driving when Lynn was killed.
- Beauty Mark: The new Lynn has none of the old one's moles, except one on her right cheek that Bill liked.
- Brain Uploading: Bill has Lynn's severely damaged brain digitized so doctors can better examine it. All of them tell him there's no hope that she'll ever regain consciousness. So he lets the program fill in the damaged spaces with its own code, resulting in a being that's part Lynn, part machine.
- Framing Device: The book presents itself as code comments hidden inside Mirror Project, a perfectly secure anonymous browser that's also sentient.
- The Glomp: Lynn and Bill's daughter Chelsea catches a glimpse of Lynn wandering the campus, runs over, and tackle-hugs her. Lynn, who has none of the original's maternal feelings, find the sensation repulsive.
- Hates Being Touched: When Lynn physically lashes out at Bill, he programs her to be unable to touch people. As a side effect, Lynn becomes unable to touch herself, either. When Bill touches her in such a way that she can't pull away, the conflict in her programming manifests as a visceral revulsion. She screams and thrashes, but that only encourages him.
- Human Popsicle: Bill considered cryofreezing the original Lynn's body before he turned to computers.
- Sensory Overload: When Holly first turns on Lynn's eyes, they're so sensitive that the sight of a lightbulb gives Lynn a headache worse than any pain the original ever experienced.
- Sense Freak: When Lynn finally goes outside by herself, she revels in the beauty of colors and noise as perceived through her sensors and processors. She wonders if the dimness and fuzziness of the original Lynn's memories is because of her impoverished human senses, or because memory always pales in comparison to reality.
- Sexbot: When Holly gives Lynn a full-length mirror, she sees that her new body is much more attractive than the old one, permanently wears glitzy makeup, and is almost hairless, with lovingly designed genitals.I was the sexualized imitation of Bill's most egregious thoughts, and my consent mattered about as much as a blow-up doll, both to Bill and to the law.
- That Man Is Dead: Lynn angrily tells Bill that the old Lynn is dead.