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The Machine Paperback – 16 Jan 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Door (16 Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000750750X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007507504
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,671 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.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 7 Sep 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought this was a brilliant book. It is intelligent, thoughtful and completely gripping.

I cannot really describe the plot without giving away too much, so I won't. The publishers' synopsis is right - this is a Frankenstein for the twenty-first century (it is set in the near future). It is a fantastic piece of storytelling: the rather deadpan prose is excellent, the narrative extremely well paced, the characters utterly convincing and the plot developments fascinating and unpredictable. James Smythe generates a brilliant air of menace both in the plot and setting, which builds slowly and gripped me completely. The book, as well as being a page-turning story, is a thoughtful look at the nature of memory, at what makes us the people we are and at what might happen if the fundamentals of our characters and memories are altered.

It is hard to give more of flavour of this book because I am wary of spoilers, but I warmly recommend it to anyone who likes a dark, unsettling but very intelligent and thought-provoking read which will keep you up late to finish it. It is one of the best things I have read for some time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 25 Aug 2013
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ben VINE VOICE on 12 July 2013
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 By Michelle Moore TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 Mar 2014
Format: Paperback
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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