The Obsoletes is a robot-meets-coming-of-age tale, balancing the angst of a teenage boy with the difficulties of operating as a robot in an unaccepting human world. The protagonist is a deeply complex character who spends every waking moment trying to get by in the world. He acts as father, mother, and brother in the household, presenting an experience that is both humorous and heartbreaking at times. With smart writing and a glimpse of 90’s everyday life, Mills has created a compelling story that shows the struggles of a boy forced to grow up too soon.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
A Few of My Favorite Things
Daryl is a narrator who tells it like it is, every step of the way. He’s an old man trapped in the body of a pre-adolescent boy. One moment he’s yearning for a girl, the next he’s cleaning his brother’s shoes and cooking taco meat for the thousandth night. He talks like you’d imagine a young robot to talk, putting the facts first, getting his knowledge of the world from television and a handy operating guide that tells him how to cope with life. As anyone knows, the secrets to life are out in the world, and it’s a hard fact for Daryl to cope with. His brother wants to live a normal life and he wants to follow all of the rules. Yes, they’re robots, but they’re any pair of high school boys, unsure of their place in the world, trying to fit in and failing miserably.
I love the genre-bending aspects of The Obsoletes. On the surface, it’s a science fiction novel, featuring robots thrown into the existing 1990s. It’s paired with a coming-of-age tale, that ever-present staple of the young adult crowd. Add in humor (both intentional and unintentional in the eyes of the characters) and the scare factor of being discovered, and you have quite the ride. It’s a well-done balancing act, checking all of the boxes in an entertaining and admirable way.
The Directions is a fascinating aspect of robot life. Read the book and you’ll get to know it well. It’s THE guide for robots living in the human world, featuring complete instructions on every life situation. It’s something many humans dream of, getting the answers to life’s hardest questions handed to you. In reality, it’s a hindrance to robot kind in America, used to keep them safe and away from actual living. It’s a guide for playing it safe, loved by Daryl and hated by his twin brother. The book acts as the central anchor for the story in a strange and humorous way.
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