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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
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...
Published 10 months ago by Sid Nuncius

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over the Edge
The world is slowly dying and the human race is clinging on.
Coastlines are disappearing, large offshore housing estates are seen as an answer to overcrowding but like all the best intentions, money runs out and what starts out as a good idea descends into an abandoned and desperate idea.
Living on a shabby Isle of white estate Beth ekes out a miserable...
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 7 Sep 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Machine (Hardcover)
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Eerie, intense and utterly gripping, 25 Aug 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Machine (Hardcover)
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Tense, disturbing and thought provoking - a great read..., 12 July 2013
By 
Ben (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Machine (Hardcover)
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'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 Dark, unsettling and clever, 16 Mar 2014
By 
Michelle Moore (Dartford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Machine (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 24 Feb 2014
This review is from: The Machine (Paperback)
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 war. Complicit in the treatment he now remains in a home for those left in a ‘vacant’ state following the treatment. Machines were scrapped following the controversy of the side effects after use. Beth has a plan and buys an Machine illegally to restore Vic her husband.

I like how Smythe has set this story on the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth because it brings a realism to the tale as I know both areas well.

This is a complex book written in simple layers using language that makes you think about its meaning. It questions the mind and memory, it brings a fear of the future and how in creating ‘healthy’ minds danger of what could be created instead.

At first I was eager to read and absorb the story, but Beth draws you into her world and then I wanted to explore the narrative more thoroughly.

The environment, society and personalities are depicted in such a plausible manner that I could almost feel the tiredness of such heat.
The school trip with reluctant teachers and pupils to “the Barrage Exhibition Centre, built in what used to be an art museum above a McDonald’s” is such a brilliant line. (There is a real Museum of Communism which is next door to a casino and above a McDonald’s in Prague that I have visited!)

I can completely identify with Smythe’s vision of the future and his irony.

The final chapter of the book is a surprise.

I would recommend this book as an excellent read, one which will leave questions in your mind after you put it down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars im new to this author, 21 Nov 2013
By 
margesimpson "wifi" (sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Machine (Hardcover)
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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 ? who would you be without them? questions of the future created in the past , an interesting read
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eerie, haunting atmosphere, 19 Nov 2013
By 
Sam Woodward (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Machine (Hardcover)
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I had a curious relationship with this book. Whenever I picked it up, I was hooked - but I struggled to pick it up. Ironically this was because of its biggest strength - the creepy, downbeat atmosphere which Smythe skilfully weaves with his believable portrayal of a world suffering the effects of rampant global warming. His descriptions of the titular machine are equally unsettling. As wonderful as it is to experience a book so well crafted, it engendered feelings which I wasn't in a hurry to re-create by picking it back up.

I hope I'm not giving the wrong impression because it's well worth the time to read. I also had the same issue with Atwood's masterfully crafted Year Of The Flood which is no doubt because the dystopias that both books outline can be seen on the horizon, whereas the familial devastated nuclear landscapes or zombie hordes which are rife within the genre of dystopic sci-fi seem further away & more OTT by comparison.

Fusing elements of sci-fi, horror & noir, The Machine coldly oozes oppression in a manner reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft. As is often the case with noir-esque fiction, the main character is, arguably, not particularly well developed as she has tragically become a slave to her desire & subsequent obsession with seeing it realised. So while I generally prefer to have well-rounded characters, her inaccessibility is, arguably, kind of the point.

It feels strange to say it but despite its suffocating gloom, I would thoroughly recommend this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb piece of Science Fiction, 19 Nov 2013
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Machine (Hardcover)
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'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. Sadly though it doesn't seem to have garnered the attention, or plaudits, it so richly deserves.

It's a very superior work of science fiction (or SF). Written in the present tense, it's set in a future Britain ravaged by the effects of global warming, and it concerns Beth who lives on a desolate housing estate near the sea. Her husband returns from a war and a machine appears to be his only hope of escaping from the memories that haunt him. Until the government decides the machines are too controversial and removes them...

The bleak and unsettling world created by Smythe in this novel feels real, and the characterisation is excellent for a work of SF - where grand themes tend to dominate the narrative and often stifle character development. However, to its afficionados that's acceptable: most tend to read SF because it's a genre that generates some fabulous ideas.

This book is SO good, I don't want to give anything more away - just read it, please, and you will be deeply rewarded.

Oh, and by the way, if you insist on calling the genre 'Sci-fi', please don't do it within my hearing!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ow, my head, 6 Nov 2013
By 
Glen Mehn (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Machine (Kindle Edition)
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 PTSD, and it seems like it worked, until it went terribly wrong. Now Beth wants her husband back. It's short, by modern standards, and not a whole lot happens over the first three quarters of its length - and, in fact, the reader pretty much knows the plot of that chunk of the novel within a dozen pages. It grips the reader, though, this story of recklessness in the face of despair.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark, modern classic, 30 Oct 2013
By 
P M Buchan "UnKle BucK" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Machine (Hardcover)
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The Machine is unquestionably the best book that I've read this year. Billed as a Frankenstein for the 21st century, I'd go further than that, because The Machine combines the best of Frankenstein, The Monkey's Paw and Pet Sematary in a near-future exploration of the cost of playing god with the human spirit.

I've been a fan of James Smythe's writing ever since I read his claustrophobic sci-fi novel The Explorer. He has a knack for capturing the human element in every situation - the more fantastical concepts in his fiction are grounded by believable, three-dimensional characters.

Set in a believable dystopian version of the UK where climate change has wreaked havoc on the environment, life goes on for the survivors, and a wife dreams of rebuilding her husband's fractured psyche after a traumatic event that leaves him a broken man. Science and religion collide spectacularly as the narrative progresses, but never heavy-handedly, and the real stars are the characters, whose frayed relationships are tested by loneliness and deprivation. There are hints of Camus and Orwell here, dressed in a story that's effortless to read and lingers long after the last page.

As with The Explorer, this is a dark novel, filled with foreboding and loneliness, but it's also a brilliant one, and anybody looking for a British author that's set to inherit the landscape previously dominated by writers like Stephen King and Richard Matheson should look no further than James Smythe and The Machine.
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The Machine
The Machine by James Smythe (Hardcover - 11 April 2013)
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