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Showing 1-10 of 55 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 109 reviews
on September 19, 2013
I like Max Barry. I loved Jennifer Government. But make no mistake - this is no Jennifer Government. It could have been. It had the potential. But, in the end, it was a fan-driven book full of compromise and crazy ideas that could only come from the internet. It was kind of like reading a source-written novella on 4chan.

That being said, it was still fun to read. Essentially, an otherwise wholly uninteresting scientist has an industrial accident that results in the loss of his leg. He finds the standard mechanical replacement legs unsatisfactory, and that awakens his inner scientist and tinkerer. And then he's off - realizing that a better leg can be made not by imitating tissue and bone, but by embracing electronics and steel. Before you know it, he's chopping of legs, fingers, and anything else he can stick in a machine, all in order to "upgrade" himself to his better image. Eventually, the company he works for takes over the project and turns him into something he never wanted. There's an epic battle between two supermen, and then it goes completely off the tracks. The ending is at once predictable and completely insane. I can't say that Max Barry did it again, because he didn't. While Jennifer Government was something really new and original, Machine Man is an old story with a new twist. And not a particularly surprising twist at that. Sooner or later someone was going to write this book. I suppose we should be grateful it was Max Barry instead of some hack like Steve Alten or Ron Hubbard... (That's a compliment to Max Barry, by the way.)
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on June 5, 2012
I don't give 5 stars easily. That being said, since I've decided to work dowm my list and start reviewing items, every single Barry book I've read up until this one will be getting 5 stars. When I stumbled upon him in "Jennifer Government," I was hooked, and have read every book he's published. I'd put him in my pantheon of top writers like Gaiman and Vonnegut.

HOWEVER. This. This didn't do it for me. It was OK. I don't want OK, though, I want AWESOME. I know that not everything can be perfect, and that Barry really isn't some sort of god who is supposed to please me or I'll stop giving him offerings. Really, I know that. But Machine Man, it was something that, while I'm not upset that I read it, I wouldn't go back and read again.

I've been following the development of the story for a while, and was excited about it. But when I sat down to read it, well, it didn't really jump out at me. The characters were flatter than his usual characters, and within the first couple of chapters, I'd already figured out the end. This is not always a bad thing, especially if there are enough surprises in between the beginning and end to keep me happy.

Unfortunately, this was not so much the case. As each character was introduced, I could figure out what was going to happen next with them. They were little autonomous programs that would pop up, get through their part, then head back into the background. There wasn't a lot of action; and when tehre was it was mild, a bit stilted and not overly exciting.

I know it sounds like I'm saying that you shouldn't read it, but really, it's worth a plane flight or doctor's office waiting room. Barry has hit many home runs before - this is just a double, which ain't a bad thing. Barry at his most mediocre is better than most people at the top of their game.
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on June 24, 2014
When Charlie Neumann, an utterly unremarkable and unsocial scientist at the bio-engineering company Better Future loses his leg in an industrial accident and gets a top-of-the-line artificial one, he reacts as anyone naturally would.

He tears it apart and builds an even better one, of course, with the sort of motors, wheels, multiple core processors, shifting multidimensional axis, data storage, GPS and wi-fi (for automatic pathfinding) that evolution probably would have gotten around to providing eventually if it wasn't so slow and inefficient. Who said legs need to be leg-shaped, anyway?

In fact, the more he develops and enhances his new titanium appendage, the more he realizes that his "good" leg -- i.e. the one he was born with -- is really holding him back. And the clamping machine that took off his first one is still there...

"Machine Man" is pure Max Barry, which means it's heavy on the corporate dystopia, the odd personalities, the funny lines, and, above all, the perfectly normal ideas taken to their logical, marketable extremes. In his previous books, "Syrup" took advertising into entirely new levels, "Company" was a blueprint company-hell nightmare, and "Jennifer Government" was a brilliant (and hilarious) look at a not-unlikely world run by corporations.

In comparison, "Machine Man" is more of a study of humanity and social interactions, although the omnipresent corporate world is there every 2-ton, highly profitable step of the way. Charlie approaches everything in life with the analytical mind of an engineer, and reality rarely measures up to any reasonable metric. Why not improve it? And why stop with legs?

"I just want to upgrade," he tells Lola Shank, the woman who provides his first prosthetic and, not coincidentally, the woman he falls in love with. "That's not weird. People go to the gym to do that. The only difference is I have access to better technology."

Far from being horrified at their employee's alarming new interest in self-mutilation, Better Futures welcomes Charlie back with open arms and a huge staff of scientists eager to improve every body part they can for the suddenly-realized human optimization market. Optional bodily upgrades that able-bodied people might choose to buy? Forget body jewelry and Botox, Better Future sees a gold mine in Charlie, especially if they can figure out how to weaponize him.

"But what's the problem with medical?" Cassandra Cautery, Better Future middle manager, explains to Charlie. "The market is limited to sick people. Imagine: you sink thirty million into developing the world's greatest artery valve and someone goes and cures heart disease. It would be a disaster. Not for the... not for the people obviously. I mean for the company. Financially. I mean this is the kind of business risk that makes people upstairs nervous about signing off on major capital investment."

But Charlie gradually becomes unsettled at the speed at which he's losing control over his life. His team is cheerfully testing their own inventions on themselves and each other. The newly-enhanced security guard Carl gets Charlie's artificial arms and goes rogue. Charlie's increasingly sinister employers might have implanted something bad inside his girlfriend. And his legs might have an agenda of their own.

What makes a human? When you tinker with the brain-body interface and chemical hormonal balance, does it change the personality? When you begin to identify a fake limb as "yours," what happens when your company takes control of it? "Machine Man" looks at all of these questions and more as Charlie dives deeper into his own twisted style of personal growth. In an odd progression, the fewer human parts he possesses, the more human Charlie becomes.

"Machine Man" itself was created and improved on the fly. Barry began writing it in 2009, a page at a time, and posted the pages to his website where readers could follow along in a variety of ways. The first draft -- which you can still read at his site -- is very different from this revised and expanded version since he was putting in cliffhangers for his daily readers and the structure needed to be changed. Also, the comments and discussions each page prompted gave him more ideas to improve the final copy.

Geeky, deeply cynical, perceptive and funny, "Machine Man" is for every person who ever found more joy in gadgets than in other people.
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on February 8, 2013
Grade: B+

L/C Ratio: 20% Literary / 80% Commercial

Thematic Breakdown:
25% - Engineering
20% - Love
15% - Action thriller
15% - Humor
15% - Corporate America
10% - Medical procedures

Addictiveness: Medium
Movie Potential: 2 Thumbs Up (Darren Aronofsky will direct it)
Re-readability: Low

The scope of Machine Man expands at a wildly fast pace, yet somehow that acceleration doesn't ruin the book's literary merit. Even as the novel leaps from a workplace satire into a pseudo-superhero action thriller, it never feels like the story is out of control. Max Barry's plot is strong enough to make outrageous developments within scenes and characters seem natural.

Machine Man is told from an engineer's mindset, and although the narrator's wry humor and binary outlook on the world hampers the descriptions in action-heavy chapters, his character arc is madly entertaining to follow. Barry dares to intersect the worlds of technology and love, and the result is a novel with plenty of laughs, adventurous ideas, and surprising depth.

Noteworthy Quote:

I hesitated. Is anyone really perfect? You can't be mostly perfect. You can't be perfect some of the time. You are either perfect or not. And I don't think biology does perfect. Biology is about efficient approximation. It's about good enough. A vacuum is perfect. Pi is perfect. Life is not.
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on February 16, 2014
I originally heard about Max Barry via an online game based on one of his other books, Jennifer Government (which i'm in the process of reading, I'll get through reading it at some point!). Its a brilliant idea and a unique take on Transhumanism, The idea of replacing the human body entirely or striving to rebuild one's self in such a manner.

Theres plenty of good points in the book and frankly I felt rather sorry for the main character and his love interest after hearing their stories. The longer the book went on the more I grew interested in seeing how it would end and it didn't fail to disappoint.

I would recommend this to someone thats a fan of Sci-fi, even if its based in the present, Its an interesting take on how the field of robotics could advance and provides some very interesting points of view on why we should be wary of it.
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on March 18, 2012
It was a competent effort, but it cried out for a character driven narrative when it was mostly about the technology. The relationships between the characters was deeply cliched & flawed for this. Analysis of the scientific character, technologists, and big business as they interact with the emergence of a trans-human philosophy were brutally spare and minimalist. Then there was the issue of self-hurting, romance, and the poetry of science/technology.

Behind all of this was an undeserved anxiety surrounding science, technology, and business. If these 3 things have done anything over the past century they've made our lives better, but all we get from the author is a deep suspicion of them and a superficial analysis of this.

Not a bad book....there is a definite audience for this type of book, but there was little engaging by way of character and the ideologies presented need a more sensitive hand than was here displayed.

Worth a quick read.
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on April 16, 2017
I love Company and Sryup, both had interesting premise and were executed in a fun way. This again had a neat idea but was a bit of a slog to get through.
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on May 18, 2013
I have been a fan since Syrup and you can really see him growing as a writer. I didn't think he could top Jennifer Government until he wrote Company, which I didn't think he could top until now.

My only complaint was that the book ended, not that it ended too soon or badly, but rather that I had no more to read. I have little time for fiction anymore and even fewer fiction authors can engross my overly-academic mind. To that end Max Barry has succeeded again in providing me that sweet drug that is escape from normal life and becoming enthralled into the world the author builds for me in their mind.
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on January 19, 2017
This is the first novel I have read by Max Barry and I was very impressed. Initially, I was discouraged because I had to read this book for my English class so I was expecting it to be lame but once I got into it I could not put it down!
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on May 14, 2013
The satire here can be so dry you should really hydrate beforehand, but MAN this is a great book. I blew through it in a little over a day. This was my first Max Barry book and it blew me away. His intricate character development and laser focus on the plot really kept a fast pace. There is a bit of gore and violence, but it certainly isn't celebrated; it is described almost clinically, much like the mind of the protagonist would. I have recommended this book to several family members and friends.
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