books · Dystopian · fiction · literature · review

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

At times of political uncertainty, dystopian fictions seems to appear more frequently. It’s through fiction that we can attempt to explore our own issues in another time and place. A distraction as it were of today’s issues.

Machine’s Like Me does just that. Instead of today’s political issues, we’re transported to an alternative 1980s London. Familiar enough so we recognise the world we’re in. Different enough to allow us to question the future. Current issues are very much weaved into Machines Like Me: the climate crisis, war and the fear of losing our jobs to technology. There are still the human issues on love and friendship but perhaps the biggest question of all is what makes us human?

Can humanity be created?

Charlies comes into some money, he could have bought a house, instead he craved a companion. One of the very must human machines, he openly stated he wanted an Eve the female version, but wasn’t quick enough to secure one. He brings home Adam instead.

Adam’s traits can be programmed, he can be customised to be the ‘perfect human’ depending of course, what we each consider to be the best traits in others. But Charlie halts in making Adam into his idealised human, after all, humans are created with a mixture of two people, he therefore chose half of Adam’s traits and asks his upstairs neighbour, Miranda to choose the other half. Thus making Adam more human.

But Adam is not human and that causes its own problems. He’s owned by Charlie, he’s not truly his own person. He’s restricted with what he can and cannot do, he can be switched off at a moment’s notice… Or he could until Adam begins to learn to overcome the restrictions humans have placed on his technology.

Machine’s Like Me made me question our human traits, behaviours and restrictions. Our freedom of choice is one of the biggest things you could argue makes you truly human. But these freedoms are always restricted to a degree through the society we live in.

There’s fears of what the future can hold. Are technology advances too fast in today’s world? Is it making us lazier, more forgetful, more dependant on having the world’s information at our finger tips? Is it also making us more demanding, for something more, something we can fully control?

You won’t get the answers in this book, but it will make you question the world that might be. That could be. We are, after all, the race that has created these problems for ourselves, and it is our responsibility to view how they can impact the world, before it it too late.

The details:

  • Published in paperback: 5 March 2020
  • RRP: £8.99

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