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The Machine [Hardcover]

James Smythe
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
Price: £10.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

11 April 2013

Shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award 2014, this is a Frankenstein tale for our time from one of the UK’s brightest new literary talents.

Vic returned from war tormented by his nightmares. His once happy marriage to Beth all but disintegrated. A machine promised salvation, purging him of all memory.

Now the machines are gone, declared too controversial, the side-effects too harmful. But within Beth’s flat is an ever-whirring black box. She knows that memories can be put back and that she can rebuild her husband piece by piece.

A Frankenstein tale for the 21st century, The Machine is a story of the indelibility of memory, the human cost of science and the horrors of love.

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Frequently Bought Together

The Machine + The Explorer + The Testimony
Price For All Three: £30.95

Buy the selected items together
  • The Explorer £8.87
  • The Testimony £11.69

Product details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Door (11 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000742860X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007428601
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 525,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Smythe is the author of the Wales Book Of The Year Fiction Award winner THE TESTIMONY (2012); THE EXPLORER (2013); and THE MACHINE (2013).

In January 2014, HarperCollins will publish the first sequel to THE EXPLORER, THE ECHO.

He currently writes a continuing series of articles for The Guardian called Rereading Stephen King and teaches Creative Writing in London. He can be found on twitter @jpsmythe and Facebook.

Product Description


‘Savage, intimate, inexorable’ Nick Harkaway

‘The Machine is the work of a young writer with a preternaturally powerful and distinctive voice’ Guardian

‘Phenomenal … simply unmissable’

‘Extraordinary’ Dazed & Confused

‘Reminiscent of Ian McEwan at his most macabre’
Will Wiles, author of Care of Wooden Floors

About the Author

James Smythe was born in London in 1980. He has worked as a computer game writer and currently teaches creative writing. He also writes a blog for the Guardian. The Machine is his fourth novel and is shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2014. Previous novels include The Testimony and a science fiction series including The Explorer and The Echo. The Testimony was awarded Wales Fiction Book of the Year, 2013. He lives in London. He can be found on Twitter @jpsmythe

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eerie, intense and utterly gripping 25 Aug 2013
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I don't want to say anything about the plot since anything beyond the publisher's blurb would be a spoiler - but, for once, the publisher has got it spot on: this really is a Frankenstein for now... but Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein with its epigraph from Milton's Paradise Lost, not the trashy film versions.

This is an eerie and menacing story that is written with a light but very assured touch. The claustrophobic setting suits the grim plot perfectly, and the narrative itself is beautifully controlled - small things that we notice but don't dwell on come back to haunt us, and it's not until the shocking ending that everything falls perfectly into place.

It's not often that I'm surprised by a plot but this one really did creep up on me. Not that this is just an `all-about-the-twist' book - it's far denser than that. The intellectual probings about the relationships between man-machine, mind-body-soul, about the nature of love and how far it should go, give this an intellectual weight but one which never takes over from the understated emotions at play or the pure grip of the story.

This is a book which I finished in the small hours of the morning because I couldn't think about sleep until I'd finished it - and once I did, despite the satisfaction of a perfectly-tied-up story, I still wanted to re-read it immediately.

So this works beautifully on all levels: intellectual, emotional, literary. Read it - this is brilliant!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
'The Machine' was my first James Smythe novel, and I was drawn to it as I have been following his excellent blog on The Guardian website where he has been re-reading Stephen King's novels in chronological order.

I thought 'The Machine' was a fantastic read. Extremely claustrophobic and atmospheric, it tells the story of Kim and her husband Vic, who has been physically and, more importantly, mentally damaged whilst serving with the Army during a war in Iran. To say any more would, in my view, spoil this well crafted story. What is so enjoyable about 'The Machine' is the skilful way Smythe reveals only tiny details of the narrative (and, more crucially, the back-story) chapter by chapter. It serves to heighten the tension and generally uneasiness that you feel as you read the book - and whilst I would not classify it as either "science fiction" or "horror" writing, it certainly has been inspirited by those styles and I was left constantly feeling something bad or uncomfortable was going to happen on the next page. To sustain such tension over the course of a whole book is very skilful indeed.

Overall, I thought 'The Machine' marks Smythe out as a very clever and imaginative writer, and I will now certainly be going back read his previous two novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking read 19 Aug 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've been on a run of reading fiction involving dystopian futures, whether as background setting or as main story and it led me to The Machine. Having never heard of the author I had no real expectations. Based on the synopsis and reviews it looked worth a punt and the low kindle price decided it for me.

I made the right decision as it turned out to be a cracking read. Set in a totally believable future of post global warming Britain it tells the story of a woman who is trying to get her old life back by reversing the devastating consequences of a past desperate decision. I don't want to write any more about the plot as it'll be much more rewarding for you to just read it without knowing it all in advance.

Suffice to say it ticked all my boxes. The story dragged me back in every time I put it down. I was genuinely interested to see what the next development would be and rooting for things to go to plan even knowing that they inevitably wouldn't.

On the basis of this and having started The Explorer since, Smythe could be the best new author I've come across in a very long time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, unsettling and clever 16 Mar 2014
By Michelle Moore TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
The Machine is set in a bleak near future, where global warming has taken control, with heat and floods, and the youth are to be feared. It's present tense, which is hard to do, and there are no speech marks used. I've read a similar style before, and it was a little jarring, but in this case, I didn't even realise until about half way through! The style is sharp and bleak, and fits perfectly.

Beth's husband came back from the war with problems, and was treated using a new machine, which worked by stripping out bad memories and inserting new ones in their place. Developed too quickly, and used by many, including dementia patients, it actually left most severely damaged by it, in a close to catatonic state, and was withdrawn. Beth manages to get hold of an illegal machine, and has a hard copy of her husband's memories. Can she restore him, and then heal him the traditional way instead?

I bought this book on Saturday, read a little that night, and finished the rest the next day - it was literally a hard book to put down, and had me absolutely hooked. It's been called a modern day Frankenstein, which is certainly is, but it's also a frightening glimpse of a possible future, even if you don't consider the memory affecting machine.

It's a dark, unsettling book, but with a style which fits, and a story which will keep you reading and thinking.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Different
I really enjoyed this book, it wasn't what I had expected and was gripping in a can't put down way.
Published 1 month ago by claire moir
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
It was an amazing beginning, but that's just it.
Published 1 month ago by Monica
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, gripping, and a bit disturbing
This books paints a dismal and unrelentingly bleak vision of the near future, and splices in a modern version of Frankenstein. Read more
Published 4 months ago by will
1.0 out of 5 stars SPOILER: minor boring details of The Machine enclosed (only 40%...
The machine is black & cold... and cold & black .. and it's got a screen which is also black but blacker when turned off and the machine hums both when plugged in and when not... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr E. McConnell
2.0 out of 5 stars inflated expectations from all those 5 stars
Firstly. this is a slightly padded-out short story, not a complete novel -the Kindle version ends at just 87% of an already short timeline, and is extended with a pointless extract... Read more
Published 6 months ago by rudyardx
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
Beth wants her marriage and husband back. Returned from war mentally damaged, she agrees to let the Machine heal him by purging his memory of the horrors of his experience in the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gill's review
4.0 out of 5 stars im new to this author
but i found this book a compelling read , i love frankenstein and i like this in the same way , a classic of the future, if your memories and past create you now , how would you be... Read more
Published 11 months ago by margesimpson
4.0 out of 5 stars Eerie, haunting atmosphere
I had a curious relationship with this book. Whenever I picked it up, I was hooked - but I struggled to pick it up. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Sam Woodward
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb piece of Science Fiction
'The Machine' is surely one of the best books published this year. It's certainly one of, if not THE best, novel I've personally read in 2013. Read more
Published 11 months ago by G. J. Oxley
5.0 out of 5 stars Ow, my head
The Machine is a story of unconditional love and the desperation that that engenders. The eponymous Machine was created to selectively edit memories in order to treat dementia and... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Glen Mehn
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