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33 Reviews
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bittersweet Cautionary Tale in the Vein of The Windup Girl
The best science fiction takes our world and spins it on its axis, borrowing some aspect of existence as we know it - some culture or technology or mode of thought - and blowing it out with imagination and the irrevocable progress of time to a point that often seems inevitable, when you think to think on it. The Holy Machine has as its high concept the swell in...
Published on 12 July 2010 by Niall Alexander

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Robot takes exfoliation to extremes!
This novel was a disappointment, as I'd read good things about Chris Beckett. His writing style is, to me, rather lifeless and bland. Perhaps he wanted the story to take front stage and the prose itself to be transparent. Unfortunately the story is also rather lifeless and bland. Beckett deals with themes that have been covered before, and with much greater aplomb, by a...
Published on 1 May 2010 by sft


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5.0 out of 5 stars I liked the way it makes you consider what religion could turn into regarding technology as a sin, 24 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Holy Machine (Kindle Edition)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 31 July 2013
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This review is from: The Holy Machine (Kindle Edition)
Highly recommend greatly entertaining and thought provoking. Believable characters with lots happening and lots of twists. One of the best books I've read this year.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Consistently gripping, 26 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Holy Machine (Kindle Edition)
Well written with thought provoking ideas. Would be enjoyed even by non sci-fi fans. I intend to read more by this author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read but not exceptionally memorable, 6 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Holy Machine (Kindle Edition)
I was organising the content on my kindle one day and found this book that I hadn't remembered buying. It turned out I'd bought it in one of Amazon's sales for 99p, so I figured I'd paid for it, I'd better read it!

I like the concepts, the characters aren't bad, the plot is generally good, I just found the idea of Illyria and certain events in the book to be a little unbelievable, and certain elements a little predictable.

Nevertheless it was definitely readable and enjoyable, kept me turning pages through to the end.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas but not all it could be, 22 May 2011
This review is from: The Holy Machine (Paperback)
I really wanted to like this book but I was left somewhat underwhelmed in the end.

It is a bit like that restaurant that you wanted to go to but when you do you wonder what the fuss was about. It's okay but...

There are two principle characters - a human and the eponymous holy machine, for any one of a number of reasons the human is an unlikable and unsympathetic character who whines his way through most of the story and just doesn't work as a rounded and realistic character for me. Too much schoolboy angst throughout and very much paint-by-numbers in terms of character traits.

There were opportunities to explore issues that just didn't happen and in a story that seems to promise a spiritual characterful element this is an omission that it is harder to forgive than in a simple action story.

I wanted to know more of the machine but the depth I expected in the following of its development and characterisation just isn't there. It's not like there's a juxtaposition or contrast between the characters - they both come off as shallow 2d projections.

It's not badly written as such but the the style is rather flat, I couldn't make up my mind if this was deliberate and was I being encouraged to work on the issues myself. I came to the conclusion that the answer was no.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-moving plot with characters you care about, 29 Dec 2010
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This review is from: The Holy Machine (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting character focused story, 9 Feb 2011
By 
Mark Chitty (North Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Holy Machine (Paperback)
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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emotional Science Fiction, 9 Sep 2010
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Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Holy Machine (Paperback)
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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative triumph, 17 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Holy Machine (Paperback)
Set in an anti-religious enclave in a world dominated by religious bigotry, the book tracks the increasing obsession of the main character with a sex robot. In some ways the story is flawed, but what is handled perfectly and delightfully is the portrayal of the robot's dawning consciousness, from the initial, often highly irritating signs of true awareness, to its final development of something approaching wisdom. A must read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is this the best SF novel of the 21st century so far? Quite possibly., 27 July 2012
By 
Ian Williams "ianw" (Sunderland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Holy Machine (Paperback)
When I first started reading this book I wasn't at all sure I was going to like it because the background scenario has to be my worst nightmare. In a reaction to secularism and science, there is a worldwide mass uprising of fundamentalism from all religions and sects (though Judaism and Buddhism aren't mentioned) sending the world back into a modern version of the Dark Ages. To counter this, Illyria, a high-tech country, is created in a region of the Adriatic which is where George our protagonist lives.

George isn't the usual SF hero, being diffident, despite being in his 20's he's never been kissed, and has a mother who prefers to spend her time in cyberspace. But things change. He falls in love with a human-like sex robot in whom he senses an emerging awareness not related to her programming. When the increasingly fascist government decides to wipe the minds of robots every six months, George goes on the run with her through bordering religious states which, incidentally, hate robots even more than they hate unbelievers.

This is an absolutely fascinating novel which looks at the nature of consciousness and simultaneously both the need for a belief in religion, in something transcendent (which might also be consciousness) and how (to many cheers from me) bloody imbecilic and irrational religions are. It's thoughtful and clearly written which engages the reader, despite George being very much an outsider, though his life and his perceptions of the world undergo a profound change during the course of the novel.

In short, I absolutely loved this book which reminded me why I loved SF in the first place -its alternative pluralistic views of society (as well as unfettered imagination). As far as I can tell, it hasn't won any awards which is a shame as it's the best SF novel I've read in years. Anyway, I've just ordered Beckett's other two novels and added his short story collection to my wish list.

This is the book that you give to people who think they don't like SF. It has a heart and a brain.
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The Holy Machine by Chris Beckett
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