New from Ian McEwan, Booker Prize winner and international bestselling author of Atonement and The Children Act
Machines Like Me takes place in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, 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 synthetic humans and—with Miranda's help—he designs Adam's personality. The near-perfect human that emerges is beautiful, strong, and clever. It isn't long before a love triangle soon forms, and these three beings confront a profound moral dilemma.
In his subversive new novel, Ian McEwan asks whether a machine can understand the human heart—or whether we are the ones who lack understanding.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Ever wondered what it truly means to be human? Ian McEwan has. His previous books delve into all the experiences—love, regret, memory, jealousy, fear, redemption—that make us so. This time around, McEwan puts an unsettling, retro-futuristic spin on this fundamental question. Strange, thought-provoking, and often funny, Machines Like Me is set in a version the of ’80s where lifelike robots are readily available for purchase. A young day trader looking for a housekeeper and companion ends up entangled in a love triangle with his shady girlfriend and new robot, Adam. While both humans behave quite badly, the rational and lovelorn bot turns out to be the book’s most humane character.
McEwan's thought-provoking novel (after Nutshell) is about the increasingly fraught relationship between a man, a woman, and a synthetic human. Opening in an alternate 1982 London in which technology is not dissimilar from today's (characters text and send emails), 32-year-old Charlie spends 86,000 of his inheritance on the "first truly viable manufactured human with plausible intelligence and looks," who can pass for human unless closely inspected. His name is Adam (there are 12 Adams and 13 Eves total; the Eves sell out first), and Charlie designs Adam's personality along with his neighbor and girlfriend Miranda. Soon, Adam informs Charlie that he "should be careful of trusting her completely," and quickly falls in love with her, thus inextricably binding their fates together. The novel's highlight is Adam, a consistently surprising character who quickly disables his own kill switch and composes an endless stream of haiku dedicated to Miranda because, as he states, "the lapidary haiku, the still, clear perception and celebration of things as they are, will be the only necessary form" as misunderstanding is eradicated in the future. The novel loses steam when Adam's not the focus: much page space is devoted to a thread about an orphan boy, as well as Charlie's thoughts and feelings about Miranda. Though the reader may wish for a tighter story, this is nonetheless an intriguing novel about humans, machines, and what constitutes a self. \n
Machines like Me
Once again a story filled with moral insights with every page asking questions of us as to who we are and why we believe as we do. Magically thought provoking but then all of Ian McEwan’s books are. I carry his stories with me and marvel at his imagination and writing skills.
Not a terribly engaging read. I kept waiting for something that never arrived in this book. It did not impress and came across, in the end, as being preachy.
Machines like me
Weird stuff but interesting
Not sure why political history was changed
You have to like Adam, but he lacked compassion