Evan is walking down the street when he sees a sanitation robot being attacked by a group of Human Firsters. Evan isn’t about to let the poor man be harmed and manages to scare away the attackers. But it is clear that bot, who names himself Quincy, is shaken up by the events, so Evan brings him home to help. After talking to Quincy further, Evan realizes he is not just a sanitation bot, he is a “spark,” a Self-aware, Percipient Android, Robot, or Knowledge. Sparks are incredibly rare, but they happen when artificial intelligence somehow gains sentience and a sense of self. That means Quincy shouldn’t be a device owned by the city, but instead is entitled to the same rights as a human.
Quincy has worked for about 30 years collecting trash and he has long felt different than the other bots. No one else is drawn to leave the depot at night and explore; no one else seems to have thoughts or feelings beyond doing their job. When Evan rescues Quincy from the attack, Quincy can’t believe he is allowed to visit Evan’s home and have all these new experiences. And he is stunned to learn Evan believes him to be a spark. But it begins to make sense, particularly as Evan explains that the reason Quincy is losing his memories is because his simpler technology wasn’t built to handle all his spark thoughts and feelings.
The men want to get Quincy tested to officially have him designated as a spark, but in meantime, he has to keep working his city job. However, every day after work, Evan picks Quincy up and they spend the evening and night together. Evan finds himself delighted with Quincy’s enthusiasm for life. He is fascinated by everything and full of endless questions and his joy brings so much happiness to Evan’s life. Quincy never dreamed he would have anyone who cares about and supports him the way Evan does and he is thrilled at the chance to explore a whole new world, especially after Evan helps him upgrade his tech to increase his memory and processing speeds to keep up with his spark mind. The men are also developing an attraction, though Evan can’t help but be wary about potentially taking advantage of Quincy, who is so dependent on him. Yet as the pair talk through the situation, it becomes clear their feelings are real. However, just as it seems like things are going perfectly for Quincy and Evan, the Human Firsters begin to stir up more trouble. The pair hope to have a future together, but it will take all they have to stand up against the hate and find their way forward.
Garbage is the first book in Reese Morrison’s new SPARK Files series and I totally loved it. I found myself completely caught up in the story and just tore through this one. Morrison has created a really fascinating world here of humans who live alongside robots. Some are more humanoid looking, like Quincy, while others are more mechanical. But they are still mostly machines, except for those rare few who becomes sparks and gain the sentience and awareness of humans. Morrison does such a great job not only developing the various types of bots and how they are integrated into society, but also considering the bigger picture implication of the sparks. They have rights to personal autonomy, can hold jobs and have bank accounts, and even marry humans. But, as with all those who are different, the sparks also engender a lot of hate from those who refuse to accept them. So the story does a nice job both developing this interesting world, while also delving into the emotional and societal implications of it all.
Quincy and Evan are just adorable together. Quincy is basically like a big golden retriever puppy — happy, excited, and bouncing around, unable to contain himself half the time. He is also brilliant and clever and caring. Once he gets his upgrades so his tech can keep up with his mind, Quincy is like a sponge, soaking up every bit of knowledge and curious about the world. He is just one big lovey cinnamon bun who I just wanted to hug. Evan is a perfect match for him as someone who is equally sweet and caring. He finds Quincy delightful and is thrilled to have him be a part of his life. The struggle here for both of them is fear of unrequited feelings. Quincy has a lot of self-doubt and thinks badly of himself much of the time. Evan does all he can to help build Quincy up and make him believe in his own worth, but Quincy still struggles. And Evan can’t help but feel like Quincy will tire of him as he continues to grow and change. So they do have some issues to work through, but the pair are such a good fit and I just loved them together.
The story also explores some bigger issues, as I mentioned. Not just on a societal level in terms of how people view the sparks, but also individually for both Evan and Quincy. Evan struggles at first worrying about his attraction to Quincy and not wanting him to feel pressured. He holds back from even expressing his feelings for a while, as he knows how dependent Quincy is on him, and he wants to make sure Quincy understand his options. The story is very careful to explore these issues and make sure it is totally clear that Evan is not pushing Quincy, that Quincy wants things between them as much as Evan, and that he understands what is happening. We also see Quincy explore some issues related to gender. He is in a generally male appearing body (though with no genitals), but he doesn’t really have feelings of gender one way or another and we see him considering how he views himself and how he wants to be seen by others. So there is some nice depth and interesting issues touched on here, in addition to the romantic side of things. There are also some threats to Quincy and there are some intense moments, including physical abuse, kidnapping, and discussion of sexual assault, so be aware if those are triggers for you.
It probably goes without saying, but I just want to clarify that this story does involve human/non-human sex. Quincy is virtually totally humanoid in appearance (again, minus the genitals), but he also has two sets of mechanical claws/hoses that fold up in his back when he is not using them. We learn that Evan has always had a robot/mechanical kink and so he is all hot for Quincy and loves it when Quincy uses his mechanical parts in sex. If you have read tentacle sex stories, expect a similar vibe here, so you need to be okay with a clearly non-human sexual connection. Quincy and Evan also engage in some light kink, mostly bondage and some mild impact play, which adds a fun dynamic when we see the normally soft and sweet Quincy pull out his Dom voice and control Evan just how he likes.
Overall, I found this one a lot of fun and a really engaging story. It is super sweet, sexy, and has some creative world building. I think Morrison has set things up so nicely for the series and we do meet the next main character here. I am very excited to see how the story continues in future books.