Review of “Living Image” by James Rumpel


Twenty-four-year-old Joseph Marshal has just lost his mother. He had never left home and had rarely ventured out in public. He misses his mother but is not lonely. He worries about how he will survive without her to provide a buffer between himself and the rest of the world.

At her funeral, a tall, thin man in a gray suit approaches Joseph. He offers his condolences. He also offers a way the young man could continue to see and interact with his mother daily.

The man works for a company called Living Image that uses all known social media posts, diaries, and other public information to create artificial intelligence to simulate the dearly departed. He hands Joseph his business card.

As it happens, Joseph’s mother was a primary designer and primary stockholder in smart home technology. She left him a sizeable inheritance, so money is not an issue.


From the moment the tall, thin man in the gray suit appears, the reader knows this won’t end well. Though called an introvert, Joseph is depicted as a lazy, overgrown child.

The idea of the Living Image is just creepy.

When the bad stuff hits the fan, he has been so incapacitated by his own infantalization there is nothing left for him to do.

Author Rumpel has created an effective if unsurprising horror story dealing with technology, grief, and humanity.


According to the blurb, author James Rumpel is a retired high school math teacher. In an author interview with Theme of Absence, Rumpel says that he’s been writing for about a year since he retired. He’s been thinking up stories and ideas for his entire life but didn’t start writing them down until recently.

The story can be read here.

Title: “Living Image”
Author: James Rumpel
First published: Theme of Absence, October 20, 2019

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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