Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, Mystery, Adventure
Identities: Bi, Poly, Non-Binary
About The Book
They say, “Never work with androids or children.”
Quirk had one job to do, deliver papers to a Milan mafia boss, before leaving Earth for his home in the asteroids. But that was before being tailed, poisoned—oh, yes—and hijacked into raising foulmouthed fourteen-year-old convent girl Angelika Moratti, aka Moth, who’d rather see him asphyxiate in space.
Fleeing assassins, Quirk, Moth and her syRen® android S-0778 ride the space elevator to the Moon, where Quirk hires on to hunt an ex-terra-former who somehow used an android to murder his doctor. But which android of the two hundred under Lunaville’s dome? The trail of bodies grows, time is running out; the only way they can save the dome and the two thousand souls beneath it is to solve The Mandroid Murders.
His bosses like him because he gets the job done and doesn’t ask questions. And that’s exactly what gets him into trouble. Quirk needs to stop signing every contract put in front of him, but it’s too late now. He’s locked in, and the only way to save himself is to rely on his surly teenage assistant and solve the Mandroid Murders. At times, I got Murderbot vibes, but the narration style and story are galaxies apart, making the Mandroid experience intriguing and unique.
This is an excellent sci-fi thriller, but I would not characterize this as murder mystery. While it centers around Quirk who eventually takes on the detective role, the reveal of the murder happens almost 40% into the book. Also, Quirk is constantly blackmailed and coerced into the role, and his ability to do any sleuthing at all is constantly undermined by the true villain of the piece—corporations. The question of whether he’ll survive the forces who don’t want the truth revealed is the real source of the tension, and the heart of the thriller.
The co-lead of the book is Moth, an orphan who finds herself forced under Quirk’s guardianship. The opening of the book, while action-packed, is set-up for how the unlikely sleuthing team of Quirk and Moth get together. We only get glimpses of Quirk’s backstory, while Moth, the niece of a mafia boss, brings the danger. She is foul-mouthed and surely, but not afraid to speak up for herself. Her life depends on Quirk as much as his does no her.
Their mutual hatred of the situation and each other gets repetitive, especially while waiting for them to arrive on the Moon and the sleuthing to begin. In the slow parts, however, the world-building carries the narrative. From Italy to the Moon, every paragraph is packed with detail and sensory experience. The immersive experience is missing in a lot of action books today, and I appreciate this author’s attention to detail, balancing it well with the progression of each scene.
While the Mandroid Murder reaches a satisfying conclusion, it seems like the resolution of Moth’s mafia troubles as well as Quirk’s complicated past have been left for future tales in this series. Overall, I felt it was a strong, engaging introduction to the series and the world of Quirk and Moth.
VB is a scientist and sci-fi writer who grew up on a steady diet of Star Trek and space operas, mysteries, and thrillers. They’ve written and published several space operas and sci-fi thrillers under the name V. J. Mikles, with progressively more queer characters as they’ve explored their own queer identity. (The pronoun experiments are ongoing.) As an aromantic/asexual/agender, they are particularly interested in finding diverse stories that don’t portray asexuals as aliens. In addition to writing, their creative endeavors include dance, choreography, playing ukulele, and producing short films. Their motto in life is “I can be everything I want, just not all at the same time.”