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Machine Man (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – August 9, 2011
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"Using precision-engineered prose, Max Barry has built a gleaming, terrifying device: part love story, part horror story, part thought experiment, all entertaining." --Charles Yu, author of How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
"A meticulously devised, deviant little parable--once it starts, you can't look away." --Austin Grossman, author of Soon I Will Be Invincible
About the Author
Max Barry began removing parts at an early age. In 1999, he successfully excised a steady job at tech giant HP in order to upgrade to the more compatible alternative of manufacturing fiction. While producing three novels, he developed the online nation simulation game NationStates, as well as contributing to various open source software projects and developing religious views on operating systems. He did not leave the house much. For Machine Man, Max wrote a website to deliver pages of fiction to readers via email and RSS. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife and two daughters, and is 38 years old. He uses vi.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Charles Neumann loves machines; he's a mechanical engineer who, as a child, dreamed of being a train. As a teen, after nearly being run over by a guy driving a Viper -- a guy who then abused him for not getting out of the way -- Neumann wondered when it was that beautifully engineered machines like the Viper became superior to humans, who often wind up being useless jerks. Now an adult, Neumann has a big brain, no social skills, and an isolated life. When he loses a leg in a lab accident, the injury only encourages his inclination to remain apart from others. Given a choice of prosthetic replacements and seeing nothing he likes, Neumann tries out the state-of-the-art model, breaks it, then decides to build one of his own: a leg that not only walks by itself, but decides for itself how to get where it needs to go. Finally happy with the design of his mechanical leg, he becomes dissatisfied with the biological one. You can guess what he does next.
Man's dependence on technology and what that dependence does to us is Machine Man's driving theme. Machine Man also takes a satirical look at corporate willingness to sacrifice human concerns for the sake of profit. Neumann's employer (Better Future) has been reluctant to develop medical technology because medical advances might render the technology obsolete. If, after investing in the development of an artificial heart, medical researchers cured heart disease, Better Future would view that public health benefit as a disaster. Artificial replacements for healthy limbs and organs, however, offer unlimited growth potential.Read more ›
Dr. Charles Neumann is an engineer who's always gotten along better with machines than people. He works at Better Future, a research and development company that creates all sorts of products. One day Charles is looking for his phone in the lab when he accidentally gets his leg torn of by a machine.
Charles is rushed to the hospital, where he meets Lola, who works with prostheses. She shows him the variety of legs they have available and Charles laments how primitive they are. So after returning to work, he decides to invent something better. Which he does. He creates mechanical legs that are stronger, faster, better.
But Charles doesn't want to stop there. Nor does Better Future want him to.
I had to sympathize with Charles at the beginning. When I get blisters from my stupid hammertoes I wonder why I can't get sweet robot feet that wouldn't blister or get tired. Then I could walk all day if I wanted to! At the same time I don't think I'd want to cut off my own legs to do that. Nor would I want to turn myself into Robocop.
That's basically what happens to Charles as the book goes on. Increasingly he becomes more machine than man as Ben Kenobi said about Darth Vader. It's harder to sympathize with him then as the book goes on. Really after the interesting concept at the start it keeps getting darker and darker. That's not really where I wanted to see it go. I was hoping for something a little more lighthearted, as it was in the beginning. But I guess if you like your humor really black, then this isn't bad.
That is all.
This book is a multi-layered masterpiece, worth reading again and again.
As a single white male in my mid-30s with a PhD in mechanical engineering, the plight of the protagonist admittedly hit pretty close to home.
Since the book was originally written as a serial, page by page, nearly every section ends with a cliff-hanger, keeping the reader enthralled. In fact, nearly every paragraph ends with a zinger, I read the first 100 pages in one sitting.
The deeper I got into the book the more I had to pause to reflect on each page and each paragraph, often deftly written parables of the relationship of man to his technology. The protagonist's thoughts seem logical, but in fact he is a psychopath, oblivious to the feelings of others. His rationality makes him irrational. His desire for a "Better Future" leads him to a miserable, unending sorrow.
Is that dark? Yes. Does Barry make it laugh out loud funny at times? Absolutely.
The book is filmed with memorable lines, my favorite being "it seemed like a reasonable assumption in the lab".
If the book has any flaws, as suggested by other reviewers, perhaps it is the predictability of the main character. Like an aircraft taking a nose dive, you know what's going to happen next, but that doesn't make the fall any less exciting. In fact, given the sensational cliff-hangers throughout the body of the book, I was expecting a more audacious final chapter, something that would punch me in the gut. Instead Barry ends on a soft, sad note, more of a whimper than a bang. I had never shed tears for the protagonist throughout the book, but I finally felt like doing so at the end.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A nice take on what can happen when one is too willing to advance humanity beyond flesh and bone.Published 2 days ago by lordsathien
i read this book for a college english course, but it is definitely geared toward young adults.Published 18 days ago by enid boring
Explores the limits of nerdy behavior, with amusing results.Published 27 days ago by Brian R Murphy
An OK read - don't expect too much. the protagonist is plaintively pathetic in missing out on the real world. The "bad guy" is a bit cartoony.Published 1 month ago by Jim Molnar
This is my new favorite author. Smart, funny, thrilling, romantic, mystery, plot twists and turns...what more could you ask for? Just read it.Published 2 months ago
Suspenseful while staying somewhat light; Barry still manages to tackle what serves as commentary on a technological society.Published 3 months ago by Monika Matthews
Great book, great story, shows the power of the human brain and how we are the ones that put limits to ourselvesPublished 4 months ago by deivy
Another great yarn by Barry, I expect nothing less, fun romp thru robots and people mating in a fashion ..Published 7 months ago by Kindle Customer