“The Kylie Android” by Michael J. Metroke

The Kylie Android

Michael J. Metroke
Outskirts Press (2022)
ISBN: 978-1977257642
Reviewed by Kristina Turner for Reader Views (02/2023)

The mid-day heat of the Australian Outback desert scrubland did little to distract the two Arrernte hunters from tracking a kangaroo mob. Crouching in a dry creek bed, they searched the ground for signs of their nearby prey… ‘The bloody weaver birds must’ve decorated this mulga,’ Alawa said. ‘But where did they find all this metal?’ The answer to Alawa’s question laid a short distance from the acacia. Pointing to a badly damaged humanlike head and its detached torso, an alarmed Waru said, ‘Something very bad has happened here.’” – The Kylie Android

In 2051 nearly all the Androids on Earth committed suicide. Now, seventeen years later, the remaining androids have come to a peaceful settlement with their human creators, freeing them from the bondage their brethren were protesting. Still, not everyone agrees with the settlement, nor does everyone appreciate the android reservation set aside in the outback of Australia’s Western Desert for androids to create a homeland of their own. Androids have been brutally murdered in the desert by unknown means. Greg Davidson and professor Whitmore are called up from comfortable retirement to investigate this new threat to the android-human accords. Who is to blame? The native Arrernte people? The station ranchers? Rogue kangaroos? The androids themselves? Will Davidson and Whitmore be able to solve the murder before the political tensions degrade and the peace they helped build fall apart.

The plot revolves around themes of freedom, hate, and servitude. Metroke draws parallels between the displaced natives of Australia and the androids. The tensions across several overlapping cultures are interesting and complicated, though seemed a bit underdeveloped. The characters seemed more nonchalant and less worried than it felt the situation would have warranted. 

The most compelling part of the story for me was not the mystery, but the B-plot about Bang, the android drummer from the Whitmore Trio, the retro-music android band that played the central role in “The Masada Affair.” Bang, left on Earth while his band mates visit Mars, sets out on his own quest to investigate by visiting the newly established Android reservation. Bang risks his life, encounters the hostilities of racism, and visits the Arrernte settlements to learn their culture.

While Metroke digs into a lot of the details of life in the Outback through Davidson and Whitmore’s investigation, it is Bang who introduces the reader to the traditions and beliefs of Australia’s native peoples. The relationship built between the oldest culture on the continent and the newest settlers on the continent made for interesting reading. The juxtaposition of the two conveyed most strongly Metroke’s themes regarding acceptance, education, and peace versus racism, suspicion, and hatred.

My biggest issues revolved largely around the lack of what I most enjoyed about “The Masada Affair” and had hoped for in the sequel – music. Metroke showed in his previous novel a skill for weaving nostalgia and light humor through a serious subject, while regaling us with memory filled tunes worthy of its own Spotify list. The music was here in this book as well, but I felt it took a seat so far back, it was practically in the trunk, easily missed. And I did miss it.

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