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Truth Machine Mass Market Paperback – June 29, 1997

4.2 out of 5 stars 335 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Imagine a world in which no one can lie. Now try to imagine the consequences. Halperin has written this generation's 1984, and rarely have our customers praised a book more highly. (Click on the title, and find out what they have to say ... assuming they are telling the truth!) And only time will tell whether Halperin's book is speculative fiction, or inverse history. Very Highly Recommended. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

What would the world be like if scientists developed the perfect lie detector? How would it change our criminal justice system? Psychiatric practice? International diplomacy? In his first novel, Halperin argues that such an invention could lead humanity into an era of unequaled prosperity, one in which crime is virtually unknown and true democracy is possible. A professional numismatist and a member of the World Future Society, Halperin is a relatively unskilled novelist. His prose is at best workmanlike, and his plotting and character development tend toward the simplistic. Nearly all of his major characters, from millionaire-genius protagonist Pete Armstrong on down, seem to be either the smartest, the richest, the most respected or the most influential people in the world. The traditional qualities of fiction are apparently of only secondary interest to the author, however. As a futurist, Halperin seems primarily concerned with suggesting innovations and then working out their implications over half a century. Heavily didactic, but supporting positions across the political spectrum, the book argues in favor of mandatory capital punishment for certain crimes, the privatization of schools, strict limits on insurance settlements, the elimination of the FAA, the legalization of assisted suicide, parental licensing and the establishment of a world government. Although crude from a literary point of view, Halperin's novel is not without strengths. His speculations about the next 50 years are fascinating, and the consequences of the truth machine are well worked out. In the final analysis, it's hard to believe that Halperin's near-utopian future could be so easily attained, but it would be nice to live there. 150,000 first printing; six-figure ad/promo; author tour; U.K. rights sold.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (June 29, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345412885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345412881
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (335 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patrick L. Randall VINE VOICE on January 29, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
James Halperin's debut science fiction novel, "The Truth Machine", is an amazing achievement. It is a story so grand and sweeping in its scale that it gives Clarke's "Childhood's End" and Haldeman's "Forever War" strong competition for the greatest novel written about Earth's future. What sets it apart from those two books, though, is how it only requires a leap of faith regarding scientific advances to imagining the future "The Truth Machine" realizes, as opposed to alien intervention affecting the futures in the "Childhood's End" and "Forever War". The author, Halperin, is Harvard educated posits fascinating theories about perilous future of Earth and how the events in this book helped avoid it.

"The Truth Machine" has been termed "'1984' for our generation". While there are similarities, each book takes a decidedly different view of people having absolute knowledge and no privacy. "1984" is about how the government controls the populace through the use of `big brother', a system with which none of the country's citizens are safe from government surveillance and manipulation. This dark view is contrasted dramatically by Halperin's much more positive view of full disclosure and the methods of achieving it.

"The Truth Machine" primarily focuses on the life story of Randall Peterson "Pete" Armstrong, a child prodigy with total recall memory, whose entire life's outlook has been defined the tragic murder of his younger brother, Leonard, by an ex-convict who was believed to be capable of committing violent crimes again, but could not be imprisoned any longer under the current law structure. Pete is committed to making a difference for humanity that will atone for his brother's death and help millions of others, too. In his first year at Harvard (at just age 13!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I will say what I view as the most important things about it first. Bring a fresh approach to this novel if you decide to read it. Note the "warning" inherent in the prologue page which tells us that a computer wrote the book. For the most part, don't expect 1984 or Stranger In A Strange Land in terms of the brilliant writing skills of the author or the engaging nature of his characterizations. This is not that kind of book.

It is, however, a very engaging and successful novel in its own way. I first read it in 1996, after finding it in a yard sale full of books. Someone wanted either to share it or get rid of it; and judging by the disparity of the reviews published here, that's a fair representation of readers' responses.

I am amazed that, even though I read The Truth Machine a decade ago, I still remember it almost as vividly as if I'd read it last month! The thought-provoking nature of this novel is indeed what recommends it most highly -- or should, even if in the end one dislikes it, the author, or his conclusions.

I am 57 years old and have read science fiction and other "speculative" works since I was in grade school. The Truth Machine is unlike any other novel, and that, too, ought to recommend it to anyone who enjoys seeing what a first-time novelist came up with on the significant subject he tackled.

So in summary, the reason I believe this book is well worth the time spent reading it is that almost anyone should be able to come away from it with his own "speculative" juices flowing. To me, it was a jumping off point rather than a compilation of specific ideas, though I readily admit others might not see it that way.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book many years ago and never forgot it. I just read it again. It is a fascinating story of a world where people cannot lie because of a reliable "Truth Machine". I found it interesting to see again some of the predictions about the future, particularly about years that have now come and gone. The reader must get past the author's "guesses" and some of his opinions, and just enjoy the premise. Imagine, for example, bargaining on a purchase where the seller states the asking price and the buyer makes an offer, but both the buyer and seller are wearing a wrist band that lights red when they lie and green when they tell the truth. Negotiations are very quickly concluded [and lawyers are out of work... :) ]
Anyway, this is a book you will likely remember for some time.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
James Halperin's impressive vision of the future "The Truth Machine" is structured in an unusual format. It is primarily narrated by a computer, the Intel 22g CP-TLMos. This thought provoking novel is a treatise on world history commencing in 1991 until 2052 as seen through the eyes of 2 main characters, Randall "Pete" Petersen Armstrong and David West. Each chapter begins with a brief review of current events which signal a world which is becoming more uncontrolled and vicious.

West and Armstrong forge a close lifetime friendship which initiates as roommates at Harvard University. West a handsome, cerebral Texas schoolboy was a star athlete. He was noticed and sponsored for admission to Harvard by the CEO of a large electronics firm. Armstrong gained admittance as an unparalleled 12 year old genius with total recall. As a result of the tragic killing of Pete's younger brother Leonard, an association began with a sympathetic FBI agent, Marjorie Ann Tilly. Pete, a computer whiz, helped Tilly design some revolutionary software for the FBI. It soon became apparent that Pete's high level of intelligence and aptitude in computer software design was unsurpassed even at his tender age.

As both West and Armstrong's reputations grew in college, they were both invited to take the celebrated Professor Gaddis' Theology as Social Science course which was by invitation only. Gaddis encouraged only the finest student minds on campus to discuss world events. In 2003 the level of violence in the world had reached epic proportions. A Swift and Sure Crime Bill is proposed. It will allow a fair trial for violent crimes and one quick appeal followed by immediate execution.
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