The Machine Paperback – 16 Jan 2014
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‘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’ Tor.com
‘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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Top Customer Reviews
And so the story starts with Beth taking the delivery of all the different parts that make up the machine, for she wants to use the machine to try and return her husband to the way he was. She has the original hard drives to make this possible, but first she must get her husband back and wait till the end of term in order to be able to have the time to look after him until she can make him better. While at school however, she befriends a supply teacher working at her school, who is only on the island to cover a shortage, but it is this friend, Laura, who turns out to be a Christian, and very against the ungodly process of the machine. She only finds out about Beth’s true intentions when they both get drunk one night, and Beth spills a little too much to Laura about her husband and her plans for him.
Once the end of term arrives, and Beth has her husband, she is battling against the incessant ranting and visits from Laura, who is telling her not to go ahead with it, for the Machine is evil and will not put the soul back into her husband.Read more ›
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!
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Weird writing and punctuation all over the place ( which I suspect is deliberate ). But the story is great and the kind of tumble along descent into madness from all corners and... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Clayton Nash
I liked the book, felt like the ending was a little un resolved and hurriedPublished 14 months ago by Scotty Dawg
Well written and interesting backdrop but ultimately relies on a twist that is patently obvious from the get go!Published 17 months ago by Greig N. Cook
The book was gripping, for sure. However it was a gripping of the order of having your balls death-gripped. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Peter Killin Lynch
I really enjoyed this book, it wasn't what I had expected and was gripping in a can't put down way.Published 22 months ago by claire moir
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 morePublished on 19 May 2014 by Mr E. McConnell