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on 24 August 2013
Well I am a fan of anything Chris writes and so of course really enjoyed The Holy Machine. Chris always seems to come up with a new slant on SiFi even if one thinks its all been done before, he still finds a new angle. Not going to go into the details of this story because loads of reviewers have already done that better than I ever could but I still maintain that Chris always comes up goods and long may he do so.
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on 22 March 2014
A young man from the sheltered life of the high tech city exposed in a hard (very hard) way to the realities of survival in the poverty and religeous fervour of the countryside, learning much about himself and mankind in general in the process. The characterisations of humans and robots are excellent with a nice twist at the end. A thoroughly enjoyable read. I look forward to his other books.
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The character George is well drawn but he's unfortunately too boring to base a whole book on, this could have been a slightly interesting short story instead it became a novel with a few stretched out points. It's not a study of religion, nor is it thriller it's just poorly done sci-fi dropped into a post apocalyptic scene with a depressing undercurrent that could lead you to medicate.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 2011
A meditation on love, biology, self, consciousness, religion and conflict that is so brilliantly and succinctly written that it almost reads itself. Funny, horrific, profound and moving - a belter of a novel that addresses that old question of what it means to be human, but from a fresh perspective, and to great effect. Reading it was like being slapped in the face, but in a good way! Required reading.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2011
I picked up The Holy Machine when I attended Alt.Fiction earlier this year after being persuaded by the guys at the Interzone table. The copy I picked up was the original US release, but I then received the UK copy from Corvus with the very nice cover art above. This really did prompt me to pick it up, and while I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to get, I knew that the subject could swing it one of two ways for me. Luckily The Holy Machine hit the right notes and delivered a great story, but I did have a couple of issues with it...

The first thing to say about The Holy Machine is the way it is written. Chris Beckett has somehow managed to write a book about pretty serious themes - religion vs science, AI sentience - but has managed to do so in such a way that makes the pages fly past. The prose is great and when you think you've only read a few minutes you realise that an hour has gone by. I love books that do this, there is nothing better than being completely and utterly caught up in the story.

The story itself has to match the writing and on the whole it did, providing some interesting looks into a future society where the world has taken religion to the extreme. With only Illyria left as a purely scientific outpost of humanity while the rest of the world has turned to religion proves an excellent choice. The underlying problems that are created by this black and white world are interesting enough, but it's the clear division of science/religion that I found a little hard to take at times. While this area of grey is part of the story, it feels like it could have been more thoroughly explored to expand the idea, but The Holy Machine is written from George's perspective and that limits what can and can't be delved into as part of the story.

The topic of AI sentience is one of the main aspects of The Holy Machine. With Illyria building more and more robots - from the standard household helpers, to police robots, and even prostitutes - the programs they initially start with evolve to bring a semi-sentience to them. The solution is, of course, to wipe their programs and start again. This is where the meat of The Holy Machine lies, with George and Lucy escaping Illyria and going on the run from both Illyria and the religions that despise AI creations. It's really interesting to see how the story progresses from here, but it also marks the part of the novel where time skips past at a fair rate. We don't follow everything, and this is just when the story starts to get into the more serious territory, the consequences of many earlier actions starting take hold in the wider world. It's not a let down, and doesn't really affect George's story, but it is an aspect I was a little disappointed with.

Despite the above issues I had with The Holy Machine, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's not a long novel and not as in-depth as it could have been, but the story of George and Lucy makes it one of my favourites so far this year. It's what character based science-fiction is about, and I for one will be very much looking forward to the next Chris Beckett book.
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on 31 May 2015
A very entertaining and intelligent story. Beckett makes some pertinent observations about how people seem to long for something that defies rationality, how it fosters religious intolerance, and throws into the mix how we would react to the creation of a whole social structure of slave robots. And it's a good yarn.
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on 29 December 2010
I loved this book. It has all the things I enjoy in a book but rarely find together: an interesting, involving story, mind-bending, thought-provoking ideas, and characters you care about. It's a bit harrowing toward the end, and very moving. Highly recommend.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2011
The problem with much recent SF is that it often depends of recycling the genre's tired cliches, all of which were first explored decades ago. Now, a story about falling in love with a machine is not exactly new (Philip K.Dick comes to mind when reading The Holy Machine), and yet this book does it so well that it must be taken as an exception to the rule that recent SF lacks genuine novelty. The book is made totally relevant not only because it is subtly constructed and nicely written, but also because it convincingly portrays very contemporary tendencies, especially (but not only) the clash between religious xenophobia and rationalist intolerance. The novel should have got more attention than it did, but I believe that it will grow in stature with time, and you cannot say that of many modern SF novels.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
To be honest I really wasn't sure what to expect from this debut offering by Chris Beckett. What unfurls however is a journey, not only over distance but one that is as much spiritual. It has a great principle character, an interesting take on a possible future and above all else a tale where emotional exploration is as key to the overall arc as the journey taken by the characters concerned. It's definitely something a little different and whilst it is firmly within the remit of Science Fiction, it is a tale that will speak to a number of other genres such as romance. Definitely something new to try and one that I think you'll be pleased you did.
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on 19 November 2013
After reading another book by this author I tried this. It was unput down able! I loved it and am not normally a sci if fan! Great story telling with a real humanity.
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