Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
Published by Knopf Canada on April 23rd, 2019
Genre: Science Fiction
“Three days before, she had asked a mysterious question. We were mid-embrace, in the conventional position. She drew my face towards hers. Her look was serious.
She whispered, “Tell me something. Are you real?”
I didn’t reply.”
Well, I did it. I finally finished reading Machines Like Me. I started reading this the summer of 2019. Whoops.
Machines Like Me is set in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie is drifting through life and dodging full-time employment and is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans.
With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong, and clever. But soon a love triangle forms and these three beings are forced to confront a profound moral dilemma.
I struggled with writing this review because I’ll cut to the chase—I hated this book.
I think the concept is brilliant. It doesn’t matter if I’ve read a 1000 books of the same kind, but I love reading about beings grappling with what it means to be human.
But how could this book go so wrong? I know McEwan has written some great books (Atonement, On Chesil Beach), but I could barely keep my eyes open reading this.
There were paragraphs upon paragraphs describing nothing. I didn’t get any insight into any of the characters. Adam, the robot, should’ve been the most interesting out of the love triangle, but he was as bland as his name suggests.
Which brings me to my main problem: the love story. All throughout the book, Charlie talked about Miranda as an object. As someone to be won over, as someone to have in his possession. Adam and Miranda’s relationship wasn’t that much better either.
There was no chemistry between any of these characters! How are you supposed to buy into a love triangle if you don’t want to root for any of these people individually or together?
I think the real issue at hand was the fact that McEwan got caught up in world building for his alternative 1980s London.
I think it’s cool that we got a different look at historical characters like Margaret Thatcher and Alan Turing.
But world-building only goes so far if none of the characters living in it are interesting. I expected a Black Mirror episode in book form. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that. There are many other science fiction books that answer the fundamental question of “What makes us human?” way better.
Thank you so much to Claire from Penguin Random House Canada for sending me this book!
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