I received an advance copy of Simeon Mills' upcoming novel THE OBSOLETES (being released on May 14, 2019) and wanted to share some thoughts on this intriguing twist to the coming-of-age novel.
Set in 1986-1991, the world of THE OBSOLETES is predicated on the invention of incredibly realistic androids that can pass for human. These models of androids - referred to as robots throughout the book - are so exceptional that they cause great fear and anxiety amongst the human population who fear displacement. The robots in their midst escape detection by pretending to eat food, charging up by plugging their fingers stealthily in wall sockets, and drinking substances such as vinegar, milk, or oil to advance internal functions.
Our protagonist, Darryl Livery, and his brother Kanga are Detroit model 600 robots - an advanced model - being raised by robotic parents of a previous, less sophisticated generation. As the brothers attend Hectorville High School, acutely aware of the fact that their detection could mean their extinction at any point with robot paranoia running high, Kanga begins to grow taller, faster and stronger than his fraternal twin brother - and becomes a star athlete on his Michigan high school basketball team, attracting attention in the community. Darryl's perspective is what drives the book, and he's continuously focused on the perils of obsolescence as a robot, making sure to observe the rules, regulations and protocols left in the guidebook The Directions. As Kanga begins to defy his brother, taking more and more risks, additional events unfold within this retro-futuristic world that drive them to an intense confrontation that brings them face-to-face with their creator.
Without spoiling the many surprises contained in Simeon's debut novel, I'd say that it is an unusual variation on a theme similar to that of THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS by Jason Rekulak. Where Jason's book focused on 1980s technology and video games as a foil for the teenage male protagonist's adventures, Simeon's book uses 1980s / early 1990s basketball, robotics and pop culture as a way to reflect and narrate.
Who's a robot, and who is not? What does identity mean, or family, in this context when it's all constructed?
If you're a sci-fi fan who's in the mood for something different, I'd definitely recommend this book.