What is the measure of a man?
Is it based on his desires? Is it based on his hopes and his dreams? Or is it based on which side of the fence he finds himself during the most challenging of times?
It’s a question Addis, the main character in Mike Kilroy’s latest work of genius, Uncanny Valley, finds himself asking more than once as he navigates through a harsh world of judgment and ridicule – most of which is directed toward him and his kind.
You see, Addis isn’t like everyone else. There is just something a little off about Addis. His skin is a little too salmon-colored. His eyes are a bit too round. No matter how hard he tries, Addis will never truly fit in with society, because the sad fact is, he wasn’t meant to fit in. Addis and his kind were created with only one thought in mind – to do the dirty, dangerous work that regular folk don’t want to lower themselves to perform.
Addis and his kind are treated as less than human. But why would anyone tolerate that kind of abuse? It’s because in future San Francisco, Addis and his kind are Cannies – artificial beings that were created to look just like human beings, but certainly are not permitted to act like human beings. They are expected to work hard and to tolerate anything that is thrown their way, including insults and physical violence from the human members of society. Addis and the other Cannies simply tolerate the mistreatment because they feel it is their lot in life.
It is only after his creator, Max Bedard, expresses his desire to see the Cannies become much more that Addis really begins to examine his purpose in life:
“I want you to become more than the sum of your parts. You may
not know this, but you have the capability of so much more. You
have to want it, though.”
Addis was perplexed by that statement. How can I want something
I was never programmed to desire?
He told Max as much.
“Humans are programmed in a way, too. We have a predisposition
for certain desires and wants. We have the inherent need to procreate,
to survive. We have other drives, too. Some are good. Some are, well, bad.
We tend to fight against both. We move past our programming. And so can
“I do not see how that is possible.”
“You must try.”
Fueled by a puzzle he must decipher, combined with a weariness for being disparaged and degraded by humans, Addis decides that the true measure of a man is what he decides to do with power – and how quickly he can get back up after being knocked down.
Uncanny Valley explores the idea of humans interacting with androids, which is certainly not a new concept. However, what Kilroy chooses to do with the classic theme is mind shattering. As with his four previous books, Kilroy has a way of allowing his readers to think they know exactly where he is going with a story, only to give them major whiplash.
I’ve mentioned in a few of my reviews for his other works that I’m not a huge fan of this genre; yet, I find myself unable to put down Kilroy’s books because they are absolutely engaging. As a writer myself, I often figure out the ending of a book before I’ve even gotten to it, which can be very disappointing. But with Kilroy’s books, I’ve been pleasantly surprised each and every time I’ve picked one up. He’s managed to keep me guessing until the very end.
When asked how he came up with his latest story, Kilroy said like most of his ideas, this one came to him in the middle of the night. “I thought it would be interesting to explore a future where technology has become even more pervasive, to the point where we are in essence creating a new life form (androids), and how those androids would evolve.”
Uncanny Valley is the first in a trilogy of planned books following the characters as they evolve into the future Kilroy has so cleverly crafted. In the second yet-to-be-named installment, Kilroy promises that readers can expect to find the themes introduced in Uncanny Valley explored on a much deeper level. “What happens when the moral androids become so human that those morals begin to erode? Like Addis said, the real boogie men are people.”
Uncanny Valley is available on Amazon June 22.
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Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.