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Machine Paperback – January 9, 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is really much, much more complex than I've described. This story addresses issues of religion, sexuality, and gender. It addresses what it means to be human. It faces sexuality - and harmful sexuality - head on. The book is all about the consequences of the choices we make - to ourselves, and to others.
This is a very sexual book, so delicate readers be warned: the graphic sexuality is scary. Don't go there if you don't think you can handle it.
What fascinated me most about Celia was her coming to terms with her existence as an android. I LOVED THAT. This book needed more of that. The pain she felt... it was so real. But was she real?
I wanted to explore the reality of Celia's existence, and all the questions raised by a sentient android. Is she really Celia? Or is she just a recording of Celia and stuck in Celia's emotions? She clearly isn't human anymore. So what does it mean to be a machine? Can she divorce herself of all her human emotions?
What I hated about this book: All the politics. I get it. The author is drawing comparisons between the fictional treatment of her androids, and modern societal treatment of the transgendered (and perhaps other stigmatized people).
I am already in agreement. As a society, we treat the transgendered poorly. There should never, ever be a circumstance where someone is discriminated against because they are differently bodied.
I just don't need to be lectured about it. And that's where the book lost me - in the lectures. I wouldn't mind, except I've heard them all before. Yeah, the lectures are correct, but I don't need to read them over and over.
In my humble opinion, the author was trying to make her point with a hammer, when all she needed was the delicate stroke of a paint brush. I know that's a weird analogy. What I mean, is that she could have dialed the political rhetoric back and I would have reached the exact same conclusions.
So I took a star away for too much political rhetoric. Otherwise I freaking LOVED this book.
Is the self in the mind, in the soul, in the body, or in all of the above? Is a constructed body that is virtually identical to the original a place where the human psyche can feel at home?
Celia is inhabiting an android body that is virtually indistinguishable from the one in medical stasis, but while this seems like a perfect solution to the problem of deadly or debilitating diseases, as Celia discovers there are parts of society and the human psyche that cannot handle the difference.
This book handles the topics of dysmorphia and the tendency of us to think of our minds and bodies as separate entities so deftly that even though we are not living in the world Celia does, her turmoil feels very real.
An outstanding work that is very thought provoking, but not for the faint at heart.
The novel follows the story of Celia, a young woman with a rare genetic disease that's a low priority on the medical research front. She wakes up from the copy-over process, acting, feeling, and thinking exactly as she did in her old body. For her, there is no change, and no awareness of being different from what she was before. Unfortunately, her wife doesn't see it the same way, and Celia awakes to find herself divorced . . . alone . . . shunned by the woman she loves, who refused to cheat on the woman she loves with a soul-less copy.
On the one hand, it's a rather dark and disturbing reality with which we're presented, with Celia and her new found friends illegally modifying themselves to look less than human since society's rejection has made them feel less than human. It begins with Celia slicing open her finger to see the ceramic 'bone' beneath, and quickly progresses from there. Polished chrome skin, featureless mannequin-like bodies, and glowing eyes are the physical aspect, with the ability to suppress emotions, voluntarily go into lockdown, and play with the sensitivity of their pain/pleasure receptors is another. Like I said, it's almost heartbreaking to see the lengths to which they feel forced to modify themselves, even as we share in the exhilaration of freedoms and feelings otherwise impossible for the rest of humanity. The voluntary fetishization of their condition is oddly confusing, coming across as erotic and exciting when they fetishize one another, but disgusting and inexcusable when they play to human kinks.
As part of her exploration of what it means to be human, Jennifer does an amazing job of dealing with questions of sexuality and gender. Celia, as I mentioned previously, is a lesbian, although it's entirely inconsequential in the future presented. Other than one instance where another character reminds her that her marriage would once have been as controversial as her new body, her sexuality is a complete non-issue. Similarly, we get to explore some interesting ideas of gender through Celia's augmented friends, including one who can alter his gender at will to be male, female, or a combination of the two, and another who is entirely featureless and androgynous since, as it points out, robots do not have a gender.
If I were to voice one complaint, it would be over the ambiguity of the ending, but I realised that was intentional. Celia's fate is what we make of it, and that brings us right back to the concept of making you think while entertaining you. I realise I haven't done the story justice, but hopefully I've highlighted enough of the elements handled so masterfully by Celia that you'll want to give it a read.